Game Name – Quantum Conundrum
ESRB Rating – E for Everyone
Genre – Physics Puzzle Platformer
Educational Values – Critical Thinking, Physics, Problem Solving, Synthesis, Analysis
Platforms – Xbox, Playstation 3, Windows PC
Where to buy – Amazon, or Steam, or any retailer
Would we buy it? – Definitely. This is a game that I can’t wait to play with my kids.
About the Game
Quantum Conundrum is a First Person Perspective Physics Puzzle game. That’s a lot of words for a relatively straightforward game. It is similar to Portal in that you move through the game from the perspective of the protagonist. It is from that perspective that you use a power glove to change dimensions and solve physics puzzles to move through the game.
The story begins with a visit to your uncle, Fitz Quadwrangle, an inventor living by himself. Upon your arrival you find that he has shot himself into another dimension and needs your help to get back. You help him by picking up a glove that can shift the dimensions of the room around you and working your way through his crazy house of inventions to start his generators and bring him back to the normal dimension. You move through the house with some guidance from your uncle, who can speak to you, but not much else, and the occasional help of the Interdimensional Kinetic Entity (IKE).
The puzzles are diverse and mind-bending. In one case you need to build a staircase out of safes by letting laser beams destroy only the ones you need to climb up. In another, you change the weight of objects in flight to power up a kinetic platform to let you jump into the air. (It sounds complicated, but don’t worry, the tutorial is very good.) There are moments of frustration, as with any puzzle game, but the payoffs are all the more satisfying
You are riding a table in slow motion above. Remember to jump before the laser beams!
Early in the game, you are given an Interdimensional Shift Device glove which allows you to shift between four dimensions. Each dimension has its own unique properties that it imparts on the world around the protagonist, but not the protagonist himself. The Fluffy dimension, where everything is light and fluffy, the Heavy dimension, where everything is heavier and denser, the Slow dimension where everything moves at 10% of normal speed, and the Reverse Gravity dimension where everything floats upward. Only one dimension can be activated at a time, so there are many puzzles that require you to switch from one to another quickly.
It is obvious from the details throughout that this game is put together with love. The voice work is excellent and the aesthetic is fun and cartoony. There are clever quips that show up when you die of all of the things that you will not ever get a chance to do. (My personal favorite “Thing #74 you will never get to experience: watching your favorite childhood TV shows get turned into terrible movies.”) Even the pictures on the walls change what they show based on which dimension you have activated.
The same picture, on the left is the Normal dimension, on the right is the Fluffy dimension.
What the Game Teaches Us
Like any puzzle game, Quantum Conundrum teaches you to solve problems creatively. For example, in one section, you use the Fluffy dimension to pick up and throw a safe at a window of glass. In mid air, you then switch to the Heavy dimension to break the window and travel through the laser beams on the opposite side to trigger a switch to open the door to your right. Had problems following that example? Think of how difficult it was to figure out the answer!
Solving the puzzles requires analysis and synthesis. They also force you to understand the world and rules of the game and use them appropriately. After enough time in the game, the answer comes as second nature. After all, you are just trying to jump across a chasm, so naturally you would switch to Fluffy dimension and throw the box across the chasm, and then switch to Slow Motion to jump onto it and ride it across. But that type of critical thinking is… well… critical to the real world. We may not have any chasms to jump across on our way to work each day, but there are always problems to be solved in creative ways. Quantum Conundrum will help you exercise those creative muscles.
The game has been criticized for its handling of physics. Some people think that the boxes bounce too much, or the controls are too finicky. While that is true in some specific instances, I found the physics to be a blast, with the puzzles built around the physics and game mechanics almost seamlessly. A gamer learns and exercises knowledge about force, motion and cause and effect without realizing that they were taught it. And that is the ultimate in gaming to learn.
General Feelings on the Game
Destructoid made this game their “Editor’s Choice” and it certainly earned it. I loved every minute of playing this game. The puzzles were creative, interesting and fun. The controls were tight, and the narrative was engaging. The biggest criticism I see of this game is that some people do not like the ending, which is a viable comment, but that does not negate the tremendous fun it is to play. Figuring out what each puzzle requires and then working through the dimensions to accomplish it are incredibly satisfying. Quantum Conundrum is a kids game that is accessible for adults, but it is very likely over the heads of the youngest gamers out there. It would probably require a gamer from late elementary school and up to play it through. With all that said, do yourself, your kids, and your classroom a favor, and check out this game.