Are you ready for a riddle surrounding a mystery wrapped in an enigma? If so, then you're ready for Quantum Conundrum, a fun and quirky physics-based puzzle platformer now available on Xbox LIVE Arcade. You'll have to shift dimensions and manipulate mass, time, and even gravity itself to survive in a vast mansion filled with diabolical deathtraps.
Quantum Conundrum has an impressive pedigree – its creative director is Kim Swift, one of the creators of the runaway hit Portal. Although Quantum Conundrum has some similarities, it's a much more whimsical and breezy adventure in an environment straight out of Saturday morning cartoons. That being said, if you enjoyed Portal, you should download this immediately. Just stop reading now and click on the link below.
Add Quantum Conundrum to your download queue (1200 Microsoft Points)
As the game starts, you're a 10-year old brat who's unceremoniously dumped at the doorstep of your uncle for a yearly visit. It turns out uncle Fitz Quadwrangle is a nutty old professor who has somehow warped himself into another dimension, and it's up to you to travel through the mansion, restart the generators and rescue your uncle. Of course, that means working your way through a variety of clever puzzle rooms to reach your goal.
Uncle Fitz (voiced by John de Lancie, instantly familiar to anyone who's seen Star Trek: The Next Generation) alternately goads and cajoles you along your journey using the mansion's intercom. His Inter-dimensional Kinetic Entity (IKE for short) also shows up from time to time with batteries or other items.
The Quadwrangle mansion is a delightfully wacky and dangerous place, the puzzle rooms replete with deadly lasers, gigantic fans, rooftop conveyer belts, neurotic robotic workers and bubbling vats of science juice. The DOLLI machines (imagine a gigantic tongue-lolling Pac-Man) spew out iron safes, cardboard boxes and overstuffed furniture at the push of a button, like a cat hacking up a hairball. To help you in your quest you're awarded an Inter-Dimensional Shift device (which looks suspiciously like a Power Glove from the eight-bit era) that allows you to alter the laws of physics in your immediate environment.
As you play through the game the different dimensions are gradually introduced. Fluffy makes everything extremely light, so you can toss iron safes across the room with ease. Heavy makes everything 10 times heavier, so you can trigger a pressure switch with just a cardboard box. Slow turns time down to a crawl, allowing you to use tossed objects as platforms. Finally, Gravity reverses the pull of gravity itself, sending everything in the room crashing to the ceiling. Each dimension is also represented visually – Fluffy is a soft, marshmallow world, and Slow is a sepia-toned film reel.
Due to the IDS you aren't personally affected by the dimensional shift – you don't become heavier in the Heavy dimension, for instance. You can only activate one dimension at a time though, and often you'll need to switch dimensions quickly to solve the puzzles. Suppose you need to get across a gap with a big pane of glass at the other end, you can switch to Fluffy, pick up a sofa, toss it into the gap, switch to Slow, jump on and ride it across, then switch to Heavy and smash through the glass. Talk about couch surfing!
The puzzles themselves aren't particularly difficult, but they feature plenty of "aha!" moments along the way. The trial-and-error nature of the game means you'll end up dying a lot. Each untimely demise produces an entry from a kind of reverse bucket list, reminding you of something you'll never get to experience (such as "Eating a whole bucket of fried chicken" or "Defaulting on a mortgage").
The first half of the game is basically an extended tutorial, but by the time you get your IDS fully powered up you're tossing safes and furniture around with ease, flying through the air, flipping gravity and slowing time like an inter-dimensional X-Man.
The only thing I had some trouble with is the jumping from platform to platform, mainly because I suck at first-person platforming. Thankfully, there's a generous checkpoint system that automatically saves your progress whenever you get past a difficult section, which reduces the frustration factor quite a bit.
You can also replay any of the levels from the Main Hall, and the game tracks your stats (such as how many IDS blasts you used and how quicly you cleared the level) and you can track your friends' progress on the leaderboards. There are also blueprints and Awkward Noise Generators scattered throughout the mansion to collect.
If you're up for some family-friendly brain-bending fun, you can't go wrong with Quantum Conundrum. It's the type of game that even people who don't play video games get drawn into. Available now for only 1200 Microsoft Points, download Quantum Conundrum from Marketplace and get ready to jump into another dimension – or four of them.