E3 2012: Quantum Conundrum Preview

By Jordan Douglas on June 12, 2012, 1:32AM EDT
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Amidst the triple-A blockbuster shooters, neck-stabbers and death simulators that typically occupy the lion's share of E3 coverage, some smaller, often independent, games come along with clever hooks which help them carve out a place in the Twitter buzz. While not quite an indie garage project, Square Enix's Quantum Conundrum, a physics puzzler from the mind of Kim Swift - one of the designers on Portal - and the folks over at Airtight Games, was one of those quirky titles which stood out on the show floor.

Understandably, Square Enix's marketing department hasn't been shy about promoting Kim Swift and the Portal connection as the face of Quantum Conundrum. Kim Swift and Co.'s latest work certainly bears more than a passing resemblance to Portal, which remains one of the most-beloved and respected games in recent memory, so emphasizing Airtight's pedigree makes sense. However, inviting that same head-to-head comparison could end up being a dangerous strategy.

That being said, don't expect to find GlaDOS or Cave Johnson milling around in this charming world. Instead, a young boy travels to visit his uncle, the seemingly mad scientist Professor Fitz Quadwrangle, only to find the mansion empty and something seriously amiss. The boy grabs the mysterious Interdimensional Shift Device and sets out to locate Quadwrangle.

In a nutshell: Quantum Conundrum is a first-person puzzler where players use a revelatory device to manipulate their surroundings, move objects, push buttons, and ultimately, progress through a series of enclosed spaces. Sound familiar? This time around, said mythical device alters the world's dimensions, and therefore the laws of physics, to facilitate Conundrums' mind-bending feats. For example, activating the fluffy dimension makes objects incredibly light and mobile, whereas the heavy dimension does pretty much the opposite. The anti-gravity dimension, well... reverse the effects of gravity, and things start ramping up from there.

Most of the puzzles we saw in Quantum Conundrum boiled down to figuring out which dimensions were available, relevant and in which order they needed to be used. Dimensions can be switched on the fly once their respective power cores have been located, often requiring precise timing to clear a room. For instance, when a glass window blocked the path to the exit, Airtight stepped on a release valve to drop a box, quickly switched to the fluffy dimension to give the box additional momentum, then activated heavy properties the moment before contact with the window. The thick glass shattered into a million pieces, which cleared the path forward.

After seeing a handful of Quantum Conundrum's 50 puzzle stages, there appears to be a great deal of potential behind its inventive physics-based mechanics. Keep an eye out for Quantum Conundrum when it hits Steam on June 21st, followed by a PSN / XBLA release over the summer.

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