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Quantum Conundrum

Comparisons out of the way: This is not Portal.

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It's a similar kettle of fish to Valve's genre defining title, but it's not the same. If you can bear this in mind when considering Quantum Conundrum, you'll probably be able to enjoy it.

Kim Swift, the lead designer of Airtight Games' physics based puzzler, was one of the minds behind Valve's classic, Portal. It was a game that came out of nowhere, and quickly captured the hearts (and minds) of all those that took on its brain-melting challenge.

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Quantum Conundrum borrows many things from Valve's puzzler, and comparisons are easy to make. If compared directly, it doesn't quite measure up, so let's not do that. It is its own game after all.

Quantum Conundrum

Quantum Conundrum is aimed at a younger audience, though that isn't to say that older gamers wont enjoy a jaunt through Quadwrangle Mansion.

The premise is simple, but fit for purpose: You are a young boy, foisted upon your eccentric uncle by your mother for a holiday. You enter the mansion ready to discover the latest and greatest inventions of Professor Quadwrangle.

However, you arrive to find your mad scientist uncle has inadvertently trapped himself in another dimension, and it is up to you to navigate his dangerous mansion and bring him back to reality. Using his Interdimensional Shift Device (or ISD), you must overcome a series of obstacles with the ultimate aim of bringing the house back online and your uncle back. The ISD affects your reality in a variety of ways, helping you as you progress.

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There isn't really much more to it than that. You move between different coloured wings, solving increasingly complex puzzles using a slowly increasing repertoire of physics defying tricks, all viewed from a first-person perspective.

Your ability to manipulate the world around you comes in four different flavours; fluffy, heavy, slow and reverse gravity. At first the puzzles are straight forward affairs, requiring you to use one or two different powers to solve each room, but before long you'll be switching between all of the different powers during complex set-pieces as you aim to progress through an increasingly taxing array of puzzles.

Typical examples of puzzles include; using gravity to change the weight of boxes from fluffy to heavy so as to activate pressure pads, throwing and then altering items midair to break glass and block laser beams, and slowing down time to allow complex platforming set-pieces - such as hopping between falling furniture as it flies across a room in slow motion.

Quantum Conundrum carries a very distinctive aesthetic, reminiscent of classic Lucasarts point and click adventures. There isn't a lot of detail, and environments are recycled so much that it's not long before deja vu kicks in on a grand scale, but it does look nice. It feels appropriate.

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Movement around the mansion feels natural, and well weighted. I did experience a couple of moments where controls weren't as responsive as I'd have liked, and in some of the more complicated platforming sections this was a little frustrating. It was far from game-breaking though.

As you move around Quadwrangle Mansion you are kept company by the omnipresent Professor Quadwrangle, expertly voiced by John de Lancie. It's a superb piece of casting, as de Lancie regularly appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation as returning favourite Q. Subject specific.

Throughout your progression in the game, Professor Quadwrangle provides a running commentary. Whilst the game is clearly aiming at funny, it never quite hits the mark, though it does succeed in being thoroughly charming, so it's easy to let a few bad jokes slide.

Quantum Conundrum

The aforementioned charm manifests itself in a variety of different ways. Whether it be the regular encounters with Ike (a cute creature otherwise known as an Interdimensional Kinetic Entity), the silly portraits dotted around the mansion or in the way Quadwrangle gently and sarcastically berates you as you move around his ridiculous mansion smashing up windows.

Charm and personality makes playing Quantum Conundrum a pleasure, even during some of the more frustrating puzzles (though there aren't many of those). But perhaps that charm wouldn't have been enough to carry it had the game been longer, so it's probably for the best, then, that the game clocks in at between roughly 8-10 hours. Any longer and I fear it might have started to wear thin.

It carries with it a budget price tag, but that isn't a reflection of quality, merely length. It's short, but the pricing reflects that, and so represents decent value for money. Only the most ardent puzzle fans will feel like revisiting Quadwrangle Mansion, but for a tenner, the rest of us will likely take enough enjoyment from Quantum Conundrum to make it worth a look.

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08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+ Some great puzzles + Interesting physics + Accessible + Full of charm + John de Lancie
- Reused environments - A few lame jokes - Occasionally frustrating controls
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