Even for the most open-minded gamers, it is easy to roll your eyes at the thought of playing through yet another puzzle-platform game. It seems like a new one releases every week that promises a unique hook that will turn the genre on its head. This is rarely the case though, as not every game can be as brilliant as Braid or Fez. The latest of these titles to see release is Italic Pig's Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark. When you open the box on this quirky platformer will the cat be dead, or will it be alive?
The main hook to Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark is the quark system that allows Schrödinger's Cat to pick up four different types of matter particles. These particles can then be combined to form different types of power-ups. For example: if the player combines two yellow quarks and a green quark, they will gain a chute ability for a period of time that will allow them to slowly descend in the air. Overall, there are fourteen different types of combinations and the game truly shines when it allows the player to use these abilities freely. Sadly, this isn't always the case.
A lot of the levels end up limiting the amount of quarks the player has, which turns it into a linear game filled with trial and error. Often, if you create one wrong ability, there will be no way to complete the level unless you restart from the last checkpoint. Checkpoints are not quite as frequent as they should be, and we found ourselves running out of quarks at the very end of a section, only having to completely restart it. Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark doesn't feel like it respects the player's time when you have to replay through the same section over and over again. Something as simple as a rewind mechanic would have made the game's linearity much less frustrating.
That being said, the moments where the game does give the player free reign over all of Schrödinger's Cat's abilities are sensational. This is why it is so frustrating when the game instead demands the majority of the puzzles to be done a specific way. The quark system is so innovative, but you only get a taste of what it could really be used for.
The main objectives here revolve around beating up (and then capturing) leptons, gluons and bosons while also finding hard to reach charm quarks. All of this work is done in order to fix up the Particle Zoo, which has descended into chaos. A tip: make sure you collect those charm quarks when you see them, or you'll be forced to backtrack through a considerable amount of the game if you don't.
Combat is mostly fun as there are several different quark combinations that can deal with enemies. Bombs can be tossed, but there are also defensive abilities such as a decoy that will distract foes for a brief amount of time. Sadly, the basic melee attack feels unpolished, as you'll often miss enemies despite being right next to them. It is something that players will get used to over time, but it is a black eye on what is otherwise a very fun combat system.
Few things are more difficult to pull off in the medium of games than writing funny dialogue. Many games try to be funny, but most fall flat and elicit groans rather than laughter. Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark manages to successfully walk this thin line and offers up hilarious dialogue and likable characters. As expected, a lot of the humor revolves around science, but the jokes never seem to try to pander to the demographic that will get them. If you are a fan of the 'dad' humor found in games such as Animal Crossing then you'll find a lot to enjoy here.
Graphically, Schrödinger's Cat is a bright and colorful game. The characters are beautifully animated and it is largely a treat to look at. The only downside to the aesthetic is that some of the backgrounds are downright boring. A zoo full of every single particle in the universe should be an exciting place, but some lackluster level design holds it back from truly reaching its potential from a visual standpoint.
Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark is so close to nailing everything that developer Italic Pig wanted to achieve, but everything aside from the quark system seems to be just a bit off. This is a game that is begging for a sequel, as the potential is there for a truly special game. This just isn't it, though.
Despite having quite a few moments of frustration, Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark features enough high points to make it a very enjoyable experience. The quark mechanic that is heavily featured is innovative, unique and one of the coolest systems found in any platform game to date. If you are willing to overlook some repetitive backtracking, then you'll be rewarded with a hilarious puzzle platformer that manages to be a memorable experience.