By: Quinn Potter
For fans of The Big BangTheory, Cosmos, scazzy 60’s pop art, and those who study particle physics, this is a nerdy little dream come true. The particles at The Particle Zoo have escaped their enclosures. It’s up to you to make your way through this puzzler/platformer by using combinations of quarks to overcome obstacles and capture the pesky particles that are roaming the zoo in Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark.
The eight controls you have are fairly basic and well-placed with quick response times.
Graphics are pretty sweet. This isn’t the sophisticated rendering of ScreamRide nor is it the highly pixelated art of Volgarr the Viking. What we do have, however, is a clean, elegant cartoon with well-balanced color combinations that vary across more than 30 levels of gaming.
Gameplay takes place on the foreground while the background has elegant strings of deadly goo that add to the visual depth. For a platformer with a lot of tight, small spaces, gameplay was relatively glitch-free, which was a pleasant surprise.
Although the background music can be a bit redundant, the voice talent is great. Quarks have tiny little “woo-hoos” and “yippees” to encourage your cat, while the kitty has a lot of positive self-talk that’s solid fun. There are also a number of cute-ish physics expressions that sound like inside jokes to those who know their science (“Holy Higgs!”).
A brief video gives you an overview of The Particle Zoo before you jump into the tutorial. In the tutorial, you are the famously “Alive/Dead” cat of Schrodinger’s paradox. (There’s a box. There’s a cat in the box. There’s also a radioactive atom in the box. Is the cat dead or alive? Well, it’s actually both until the box is opened… thus, the paradox. And, believe it or not, this is all related to quantum mechanics.)
The tutorial provides a smooth on-ramp to gaming. You meet four quarks: Up (fly), Down (drills into ground), Top (protective shield), and Bottom (creates platforms). These quarks each have their own personalities and abilities. You can use them separately or combine them to create new abilities (e.g.: Up + Top = Parachute).
When you go to explore new areas, you’ll discover new things. In The Particle Garden, for example, you will soon encounter a fifth quark – Charm. There’s also one more super-mysterious quark, Strange, but you don’t hear much about that one for some time.
Once the game starts, you’ll be charged with rounding up the inhabitants of The Particle Zoo. At each level, you’ll be bounding up and down to collect quarks and bag random loose particles such as leptons, gluons, and bosons. (This is geek-funny because, yes, these are the names of actual particles, just as those earlier names are the names of actual quarks.)
Levels are somewhat challenging, because you have to avoid the sticky green goo that will kill you. Be mindful that you are a cat, however, and not just any cat. As Schrodinger’s cat you have way more than nine lives, so you’ll get to die and come back to life a number of times.
You’ll also discover random side puzzles from time to time and there are some short videos that give you a glimpse of an evil lair. This is what makes the game quirky (quarky?) and unique – and somewhat baffling, too.
The challenges don’t change significantly as you climb the levels, the puzzles aren’t overly compelling, and the character-driven aspect of the game is less-than-fascinating. Even gamers who know and love quantum physics will tire of the inside jokes pretty quickly.
Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark is an odd game, but a game done well in both visual and auditory presentation. Unfortunately, trying to embrace the multiple realities of puzzlers, platformers, and character-driven games leaves us with a game that a bit confused about what it really wants to be.