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Portal Lead Designer Reveals Her New Game: Quantum Conundrum

| 26 Aug 2011 00:02

Kim Swift, the brilliant mind behind Portal and its predecessor Narbacular Drop, gives a guided tour of her upcoming dimension-trotting puzzler, Quantum Conundrum.

Much like Portal before it, Quantum Conundrum sees a lone (and judging by this video, mute) protagonist make their way through a series of laboratory chambers, besting laser traps and environmental puzzles, aided by a gizmo that makes the laws of physics go all squiffy.

This time, the gizmo in question allows the player to shift between different dimensions. In her short playthrough of an early level, Swift shows us two of those different dimensions (well, three if you include the one she starts in, smarty pants) which are unlocked by placing collectable "batteries" into a machine. The "fluffy" dimension turns the world into a fluffy, pinky-purple wonderland, pretty much what you'd imagine the inside of a 12-year-old girl's mind to look like. Items that were too heavy to move in the humdrum, vanilla dimension became plush versions of themselves, light enough to throw around. At one point, we see Swift throw a safe in the fluffy dimension, then switch dimensions just in time to watch the now very heavy safe go crashing through a window. It was a clever, and imaginative use of the mechanic and, like similar puzzles in Portal it made me smile at its inherent cleverness.

The other dimension is less visually exciting, but will doubtlessly make for some very interesting puzzles when combined with the other dimensions. The "slow motion" dimension does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, slowing everything in the environment down when the player switches over to it. The machine that powers these dimensional shifts had space for four dimensions at once, so we can probably expect at least two more.

Swift talks briefly about the game's story. The player is put in the shoes of a nameless child, dropped off on their uncle's door step. That uncle, a scientist who goes by the handle of Fitz Quadwrangle, disappears early on, and it's up to the player to navigate their way through his laser-filled manor/laboratory, which laughs in the face of health and safety regulations.

I admit, I was a little disappointed when Swift left Valve back in 2009 to join Airtight Games. Airtight's only effort at that point was Dark Void, and the only thing that game had in common with the seminal puzzler Portal was a propensity to make the player feel mildly nauseous. Regardless, putting Swift in charge of her own team was a wise move on Airtight's part, because even this short tidbit of gameplay is giving me that same feeling early videos of Portal did. A slight tingle in the stomach that says "this is something really special."

Quantum Conundrum will be four to six hours long and will be arriving on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 early next year.

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