Review: Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark
When I first started playing this game, I started thinking long and hard about a joke that I could make about Schrödinger’s Cat. This is because I have an immature sense of humour which explains why I laughed when I wrote the phrase “long and hard.” As it turned out, the joke was more of an observation because true to its name, Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark is both great and terrible at the same time.
So cheesy Debonairs would charge extra
The game begins with Schrödinger’s cat being called to The Particle Zoo in order to round up wayward particles after a catastrophic event caused them all to be freed from their cages. It is up to you to capture them all with the help of some friendly quarks along the way while a mysterious villain tries release the Strange Quark, which would bring an end to all matter. The role of the titular feline is played by A.J. LoCoscio whom you may recognise as the voice of Marty McFly in Telltale’s Back to the Future and he does a fantastic job at pitching the cheesy jokes throughout the game. Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark sounds like it could have been written by the characters from The Big Bang Theory as there is a lot of physics jargon and terrible puns, which really adds to the game’s quirky (quarky?) charm. SC (as he shall henceforth be known) says things like “science-errrific” and “phys-tastic” when he reaches a checkpoint and at times will even point out that these kind of jokes are quite lame. Unfortunately, most of the game’s quirkiness and charm is very easy to ignore after playing through the first few hours when the boredom kicks in.
Visually, Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark is fairly average. The cat, quarks and NPCs are all pretty well done, despite the fact that most of the NPCs are just blobs, and the lack of an outline around them seems to make the world more colourful, but the level design is where the game falls short. Many of the levels look incredibly similar with various scientific formulae forming the background. Even when going to new area, it feels a lot like the colour pallets have just been swapped and a few new textures added in. Considering the amount of time that you will spend backtracking through these areas, they seem to all just blend together after a while.
The charm of quirky quarks is quickly quelled by repetitive gameplay
As I mentioned, there are quarks that you will collect along your journey that will help you solve the environmental puzzles that stand in your way. There are 4 different colours of quark, all of which have their own abilities and can be combined to access a total of 14 combos, each of which requires 3 quarks to activate. 3 yellow quarks grants SC a helicopter to lift him, blue quarks drill into the ground, red quarks give him a platform to stand on and green quarks grant him a protective shield to pass through green goo and minimise falling damage. When these quarks are combined, he also has access to additional powers such as a glider or a parachute. Because the majority of these abilities are made available from the beginning, it can seem like a bit of an information overload trying to remember which quarks do what. Fortunately the pause menu details all the combos, should you need a little reminder along the way. I was really impressed with this mechanic as it really is quite unique. Proper planning is vital because there are a limited number of quarks in any particular area and they often get eaten by enemies which can leave you stranded. Without planning your route carefully, you will find yourself restarting checkpoints very often. Although there are enemies that do damage to you, the majority are harmless Gluons that steal your quarks, but they can be easily retrieved by knocking out the Gluon.
The game tries to employ the Metroidvania style of backtracking but it fails horribly. In those types of games, you acquire powers along the way the help you unlock new areas, but in Schrödinger’s Cat, a lot of it feels like backtracking merely for the sake of it and many of the puzzles need to be done every time you pass through an area. As you can imagine, this gets very old very fast and it ends up feeling like a chore. Over and above that, there is no map and it is very easy to get turned around. This left me going around in a very large circle over and over again for a number of hours. I felt a bit like I was in a horror movie where the main character thinks they have found an exit from the haunted house only to constantly be transported back to where they started. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the levels look incredibly similar and you often don’t even realise that you are headed in the wrong direction. The game is technically an open-world in the sense that backtracking is a huge part of the game, but in terms of choices you basically only have forward and backward. You would think that this would make it harder to get lost. You would be wrong. Although I put 10 hours as the playtime, I think that number will change drastically from person to person depending on how often they get lost and whether or not they choose to capture all of the quarks along the way.
The level design is simplistic and once you have the hang of the combos, they provide very little challenge. As I said, most of the enemies don’t damage you and the majority of the levels only require you to capture the various particles that you encounter. I was filled with great joy when I came across a level that required you to run away from a large enemy in the same way that many of the classic platformers have you running away from lava, fire or tidal waves. Normally these levels are my least favourite parts of platformers but I actually enjoyed a break from the monotony that plagues the rest of the game and having to perform combos to bypass obstacles, whilst running for your life, tends to do that. Once this stage ended though, I found that I was bored again and I found it hard to regain any interest.
I really had high hopes going into this game and for the first few hours, I really enjoyed it. The writing is funny and there are quite a few times that I found myself laughing out loud throughout my playthrough. The use of quark-combos is also quite satisfying once you get used to them. Ultimately though, all of that fades fast and what you are left with are science jokes, Marty McFly and a whole lot of boredom.