Quantum Conundrum PAX 2011 Impressions -- Portal Co-Creator Bends Minds, Warms Hearts AgainBy Nikole Zivalich - Posted Sep 07, 2011
Kim Swift, the co-creator of Portal, has another game up her sleeve. She's now the creative director on a new downloadable title called Quantum Conundrum, and it will hit PC, XBLA, and PSN early next year. In the game, you play as a little boy who has to stay with his uncle, Professor Quadrangle, for the weekend. As your mom drops you off, she forgets to mention your uncle is a millionaire inventor/scientist with a mansion full of experiments and traps. Oops.
Of course, being a crazy scientist has its setbacks. After a mishap, Professor Quadrangle disappears without a trace. Confused, alone, and 11, you have no choice but to explore the vast and perilous mansion. On your expedition you discover one of your uncle’s inventions, the Inter-Dimensional Shift Device (the IDS Device if you're in the know), which, as the name suggests, lets you activate different dimensions. The dimensions include normal, fluffy, slow motion, and reverse gravity. The fifth dimension has not been announced yet.
Using one dimension at a time, gamers must move from room to room completing puzzles. If you need to move a heavy object, you would activate Fluffy Mode. While in Fluffy Mode, objects are light as cotton, the world around you has a light blue hue, and even paintings on the wall get cuter. Let's say a puzzle requires you to move more quickly than you're capable of moving. It's time to use Slow-Mo Mode. As you may have guessed, in Slow-Mo items move much slower. I didn't see it happen, but Kim Swift mentioned being able to play catch with yourself.
One puzzle had me stumped: There was a ledge but it couldn't be jumped to. Fluffy and Slow-Mo wouldn't have helped. Enter the fourth dimension, Reverse Gravity. By jumping on top of a crate then activating Reverse Gravity the box floated to the ceiling allowing the boy to jump on the ledge. As in Portal, fully understanding how you can apply the dimensions to your surroundings will be pivotal to completing the game.
Experiments in the mansion can be used in puzzles too. Dolly cloning machines, one of the Professor’s inventions, were scattered around the demo. The little boy entered a room with a large gap with a Dolly machine next to it. My elite gaming skills indicated something needed to be cloned. A safe could be duplicated dozens of time to form a bridge, or it least it would have if the safes didn't quickly fall in to the abyss below. "If only there was a way to get across before they all fell, I thought." Huzzah, Slow-Mo mode! Again, understanding how the dimensions can be used and be used together will be your only hope.
In addition to the brain twisting design, there were a few aesthetic similarities between Quantum Conundrum and Portal as well. I noticed a few layout features that reminded me of Valve’s first-person-puzzler. The consistent use of boxes reminded me of the companion cube. Several laboratory features reminded me of Aperture science's facilities too. I admit though, I was looking for similarities so I don’t know what the average eye would find comparable.
I can see Quantum Conundrum gaining a following with its quirky story and interesting use of other dimensions. Since this game seems to have broad appeal on its mind, I have no doubt they will be able to teach gamers how to use the IDS device. We'll definitely have more details as we get closer to its release date early next year.