With clever references to particle physics and some amusing dialogue and characters, Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark offers something a little different from its usual puzzle platforming ilk, channelling a little Psychonauts personality to make it stand out from the crowd. However, some poor level design and heavy repetition does eat away at the charm.
You play as Schrödinger’s Cat, a wise-cracking agent summoned by the head of a particle zoo to help them recapture escaped particles that are running amuck. It’s a colourful, amusing and clever setup that ties everything in to the particle physics theme brilliantly, although the dialogue is a little on the nose about it. Mostly, however, it’s funny and charming enough to drive you forwards, as you travel through the zoo using quarks to capture gluons, leptons, bosons, etc.
The gathering and then combining of quarks provides the tools you need to navigate levels and capture particles. Quarks come in four different types: Up, Down, Construction, and Destruction; with each assigned to a shoulder button. Combining them in different sets of three creates one of 12 possible tools, such as helicopter blades to fly Schrödinger’s Cat a short distance, a flimsy ledge to temporarily stand on, a missile to destroy specific scenery, or a net to capture particles. Creating these tools from the limited quarks you’ve gathered and finding creative ways to overcome obstacles is a compelling challenge, and the crux of Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark’s experience.
On levels where quark numbers are limited and the level’s layout challenges your quark management, the experience is terrific. There are multiple tools to achieve similar things, such as the helicopter blades and temporary ledges for gaining height, and finding the best ones for a situation whilst preserving quarks to give you options further along in the level is a great puzzle built from the mechanics. However, between these meticulously designed levels are randomly generated ones for you to carve your way through inelegantly. Additionally, some odd choices in background colour can make finding the white gluon particles a chore.
It would be easy enough to forgive the odd poor level if it wasn’t for the slow pace and repetitiveness that kicks in after the first couple of hours. As you meet characters from the particle zoo, they clue you in on how to capture particles and use quarks, as well as sending you on fetch quests to gradually open up more of the zoo so you can find a way into the control room. It becomes a bit of a Metroidvania experience, although the item or character you’re chasing may change, the quark combining navigation stays the same and loses it intrigue through heavy repetition. Additionally Schrödinger’s Cat’s one liners soon grate, as his initial charming scamp personality turns to frustrating smart aleck.
It’s a real shame, as the mechanics, setting and dialogue between characters is very clever and scientifically accurate and appropriate, and certainly the puzzle platforming is a fun challenge to begin with, but the title runs out of tricks a little too early and makes the second half of the game dull and frustrating. Fortunately sign boards at the beginning of each level tell you the number of loose particles within that level, narrowing the search when you’re hunting for specific particles, and quick respawns after death as well as a quark combining guide on the pause screen hint at the other well designed aspects of the game.
Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark is a smart and enjoyable puzzle platformer for the most part, but eventually it falls into a trap of frustration and repetition. Your millage with it will very much depend on your tolerance for the one liners, samey paltforming and quark puzzles, and your interest in the science behind it all.
Thanks to Team 17 for supplying TiX with a promotional copy
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