|Xbox ONE [Reviewed], Steam
Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark (here after referred to as the Cat Game) is a platformer by Italic Pig and Team17 with a bunch of puzzling and a heavy heavy physics background. And not physics like in game shenanigans like Portal, no physics as in physics jokes and puns. Seriously. If you are a Stephen Hawking-aphile you’re going to be laughing your ass off and trying to high five a lot of people who have no idea what the hell that joke even meant. Do you think puns related to the Higgs boson is the absolute top level of comedy? Then you probably have a lot of social issues but at least this game is for you! The story goes that all of these particles have escaped from the Particle Zoo and you need to get them all back. Now I’m not saying that if you don’t get the references you’re not going to enjoy the game. I’m just saying they made a game whose name is based on a experiment that if you put a cat into a box and it has a 50% chance of dying is the cat dead, alive or both?
So how do you go about finding and capturing these 100s of Gluons and Muons and other particles? Scattered throughout the levels you will start to collect four different Quarks. These are small brightly colored objects and they are EVERYWHERE. After you collect a bunch of these Quarks you combine them, 3 at a time, into 14 different combos. You create things like Copter, that lifts you to areas you can’t directly jump to. Missiles allow you to blast through walls and Dig allows you to, well, blast through the floor. There are a total of 14 abilities and most of these combinations are given to you by the game but a few have to be discovered by you as you play. The Cat has all the typical platformer moves to go along with these abilities like a limited attack move and jumping but you’ll be using the abilities A LOT.
There are two different types of levels you will be playing in the Cat Game. Hub style open area levels are where you are just trying to collect those Gluons and other escaped particles and pretty much just get yourself to the next main puzzle area. In these types of levels Quarks are everywhere. They end up being a non currency because of how easy they are to get. You can just enter and leave levels to load up on quarks. You can easily get 50 or more of each Quark so it’s not really if you are going to be able to get through the level, just how you are going to do it.
The puzzle levels, by contrast, are the complete opposite. You are typically given only the exact number of Quarks you need to complete a area and then any extra are taken from you before you start the next section. My problem with these sections are they need to be done pretty much perfectly. There is typically no way to backtrack to reacquire Quarks you lose through using your abilities. If you need to Copter up to a area but fail to make the ledge you need to get to, or perhaps you just fall off the ledge, you literally have no way of getting back up there. You need to pause to the menu and restart checkpoint. It takes you out of the game and it would of been more in-game to simply have a place to fall back to that got you the Quarks you needed to re-start that section again instead of having to constantly reload.
The game is also randomly generated so every time you play you’ll get a different layout. I assume this is why the level design is so so boring. The Cat and other NPCs and enemies look really top notch. As you collect more and more Quarks it really fells like this mass of creatures always there when you need them. But the levels themselves are pretty much made from 3 elements that just repeat and repeat and repeat. You have a ground element that you can break, a rock element that you can not break, and the goo element that harms you. That’s about it.
Although you can complete the game without getting all the lose particles there is a achievement for capturing them all. Each level typically has a few signs that point out how many of each are left in the game and how many are left in the particular area you are in. There is no fast travel level select here though. Up until the end of the game you area able to backtrack to previous areas but it is quite the chore to do so. Any game that tasks you will collecting and finding so many objects should by law, Ampere’s Law, (Google physics reference!) have a level select.
The story and acting are top notch, but the repetitive and boring level design are a unfortunate distraction from the solid platform/puzzle gameplay. The difference between “Open Quarks Quarks Everywhere As Far As The Eye Can See” and the “Puzzle Only As Many Quarks As You Need And Not A Single Quark More” levels is such a huge disparity and with how abundant the Quarks are in the open areas it seems like it would of been more enjoyable to play if the player just got unlimited Quarks in these areas. Anyone who enjoys platformers and puzzle games fun should give Schrod’s Cat a chance, especially at the bargain price of just $10. You might also pick up some amazing physics info you can throw out at your next dinner party. Or not. Probably not.
1) Story is funny and well acted
2) Quarks and their abilities are a interesting new mechanic
1) Level graphics are just so basic
2) Failing puzzle elements require you to restart entire sections