This is Quantum Conundrum, the first-person puzzle game coming out early next year from a development team led by Kim Swift. She’s someone who has earned my gaming trust, since she was a senior member of the team that made Narbacular Drop and the more famous game it was turned into, Portal
Swift no longer works on the Portal games nor at Valve Software, where they’re made. She’s at Airtight Games, wich would seem like an odd fit since the only game they’ve released was the mediocre jetpack third-person shooter Dark Void. But Kim Swift hasn’t disembarked the train of thought that brought us her two last games. She’s still thinking about first-person puzzle games, and her team is making quite a clever one in Quantum Conundrum.
Swift walked me through a level of the game at the Penny Arcade Expo. I shot video as we talked, though I must apologise for struggling to capture the graphics of the game as clearly and correctly coloured as the game deserves. I think there was something about the moments when the game turns pink — a transformation into the bright fluffy dimension — that weren’t compatible with my camera settings. (You’ll see crisper imagery in the game’s official trailer and first screenshots).
What I do hope you get out of this video is a clear sense of how this game works: you’re a kid in a mansion and you can shift the dimensions in the mansion’s rooms to “fluffy” (makes things light), “reverse gravity” (self-explanatory), “slow-down time” (also obvious) and some mysterious fourth dimension, as yet undisclosed. Manipulating these dimensions enables you to pick up safes, ride falling objects back up to where they fell and perform other tricky actions. Each dimensional shift is triggered by the press of a button, but all of them are not always available. A dimensional shift can happen only if a battery associated with it is plugged into a generator in the room. Plugging those batteries in can be puzzles too. For example: you need the room to be fluffy, but how do you get the fluffy battery past some lasers, which you need to do so you can knock over a heavy pile of safes? That’s not a real in-game puzzle, I don’t think, but they operated something like that.
Watch the video up top and see for yourself.
Quantum Conundrum may suffer tough comparisons to the oh-so-polished Portal, but there’s every bit of evidence that this new game has the elements to be a superb first-person puzzle game, too. A charming setting helps. I like the silly lost-mad-scientist story with which Swift framed this adventure and I enjoyed the overall happiness of the game. My main worry is that the game might prove to be too complex and too hard, what with all the dimensions and the crazy moves even being shown in the video I shot and other early levels I was shown. We can judge that when the singleplayer-only game comes out early next year on Steam, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.