Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark Review (Playstation 4)
Though we still get the occasional Rayman Origins, Spelunky, or Super Mario Bros., for the most part platformers are a genre firmly ensconced in '90s gaming. Italic Pig's new game, Schrodinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark, tries to bring this old-guard genre up to date with some new gameplay elements and puzzle-solving, but the results are a bit more Bubsy than Mario.
Something's gone devilishly wrong at the particle zoo, and all of the basic universal elements which used to be on display are now running amok, and it's up to Schrodinger's Cat to get everything back where it's supposed to be. Schrodinger traverses stage after stage using basic moves, like punches and jumps, but mostly relying on the quarks, little primary-colored bits which can be combined in groups of three to create numerous effects. Three red quarks create a floating platform, three yellows create a helicopter, yellow and red combine to make a moving platform, and so on. With four colors to choose from, there's a fair number of different quark combinations at your disposal. At first, this system seems fun and inventive; each section of a level might have several different solutions you can take based on which quarks you have on you. After a few stages, however, things fall into a hard rut and never quite get out. Raiders of the Lost Quark is all too eager to show you each quark combination, and as a result you quickly know pretty much everything you can do over the course of the game.
If Raiders had stayed its hand a bit longer, focusing more on a single quark at a time and then introducing their combinations as you play, you'd feel like you were expanding your arsenal, gaining new tools and techniques and generally keeping things fresh, but instead every level feels the same. Part of this same-ness comes from the quarks, and part of it comes from the fact that many of Raiders' stages are randomized. Technically this adds to replayability, but since there's nothing particularly exceptional about any one area you'll instead feel like you're playing through the same thing over and over.
There are a few enemies to punch and capture for completionists who want to 100% everything, but you can usually just ignore them. Schrodinger's rarely in any danger, and the few potentially fatal hazards are placed so haphazardly that, when you do die to them, you'll never know how little (or how much) you're going to have to replay, making death feel both inconsequential and overly cruel.
Raiders of the Lost Quark thinks it's a lot funnier than it is, too. Interactions with NPCs drag on with long-winded, not particularly amusing, characters rambling about this or that, giving you pointless dialogue choices instead of getting to the point and moving on. Plus, there are an abundance of physics jokes that physics majors will possibly get a kick out of, but most of them amount to little more than the game going "Hey, look! We know the name of a famous physicist or physics vocabulary term!" and don't work as jokes on their own. Schrodinger's got a pretty grating voice and a tendency to repeat the same catch phrases over and over (there's only so many times you can hear him say "derp" before wanting to uninstall the friggin' thing and being done with it), and outside of the jaunty little opening the music is both boring, yet mentally invasive. Don't be surprised if you find yourself reaching for the mute button.
Schrodinger controls like a balloon; he floats about with no weight, so there's no satisfaction to his movements. He's generally pretty accurate, though, so you'll get to where you need to go, you just won't feel very good about it.
Schrodinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark isn't terrible, but it's a far cry from being good. The randomized level designs are bland, the puzzle-solving elements are so easy they're barely puzzles, and the writing and sound design will grate on your nerves far more than they'll entertain. The quark-combining core gameplay is interesting, and could have worked well if implemented more strongly (in a game that was better in every other way), but as it is, playing this physics-flavored platformer for fun will cause an equal, but opposite, reaction of unfun.
This review is based on a download code of Schrodinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.