Quantum Conundrum is a game that shares many things in common with Portal—its lead designer, its genre, and even a few of its mechanics. However, the game differs entirely when it comes to the mood surrounding the game, the narrator, the main mechanics, and the puzzles, and it was also published by Square Enix, and the reason for that is a mystery in and of itself.
The game starts you off as a nephew visiting his crazy uncle at his mansion-turned-lab. Something goes awry with his latest invention, and he is whisked away into a pocket dimension, leaving you to rescue him and navigate your way out of the mansion. Your navigation device is possibly the same object that got him into this mess (it’s never really discussed)—and it can switch between four different dimensions, all of which are essential to navigating the manor.
The combination of different abilities was reminiscent of two other games I’ve played—obviously, Portal is one of them, but also Limbo. The gravity puzzles at the end of Limbo felt similar to the gravity puzzles at the end of Quantum Conundrum, while there was one puzzle that was very similar to one in Portal 2 co-op (albeit with different mechanics to solve it). While not entirely original, it was still fun to use the dimensions and watch the surroundings to see if the puzzle’s solution would reveal itself.
Another refreshing part of the game involved an increased amount of platforming, compared to other puzzle games. You solve more than a few puzzles without the use of any dimensions at all, and instead focus on simply not touching lasers or jumping fast enough onto the other side. The game’s narrator would often make quips at just the right time—usually after you solved a step of the puzzle, and usually making fun of you. Having the mystery of his disappearance unravel throughout the game kept it interesting, but also felt contrived around the time you unlock the third ability.
The puzzles were designed very well, with multiple solutions and annoying noise makers hidden within the nooks of the environment for you to collect. However, some of them required very precise timing, which even dimensions didn’t help solve. Even if you knew exactly what to do, doing it could be an annoying and death-filled experience—but then again, that’s the purpose of platforming, so I won’t judge too harshly on that. The environments were all well-designed, and it was very fun to look through the different areas and find new books with parody titles. The setting and objects did repeat a lot over the course of the game, but it’s understandable, considering the game’s length and price.
My main problem with the game is its horrific lighting—I’m sorry, but bloom effects don’t make everything better. There’s a video option that toggles bloom effects—but it does nothing. Carrying around a glowing object in a bright room would make my screen turn white. I would have to navigate sideways while carrying them because I could barely make out what was beside me, and certainly couldn’t see what was in front of me. It was literally headache inducing. Even putting that aside, there would be occasional ‘streams of light’ that shone through windows—but they seemed to be overlays more than actual light renders, and walking through them would cause them to disappear.
Overall, the game left me with a disappointed feeling and a headache—especially after a huge buildup to the ending…with a basic puzzle. I was expecting a final boss out of a reoccurring character, or at least a final challenge, and the only thing that happened was some basic couch surfing. The journey there was interesting, sure, but if you want to spend that last bit of the game waving around sequel bait where the ending is supposed to go, it should at least be accompanied by puzzles that make me want a sequel. The game is worth its price, and I can definitely see the influence of the lead Portal designer, but the overall game was disappointing. There are plenty of other puzzle games on the market, and this one doesn’t compete.