Sunday, April 21, 2013

Game Review: Quantum Conundrum (XBox)

I'm always looking for new games to play, especially for ones that cater to my strengths instead of my weaknesses. Unfortunately, my weaknesses tend to out-number my strengths, and my abilities are not exactly among the norm.

After I played the demo of Quantum Conundrum, I thought I'd found what I was looking for.

Game Type: Puzzle
It's a critical thinking game. That's what I'm good at. When I watch playthroughs by other gamers, I can usually figure it out first, especially the first few levels. I can usually wrap my head around the physics of the game universe pretty quickly.

Note that I said "playthroughs" and not "speed runs." Games that require skill and reflexes are not my forte. Let me watch someone play through a game on their first time, and I can keep up, and usually figure it out first. However, when skill and reflex come into play, I start to fall behind. When I piggy-back on a gamer's first look into the world, I'm a set ahead; I don't even bother with speed-runs, because I can't move that fast, my lacking coordination falls behind.

The primary storyline of this game has three chapters: Blue wing, Yellow wing, and Red wing.

Blue Wing
This chapter was mostly cake for me. The puzzles came easily and quickly, and I didn't have any difficulty until room 12 (out of 15), "Mind The Gap." (Yes, I caught the British humor, it's part of my heritage, after all.) I'll admit I peeked at a walkthrough, but the truth of the matter is... I knew the solution, I just couldn't implement it. The angled spring was nothing but trouble for me, and remains that way. Forty-nine times out of fifty, I can't ride them. I don't know if I'm just doing it wrong, or there's a secret to using them, or that particular part of the game is just poorly built.

And it's not just in this particular room. It happened again in room 14, "A Minor In-Conveyance." I didn't turn to a walkthrough since the solution was obvious, I just couldn't implement it. Very frustrating on my end, since I sat there for more than half-an-hour before I could ride the safe along its trajectory.

Yellow Wing
The Blue wing had a minimum of jumping puzzles (which are just skill and reflex) so I let them go unmentioned. The Yellow wing, on the other hand, seems to use them almost to no end. It even opens with a jumping puzzle. Terrible. What really doesn't help is the perspective isn't really designed for seeing what you're walking on; to do that, you either have to have damn near perfect spacial awareness (remember this post?) or be looking straight down (which means I'm not watching where I'm going).

I hope the Red wing doesn't continue along this trend, because I can't do it. I'm struggling through the Yellow wing right now, doing one room in about the time of twelve rooms in the Blue wing (which is to say, not those containing an angled spring or being the end). It's not a matter of me not figuring out the puzzles, it's a matter of me not having the skill and coordination to implement my solutions.

Red Wing
I can't post a review on this area yet, since I haven't gotten there yet. When I do, I'll be sure to post an update. (If you're subscribed to the Facebook page, you'll get a notification).

I will say this, though, about the skill parts (though this is true for the whole game): the game saves satisfyingly regularly. Very regularly. Some games will save between rooms, or between major parts of puzzles. This game saves between steps. Get past step one, and the game drops a check point. Any other game, if you died on step two, you have to go back and do step one again. In the Blue wing, that wasn't so. (I'm not exactly in a position to provide much insight whether this continues, still stalling on room 5 of the Yellow wing, but if that trend continues, I'll be very satisfied.)

Being the sort to die often, filling the gaps between the game reloading can get very boring. When it happens in Skyrim, I get quickly fed up with spinning and zooming the digital image. With Quantum Conundrum, on the other hand, the dry wit continues. Every death brings up a quip about something you won't get to do when you "grow up" (since you're playing the perspective of a kid), and judging by their index numbers (yes, they're numbered), there are quite a few. I haven't been writing them down or anything, but I've seen quite a few (thank you, stupid angled spring) and don't think I've gotten any duplicates yet. Some are definitely more amusing than others (I hesitate to call them outright funny), but it gives some relief from my utter failure.

I haven't been doing much on game reviews, but if you folks like this one, I shall continue. Since I haven't, I don't have a personalized ratings scale that fit my particular criteria for a game, so expect to see the summary ratings to fluctuate as I figure it out.

Aside from the jumping puzzles and skill-based portions, I'm very happy with this game. It's got a comfortable learning curve, and it doesn't beat me over the head with puzzle repetition. (Some puzzle games make you repeat the some action a dozen times in a room, QC teaches you a move, and then almost immediately integrates it into the general gameplay.) Spot on!

Game: Quantum Conundrum
Platform: XBox 360
Publisher: Square Enix

Critical Thinking: 5/5 (Minimal beating me over the head, maximal use of your physics)
Learning Curve: 4.5/5 (Lost points on the angled springs; otherwise perfect)
Skill/Coordination: 1.5/5 (Between the jumping puzzles and the angled springs, you tanked it.)
Auto-Save Frequency: 5/5 (I wish more games were this good)
Graphics: 5/5 (Honestly, not terribly important to me)
Storyline: 4.5/5 (Not terribly important to me either, but it's a nice touch.)
Humor: 5/5
Recommendation Likeliness: 5/5

If you have any game recommendations for me, or care to review my review, or anything else, please don't hesitate to leave me a comment!