E3 2012: Quantum Conundrum Hands-On Preview – Mind Over Matter
Written Sunday, June 17, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
If, like us, you're longing for a game packed to the gills with challenging, mind-bending quandaries, then you'll be wanting to keep a firm eye on Quantum Conundrum, a fiendishly designed first-person puzzler devised by Portal co-creator Kim Swift and the dev team at Airtight Games. Trapped in a bright cartoon-ified mansion with your uncle, Professor Fitz Quadrangle, you're guided from room to room, solving a variety of increasingly taxing conundrums (funny that) that demand the use of different dimensions to transform the properties of the environment and the objects therein.
What we're presented with for our hands-on is essentially the trial version of Quantum Conundrum you'll be able to download when the game releases on the Xbox Live Arcade later this summer. So what follows is a tutorial and quick taster of sorts, introducing us to the simple mechanics and property-switching madness that combine to make for QC's deceptive and wonderfully complex brain teasers.
The core concept at work in Quantum Conundrum involves using the bumpers and triggers to switch between different dimensions that bring about various changes in properties that affects everything around you, thanks to your all-powerful IDS (Interdimensional Shift Device) gauntlet. Everything from the items, scenery, flooring and artwork on the walls undergoes an instant metamorphosis as you shift between dimensions, but should you ever become too confused, there's the escape offered by the Y button, which returns you to the normal dimension where you can get your head straight and re-evaluate your approach.
Starting with a brief presentation before we get our hands on the game, we're shown the ropes and the possibilities available as you work your way through Professor Quadrangle's wacky abode. Each area has a console mounted to the wall with four slots designed to house batteries that can be plugged in, granting you the ability to manipulate dimensions based upon which of these batteries you have equipped. You can place them in the sockets or throw the batteries in from afar. Either way works fine. There are four different dimensions that you'll utilise in Quantum Conundrum, each adding a variety of methods required for completing puzzles.
For instance, you can lift heavy objects using the fluffy dimension, weigh down switches or block lasers using items in the heavy dimension, stand on flying airborne objects to enable you to travel to and reach otherwise inaccessible areas using the slow-motion dimension, and create momentum and play with objects using the anti-gravity dimension to make them float. The array of possibilities that these four dimensions bring to the table is immense, and while early puzzles will school you in using perhaps two or three dimensions at the most, later puzzles will have you shifting between all four as you wrap your grey matter around the game's devilish posers.
You'll also have object carrying BOT-bots to help you out (BOT standing for Basic Orthogonal Traversal) and cutesy creature Ike, who'll often lead you to dimension-granting batteries and other useful points of interest. You can throw objects around – even perfunctory destructible items like lamps and vases – gather collectibles, and there'll be time trial goals to beat too, adding plenty of replay value to the overall package.
Our hands-on time takes us through the aforementioned trial version, easing us in to platform jumping basics, the manipulation of safes that can be lifted in the fluffy dimension and turned into weights to engage switches in the heavy dimension, and standing on flying objects in the slow-motion dimension. We don't get to use the anti-gravity dimension, but the potential it'll offer is shown off in our hands-off segment, as you can throw an object, slow time, stand on it and switch between heavy and anti-gravity to create a bobbing momentum through mid-air. Very smart.
There are robotic mouths that dispense crates with the press of a chunky red button, lethal laser barriers to cross, windows to smash and in one particularly tricky instance during our hands-on, a laser cannon that destroys blocks in a preset pattern to master. Zipping from left to right, the laser exterminates fluffy or normal blocks, but preserves heavy blocks, meaning some judicious and carefully timed dimension shifting to create a staircase. It's easier said than done, and a great example of the kind of puzzles you'll encounter in Quantum Conundrum.
And yet, we feel like we've really only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's possible in Quantum Conundrum. Not since Portal and its sequel have we felt this excited about being cerebrally challenged by a puzzle title, and with its pleasing cartoon style, complex yet streamlined game mechanics and capacity for moments of head-scratching, perplexing first-person puzzling, we can't wait to be fully absorbed in Professor Quadrangle's hare-brained maniacal mansion of mystery. Quantum Conundrum will almost certainly be a downloadable puzzler to look out for, and one that will prove more than worthy of your time and money. We like Quantum Conundrum. We like it a lot.
Quantum Conundrum will be arriving on XBLA later this summer for 1200 Microsoft Points.