Game: Quantum Conundrum
Publisher/Developer: Square Enix/Airtight Games
Describe This Game in Three Words: Portal, But Not
Plot Synopsis: You are the nephew of the great scientist and inventor Professor Fitz Quadwrangle. Upon arriving for a visit you discover that your uncle has been sucked into a pocket dimension and you must free him. Your weapon is the Interdimensional Shift Device, which allows you to switch between various parallel dimensions with their own set of physics to solve puzzles.
Up Up: Calling Quantum Conundrum a Portal clone isn't really fair, since the woman behind it, Kim Swift, was a lead designer of the original Portal who left to pursue other avenues. Behold, other avenues. The gameplay is more or less identical, save that instead of the portal gun you have to master the different physical properties of the various dimensions (Fluffy, Heavy, Slow Time, and Reverse Gravity) in order to progress through your uncle's mansion.
And let's be honest, we aren't getting a new Portal out of Valve any time soon, so Quantum is a wonderful midway point to slake that thirst. True, the omnipotent voice of Prof. Quadwrangle (John de Lancie) lacks the passive aggressive menace of GLaDOS, but he does make up for it by channeling the spirit of the late Vincent Price. In fact, hearing him go on about family members, cat cloning, and science in general is probably the closest we'll ever get to a Tim Burton helmed video game project, so you might as well enjoy it.
The gameplay is flawless. Completely flawless. The puzzles flow with pure mental liquidity, and you'll find yourself smiling smugly to yourself as you maneuver through them. Danger abounds, of course, but even death has its rewards. Each time you meet it the game offers one of around a thousand things you will never get to do now that you're gone.
The dark humor, the thinking outside the box, the quirks of science, all that is right here in Quantum Conundrum, and you'll find yourself completely hooked within minutes.
Down, Down: No matter how good it is... it's not Portal and there is just no getting around that. The gaming world waits for the next chapter of that story, and no matter how glad I am for the fix I am jonesing for, it's just a stepping stone on the way back to Aperture. It's a sweet, responsible, transitional girlfriend of a game, and I hate to break its heart. Still, when the real deal comes calling I'll be off.
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Left, Right, Left, Right: Switching dimensions uses the shoulder buttons, and is such a snap that you'll be an expert in minutes. Even better, the screen labels them so you never get confused on which is which. Jumping puzzles in first person are usually a sign of a game designer hating you, but Quantum is very forgiving. If you're having trouble in the game it ain't the control's fault.
B, A: There is a joke so nerdy in the game that I'm embarrassed to admit I got it. John de Lancie is the voice of Discord in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Somewhere in the mansion is a hall of cats that Prof. Quadwrangle has been running through a cloning device with mixed results.
Whiskers the Third comes out with mismatched eyes, low intelligence, a sweet disposition, a tendency to wander in circles looking at his feet, and answers to the name, "Derp." This reflects the Bronie controversy over Derpy Hooves, and I think I'm going to go stick my head in the oven over the fact that I knew that. I don't care. Derp reminds me of Early Grace, may his cheesebrained soul rest in glory.
Start?: Yes, it's addictive, intelligent, and fun and hell to play. Just because first-person puzzler is more or less a one franchise show doesn't mean that a gamer can't fall in love with a little spice on the side until true love returns. If you want to test your ability to think outside the box, then download Quantum without hesitation. If you want to mindlessly shoot things then go elsewhere. Mad geniuses only need apply.