Game: Quantum Conundrum: The Desmond Debacle DLC
Developer: Airtight Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Quantum Conundrum was a puzzle game with the potential to be great but which was held back by some flaws and awkward design choices. When it was at its best it was very good and hugely enjoyable. At its worst it was a frustrating mess. DLC packs seemed the perfect way to fix the flaws in the main game and concentrate on what it did well. Except it doesn’t. The Desmond Debacle, the first DLC, takes all the best elements from the game and tosses them out completely, basing almost all of its puzzles on the irritating timing and jumping elements that the game just isn’t very good at.
The Desmond of the title is one of those drinking bird toys. They appeared several times during Quantum Conundrum, usually at the start of a section, where they could be placed so that they pecked at a button which switched a dimension on and off. The description for this DLC includes the line “Experience Desmond, the drinking bird, as you’ve never seen him before in even more brain twisting and complex puzzles!” To me this implies that it’s a set of levels based around Desmond and using the drinking birds in new ways. It’s misleading. He appears in the first level where he can be placed on a button in the same way as in the main game and then doesn’t appear again at all until the last level. Even in that last level, you don’t get to interact with it in any way, since it is just used as a death trap. And you’re not even told that it’s a death trap until you suddenly die for apparently no reason and realise what happened. You’re on an annoyingly tight time limit and have just a few seconds to try and figure out what you’re supposed to do and then carry it out.
The first level kicks things off with all the worst excesses of Quantum Conundrum magnified. The goal is to get around a level to fetch one of the drinking birds before returning right back to the beginning to place it on a button to help open a door. This is a huge level and as usual you have to complete it all in order to save your progress completely. It does checkpoint at various places so that if you die you don’t have to go back to the beginning, which is a relief since you will die a lot due to the amount of precision timing and jumping that is required. And even the checkpoints can backfire and cause problems. At one point I finally got all the way round the level and was most of the way back when I accidentally let the bird plummet off a ledge to its doom. The game then checkpointed a couple of seconds later so that when I died to retry, the bird was already gone and I had to restart the whole journey again. The fact that the journey was so tedious in the first place and featured more irritating jumping and timing than the main game ever did certainly doesn’t help.
The rest of the six levels contain the same flaws, though never quite as egregiously as at the start. The third section comes close, with one part involving using the inverted gravity dimension to navigate a ball around various tunnels and deflecting it off angles in a way that’s very awkward to judge since you have limited mobility and you can’t see exactly where the ball is at times. The fact that there are no shadows most of the time has carried over from the main game too, making it even more awkward. The rest of the levels don’t take as long, but they’re still mostly awkward physical challenges rather than working things out, and the engine still isn’t appropriate for these.
None of the more interesting puzzles which saved the main game appear here to salvage anything and any moments of enjoyment are very brief indeed and are swamped by the rest of the content. There’s also no voice over from John de Lancie this time to bring the world to life. There isn’t even an appearance from Ike this time round, leaving the world feeling even emptier than it already did before. And the ending of the original game might have been annoying but it seems amazing compared to this, which just fades to black and gives a sudden end screen when you solve the last puzzle.
The DLC isn’t even integrated properly into the game. There’s no way to launch The Desmond Debacle as a separate set of levels. Instead, you have to go to the level select screen and scroll past all the original levels to find the new ones. If you quit the game, when you reload you have to go through the level select again and find where you were, since clicking “Continue Game” just dumps you back into the mansion hub from the main game. It’s just generally a badly conceived DLC that seems to have either been rushed out quickly, created too far in advance for them to take on board feedback about the original game, or quite possibly a combination of the two. Even if you enjoyed Quantum Conundrum, there’s very little to recommend here.
Save System Review: As with Quantum Conundrum, it checkpoints as you go along but only saves progress permanently at the end of a puzzle.
Graphics: The same sparse graphics as the main game, this DLC brings nothing new to the table.
Sound: Exactly as in the main game, but lacking the voice acting.
Bugs: None that I encountered.
Gameplay: Terrible jumping and timing puzzles that are too awkward to do in the engine provided. All the weaknesses of Quantum Conundrum with none of the strengths.
Storyline: None existent.
Arbitrary Final Score:
Is the game something to crow about or do you just want to use the inverted gravity to flip the bird at it? Let us know in the forum!