I spent a very tiny part of my Quantum Conundrum review discussing the similarities to Portal because I felt not doing so would be an oversight. I would like to take this review for the Desmond Debacle downloadable content for Quantum Conundrum to explain why we love Portal and why this DLC is not only a perfect example of how not to do DLC, but how not to create content for a puzzle/platformer genre.
Portal did DLC right. The co-op mission pack was fun and completely free. It continued to utilize every mechanic from the co-op that made the mode so much fun in the first place. The biggest issue in Quantum Conundrum was that the intense platforming sections weren’t fun and don’t really work in first-person and the DLC focuses entirely on that, because that makes sense and is a brilliant decision.
While he didn’t add the same flair that GLaDOS gave in Portal, I really enjoyed John De Lancie as Professor Quadwrangle and thought he did add a sort of charm. Of course because this is the opposite blueprint of what a good DLC pack looks like, Professor Quadwrangle is not in The Desmond Debacle at all. I hope you enjoy playing through a variety of stupid-hard puzzle rooms all alone. Yes, Portal had challenge rooms devoid of the narrator, but they were fun to play through. Two of the six maps were worse than anything from the absolute lowest of the main game.
For DLC entitled “The Desmond Debacle”, I would love to know why Desmond, which is the red drinking bird, is only a usable item in one of the six maps and only even appears in one other. There are two thirds of this pack that is completely devoid of the very mechanic that it’s named after. I just…I don’t understand. The “Desmond” mechanic is only present on two levels, the first and last levels in the DLC; the first consists of all terrible platforming, and the last was on a timer that kills you if you don’t complete the room quickly enough…not that the game tells you this important bit. Have fun failing to find that little tidbit out.
That’s pretty much the entire pack in a nutshell. Let’s take puzzles with very precise solutions, put them in a realistic physics engine that makes doing the same thing twice incredibly difficult and let you just deal with it. Other puzzles have some good moments. There were times when I thought that maybe the first map was just a weird outlier, but then I would get buried under a mountain of terrible design choices. Far too often, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do, but I just couldn’t get things to work.
There’s not even a “play DLC” option in the menu! When Steam updated the game with the DLC, there is now a “play DLC” bit of text added to the replay levels menu option. I then had to go through and flip past all of the old content to even find this ‘gem.’ Was the intention to get your money and then hide the DLC pack deep in the menus so you won’t play it?
It’s been a long time since a game actively made me despise it and this pack pretty much ruined my experiences with Quantum Conundrum.
The Desmond Debacle DLC for Quantum Conundrum manages to take every single problem I had with the game and entirely focus on them. I would like to think the DLC was slapped together too far in the development cycle pipeline that Airtight couldn’t make substantive changes to fix the criticisms, but considering everything that Airtight’s first game Dark Void was, I’m starting to think the good in Quantum Conundrum was just a fluke and that Airtight just doesn’t understand what makes games fun. Do not waste $3 on this DLC content.