Never have I had a better lesson regarding the complexity of the world than Quantum Conundrum, not from the actual game mind you but just from my experience with it. You see at this point I could gush endlessly about all the cool stuff I like in QC but with that exact same fervor and passion I could quite easily go on a tirade about how it can burn in the deepest and darkest of Hell’s hoary pits. In this review I plan to do both and then stick an arbitrary number on the end. Honestly at this juncture I don’t know whether you should buy it or not, all I know is I need to stop playing it and get this review done or else I’m going to have to replace a lot of broken equipment.
So let’s start on the happy notes and there are quite a few, for all the shit I’m going to give this game later is it a quality product and there’s a lot to like about it. The presentation is a great place to start as it makes this one of the most charming experiences I’ve ever played. The bubbly ambient music provided by Chris Ballew, the colorful soft edges of the world, the wonderful voice over work by Q from Star Trek: TNG, and the creative ever-changing portraiture all set up a world that is a joy to be in. The stuff from John De Lancie (Q) in particular is really enjoyable as the writing in this game is fantastic. There is an abundance of incredibly clever little jokes spread throughout the story’s length, almost every portrait has a great story behind it and the Professor (Lancie’s character) is happy to regale you with all them. This is only enhanced by the fact that the writing is perfectly suited to Lancie’s trademark condescending smugness so you get exactly what you want from the character.
On the note of the characters, the general plotting and storyline here is also very well done and it helps show some interesting character development on the part of the Professor and the greater Quadwrangle family. You see the mansion the game takes place in is owned by the Professor, the latest in a long line of scientifically minded Quadwrangle men. He wasn’t an only child though and his lazy sister has a nasty habit of dropping off her son (you) at the mansion to spend some *quality* time with his uncle. For as much as the Professor hates being drawn away from his glorious experiments he always makes an interesting entrance and at least tries to take care of you while you’re in his care. This particular trip though the Professor does not make his entrance but rather informs you he is stuck somewhere and needs you to come find him. From here the story is you going through room after room completing well designed puzzles and looking at funny portraits that change every time you switch dimensions. Throughout your journey the Professor will keep in touch with you over an intercom and true yet begrudging familial care comes through in his lines. While he certainly will never pass up a chance to point out your failings he does seem genuinely worried about your safety and surprisingly supportive when you succeed. The experience of watching this character change his opinion of you from nuisance to beloved family member is an enjoyable one and is hands down the best part of this game.
Unfortunately though that’s pretty much all my praise done for this game as it’s now time to move onto the gameplay. Now I will preface this by saying that the puzzle design is generally really good and that switching dimensions is quite fun. The four different dimensions (Fuzzy, Heavy, Slow-mo, and Anti-Gravity) all have their own unique properties and look and are a lot of fun to play around with; you’ll rarely get to use all of them in a single level but the mind bending interplay even just one provides is enough to make things interesting.
The problems in this game come pretty much entirely from the fact that it is in the first person perspective. You see switching dimensions certainly changes the overall world quite a bit but its prime use is to alter the properties of the items you’ll be using as platforms because this game feels like it’s almost nothing but first person platforming. The benefit of the first person perspective is precision in aiming, you can hit anything you want with amazing accuracy in first person but that is in sacrifice of precision movement. Now nothing you do in this game really requires precision aiming, you’ll certainly throw a few boxes around but rarely do you need to do it in such a way that you would need to have things in first person at all times. This irresponsible use of the first person perspective means that all the jumps you’re setting up with this dimension shifting become a thousand times harder because you can’t see your feet. You never have a good idea of exactly where you are spatially in regards to the world. Are you just on the edge of that platform or do you have another foot of space behind you? You don’t know because for all intents and purposes you’re just a floating camera. This circumstance means that all the difficulty isn’t coming from the tricky and enjoyable puzzles but rather from the bullshit platforming you have to do to solve them. Figuring out the solution to a puzzle is a ton of fun but trying ten more times to actually enact the solution you’ve figured out isn’t. In fact this singular problem actively ruins the good parts of the game; sure that quip from Lancie was funny the first time but it’s damn annoying on the sixteenth! Weirdly enough this problem could have been solved entirely by making the game third person as that would give you enough information and control with what you’re doing to make the platforming fun.
So that’s my opinion on this game, be aware I only got halfway through it according to the level select though I think they were including collectibles in that estimate so I’ve probably played closer to 65-75% of the actual levels. I did make sure to play with all the dimensions and do what I could to see as much of game as possible before going into a rage but at a certain point I realized that the more I played this game the worse a score I was going to give it. This game certainly doesn’t deserve a terrible score, it is good in a lot of parts and does some really smart things few other games have it’s just a pity the sheer gameplay is simply aggravating. I will state again that the puzzles in and of themselves are really amazingly great and the atmosphere is so charming I want to live in that world but unfortunately I hate actually playing the game so goddamn much. So for an experience I would recommend in a heartbeat if I wasn’t so enraged by it, Quantum Conundrum gets a 3 out of 5 stars; if you have a higher tolerance for first person platforming than I then please go buy it otherwise it’s best to maybe wait for a sale. Also let me point out that I managed to succeed in not mentioning or comparing this game to Portal once within the course of this review, so mad props to me for not taking that easy way out on that one.