Quantum Conundrum preview: how to vandalise a mansion in multiple dimensions
A small cardboard box can be a destructive weapon in the right hands, especially when those hands are wrapped around an Interdimensional Shift Device. Quantum Conundrum is a first person puzzler from Portal creator, Kim Swift, in which you must use the ISD's reality-borking abilities to flip impossible switches, navigate deadly traps, and ultimately escape from the mad laboratory of your uncle, Professor Fitz Quadwrangle.
After an hour spent battling through an impossibly massive mansion packed full of searing lasers, traps and conveyor belts, breaking things with these flimsy boxes was still the most satisfying use of the ISD. A thug's approach to dealing with an obstructive pane of glass would involve throwing a nearby trolley at it, but the ISD allows for a much classier brand of vandalism. In Quantum Conundrum, you pick up a nearby piece of debris, chuck it at the pane and flip to the "heavy" dimension, mid-flight.
Activating the dimension-hopping techno-bracelet feels good. With a sound like a wrapper peeling off a sweet the world shifts, everything gains a rusty sheen, and the flimsy cardboard box that left your hand becomes a hunk of rusted iron. SMASH.
The heavy dimension is the second one you'll earn. The first lets you shift to the "fluffy" dimension. This turns everything pink and furry, and makes heavy items like safes and couches easy to lift and throw. To allow the ISD to access a dimension in each room, you'll have to first find that dimension's battery and plug it into a receptor in the corner. In a basic puzzle, you'll have to use the fluffy dimension to clear some heavy garbage, granting you access to the Heavy dimension battery. With both powers activated you'll be able to take on a larger puzzle to open the exit.
Big grinning robotic faces bolted onto the mansion walls provide the tools you'll need to activate pressure plates, flip switches and open exits. They'll vomit torrents of furniture into the room at the press of a button. In Fluffy world, giant fans can pin objects against walls, turning household items into useful stepping stones. Furniture will noisily disintegrate when touched by a laser, but in heavy mode, they'll block beams entirely, providing safe passage through the deadly glowing lattices that corner off many of the mansion's corridors.
Quantum Conundrum really starts to tickle the mind when you start having to quickly combine the properties of two or more dimensions very quickly. By placing a box on a springboard, you can use the heavy dimension to compress the spring, and then switch to the light dimension to send the box flying. If you stand on top of it when you release the pressure, you can ride the box to new areas.
The rooms started to become much larger as I approached the end of the first hour, which was welcome. The cushy mansion interiors are straightforward and easy to digest. There were few abstract details to interfere with each room's core puzzle, beyond a few comedy portraits of Quadwrangle and his various pets, but the endless mansion got old quickly, and I was keen to move on to some of the more ambitious rooms.
Puzzles that required precise first-person crate hopping and pinpoint throws delivered the most frustrating moments in the opening sections, but the dimension switching itself always felt natural. There were two dimensions I didn't get to see. One slows down time, the other reverses the direction of gravity.
The idea of using all four in conjunction to solve huge puzzles makes my brain creak, but that's where Quantum Conundrum will surely deliver its most satisfying moments. Until then, I'm happy to keep smashing through things with tiny cardboard boxes.
Quantum Conundrum is due out this summer.