Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark doesn’t just have an absurdly-long and confusing title, it’s also got many little twists on the puzzle-platformer genre. It’s the first one I’ve ever heard of inspired by a science experiment and it makes use of that bizarre premise to place you in the role of a cat. He’s quite the wise-ass too, and he’s got some animals on the inside of the zoo he’s trying to escape from to help him out. You’ll also be aided by a variety of little things called quarks that you can call on to send you upwards, downwards, smash through things, and act as platforms.. In theory, it’s a simple mechanic, but the execution is complex and rewarding.
As the cat, you will jump around levels and attack enemies. The primary control setup uses the keyboard, but you can map things to whatever controller function is desired (for the most part) at the start. The jumping and attack commands are easy enough to immediately understand, but the various quark times can take some getting used to. There’s a variety of kinds to use, with one type sending you up via a helicopter formation, another allowing you to plow through the terrain beneath you, another protects your type, and one that likes to make things. With the yellow quark type, you’ll fly up to a higher area, then maybe need to use the red type to create a platform so you can jump up and then shoot a missile through an area to save more quarks. If you encounter tons of green slime, then it’s not time to throw in a DVD for a ’90s Nickelodeon show, but instead time to use the green type to form a ball so you can roll around the stage. You may need to them immediately plow through the Earth to get to a new area to progress.
Each of these mechanics works on their own, but combos allow more use out of each one. Combining the yellow and blue ones in a particular direction combination creates a missile, while combining the yellow and green types craft a parachute to allow you to accurately go from a higher perch to a low area. There’s even a little hang glider that can be activated with the red and yellow types, and just the red type alone can save your bacon by forming a platform that can give a stable jumping off point needed to progress. There are fourteen quark combos available, all of which need to be used to get past tougher puzzles.
The control setup is a bit of a cluster since it’s mainly a keyboard game with controller support included, but it controls better with a keyboard. Everything can me mapped to a button function, but in an odd move, quark combos can’t be mapped to the right stick — despite the keyboard setup replicating a twin-stick setup. Those commands can be mapped to bumpers and triggers if desired, but it would be preferable to map them to the right stick to make them easier to remember during the course of the game. Luckily, the pause menu’s listing for the commands can be referenced at any time. This means that you just need to remember which button does what, so it’s not too too tough, but things could be made more user-friendly. There’s also an issue with responsiveness as it can take a little while for a directional movement to actually be recognized.
Visually, Lost Quark is an impressive 2D side-scroller. The always-moving world is full of life and color, and there a lot more colors on-screen than most other platformers. The lack of an outline on the characters and the environments stands out, and generally makes the world seem even more colorful than it would be otherwise. The animation is smooth for both your character and the quarks. There are also a lot of little touches that add to the fun — like seeing your little yellow buddies struggle and sigh as they lift you up.
Lost Quark has some of the funniest voice acting you’ll hear in a platformer. The game has a twisted sense of humor, and it comes through verbally with quite possibly the funniest voice work since Psychonauts. Each game excelled at making you laugh in weird ways. Lost Quark even punishes you for skipping through the dialogue by mocking you for doing it, and then dragging the conversation on for a while. It’s a little like Mr. Resetti from the Animal Crossing games, but funnier. Lost Quark’s soundtrack is a bit on the silly side, but the cheerful music does help make more challenging portions less frustrating. It takes your mind off of all the failed attempts, and lets you focus on completing the task at hand.
Schrodinger’s Cat has a bizarre title, but rewarding gameplay. It’s a puzzle-platformer for people who don’t usually like the genre since the puzzles are all action-oriented. It will test your mental might, but also your dexterity with its controls. With either the keyboard or controller, things work reasonably well, but they don’t see to be as user-friendly as they could be. There’s some room for improvement, but what’s here is already easy to recommend to those who like platformers and have an off-beat sense of humor. That aspect shines with the voice acting, which is some of the funniest you’ll hear in a game this year.