Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark
was released on PC last year and the title has now arrived on Xbox One. This is our opportunity to see whether Schrodinger’s Cat should be let out of its box, or whether the feline protagonist should instead be left in a sealed container to a fate of simultaneous life and
death. Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark
is a puzzle-laden platformer created by indie development team Italicpig. Inspired by the famous quantum physics paradox, Schrödinger's Cat
sees the clever kitty called up to deal with a disastrous situation at the subatomic tourist attraction known as the Particle Zoo. A normally sedate location, the Particle Zoo has been thrown into turmoil and many different kinds of particles have escaped. The cat (with you at the controls) has the task of sending the escaped particles back to The Nucleus and putting an end to the chaos. The quirkiness of the main protagonist as well as the collective wit of the creatures who staff the Zoo, all bring undeniable charm and copious amounts of humour to the storyline and the game as a whole.
After the most simple of menu screens, you are transported into the world of the Particle Zoo. The gameplay style brings elements from older platformers, such as simple 2D side-scrolling action and traditional hand-to-hand combat. Far from being bogged down in an old format though, the game simultaneously harnesses modern gameplay components. Schrödinger's Cat doesn’t have to tackle his assignment alone, as a multitude of quarks (matter particles) can be utilised to overcome obstacles, defeat other creatures that aim to hamper your progress, and capture unruly, escaped particles. The inclusion of the innovative, colourful quarks really adds another element to the gameplay by making the levels more thought-provoking and the route through some levels more considered. The classic movement and combat combined with the contemporary quarks and the plethora of references to all manner of modern scientific ideas, most notably Higgs’ particle collision experiments, gives a great balance of the old and the new. Players will appreciate the comfort that the old stalwart features bring, whilst also thriving on the entertaining nature of the present-day attributes.
The Nucleus - the centre of everything!
Although the enemies do not pose much of a challenge and most can be dispatched with ease, the well-constructed level designs mean that some careful planning is required at times to determine the most effective use of the available quark combos. The combinations are easy to learn, and after no time at all many of the available combos will become second nature. The game does offer a handy combo section immediately available in the pause menu to fall back on should a reminder of the possible quark combinations be needed at a moment's notice. Often it is easy to be lulled into using the same combos repeatedly out of ease, particularly in the levels that offered loads of quarks, but this somewhat idle approach is neatly countered because in certain levels the combinations available do depend entirely on which quarks are following Schrödinger's Cat.
The levels within Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark
come in two very distinctive styles. There are zoo type puzzle platformer levels where tight resource management is important, and the procedurally-generated in-between levels where pretty much anything goes. The former is where you really are forced to think about which combos suit both the quarks available and the immediate obstacles in your path. Where these restrictions exist, one mistake could leave no choice but to return to the previous checkpoint within that level. Mercifully, the game does offer up a plentiful number of checkpoints to minimise the frustration when this occurs. The procedurally-generated levels that intersect the other portions see Schrödinger's Cat enjoying a massive supply of quarks making the endless choices of how to traverse these locales something of a stark contrast to the other zoo-like levels. The disparity in difficulty between these differing levels could be seen as difficulty spikes by some players, but others will feel that the constant interchanging of level styles aids the continuation of play.
Quick Combo Menu - a handy, helpful guide!
The game levels may be cleverly crafted and varied, but there is one glaring omission in that aspect of the game. The simple menu system, mentioned earlier, is so basic that there is no option to move quickly to a specific level or section within the game. The linear nature of how the levels are built means that if something is missed along the way (a stray Gluon or a charm quark, for example) then that mishap could result in a lengthy exercise in retracing the Cat’s paw prints. However, the fact that any action taken to help traverse each level remains intact does go some way to negating that issue no matter how many return journeys have to be made.
The procedurally-generated levels do benefit from an element of randomisation meaning that there is a reasonable amount of replayability value to be had in the game. As highlighted above, the content of the individual levels will bear the brunt of the Cat's damage, and it is the order that the procedure-based levels appear that changes in subsequent playthroughs, so that the replayability becomes redundant pretty quickly. The good news is that there were no bugs to spoil the game experience; a welcome exit from what is becoming an increasing issue nowadays.
It's getting dark down here!
The linear progression of the storyline and levels results in very limited freedom to explore. Nonetheless, the sharp, clean graphics make the game levels engaging and entertaining, whilst the catchy soundtrack only serves to enhance that experience. The graphics and score also mirror the gameplay itself, as the early levels are bright and cheerful. The colour scheme darkens and the pace of the background music quickens noticeably as the tension builds later in the game coinciding with encounters with what are initial perceived to be tougher enemies.
In similar fashion to the antagonists, the game’s achievements should not cause much difficulty for the majority of players and, as a result, the completion will likely be well within reach. The difficulty may be minimal, but a momentary lapse in concentration could create a time-consuming search in order to gather all Gluons, Leptons, and Muons to pop Absolute Zero
. The remainder of the achievements will come through natural progression of the game’s storyline and collecting certain particles on the way, with a couple of other achievements gained for playing cupid
and being an amateur musician
. Most players can expect to complete the game in around 6-10 hours, with all of the achievements being available in a single playthrough.
As engaging puzzle-platformers go, Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark
is very close to top drawer. A brilliant soundtrack is the highlight in a colourful and creative world that will keep you playing to restore order to the Particle Zoo. The witty script with bucket loads of puns will have you giggling away as you play. The stylish gameplay and tight controls, coupled with a relatively straightforward achievement list should ensure this is a win-win title for most fans of the genre.
- Brilliant soundtrack
- Beautiful level design
- Responsive controls
- No level selection menu
- Occasional lack of direction
The reviewer spent around 20 hours chasing particles around the Zoo sending them back to their rightful place. Whilst bringing order in the face of chaos, 9 of the game's 13 achievements were gained. A download code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.