It doesn’t take very long to accept that Italic Pig’s Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark is not a fun game to play on the PlayStation 4. It tries desperately hard to blend together aspects of chemical and biological science with a humorous appeal and coolness factor that was a relic of the mid-90s.
Most people would probably say that science was a fascinating subject to them when they were growing up. There is a common intrigue to exploring aspects about life and the natural world that are interesting to kids and young adults. This however is completely lost under a mountain of forced humor and a confusing, unexplained story that only gets worse as you play through Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders the Lost Quark.
Right after the game boots up, you’re greeted with a very chaotic and outright baffling main menu screen. What makes this a train wreck is the random placement of the menu options and title on the screen, which, even on a modern TV, all looks somewhat misplaced or cut off from view. The downward spiral for this game doesn’t stop there however, as the opening sequences are not only plagued by audio bugs for each panel shown, but as the game progresses, players are given a confusing story with little details to follow and understand.
The 2D art style of the game is pretty good to look at, with various characteristics that are similar to platformer games like Guacamelee. The character design throughout the game is great and plays up the microscopic theme well with different characters. The same can’t really be said for the background environments, as they appear generic in contrast to the characters that populate them. Yet the overall look of the game can not draw away attention from the myriad of problems found everywhere else in the game.
The main task for the game’s protagonist Schrodinger’s Cat, who we are given almost no details on whatsoever, is shallow at best. Schrodinger’s Cat must help regain control of a zoo that houses organisms called Quarks by reaching the control center of the zoo called Nucleus. The events that unfold over the course of the game completely lose their significance because of the lack of a main character players can care about. It’s nearly impossible to have an interesting adventure in a game that almost requires the player to look up information about quantum mechanics to understand the underlying joke of the main character, let alone receive almost no back story as to why Schrodinger’s Cat is so important in his world.
More issues begin to show themselves when playing, particularly technical bugs and control problems on the DualShock 4. There are many instances where Schrodinger’s Cat will end up sliding or doing actions without the specific button inputs executed, causing you to traverse through difficult platforming sections over and over again. Moving Schrodinger’s Cat through areas can be a bit frustrating, as the game requires you to utilize small Quarks to activate a variety of abilities.
There are four different color coded Quarks that correspond to different abilities that Schrodinger’s Cat can us. This is a neat idea that does a lot for delivering a unique approach to areas that would otherwise be unreachable through conventional means. You can ascend upward with a copter-like ability, create a shield to protect Schrodinger’s Cat from level hazards, as well as different attacks to launch at enemies and break environmental sections.
This completely unwinds and goes from being interesting and different to frustrating and unfair after completing a few areas of the game. In some of the beginning sections, the Quarks that are used for Schrodinger’s Cat’s abilities reappear in the level after expending them, allowing for you to reassess and try again should you mess up your platforming at first. This is immediately changed shortly after without warning and forces you to micromanage the Quarks you find and have available for Schrodinger’s Cat’s abilities.
The lack of any sort of navigation in levels will have you wasting precious Quarks to reach a specific spot, only to find out it wasn’t the way you needed to go and restart from a checkpoint constantly. This would add some level of challenge to traversing through levels if it wasn’t for the inconsistent ways that Schrodinger’s Cat can die at the hands of enemies and hazards, which are only made worse because of the wonky controls. Some spots will have Schrodinger’s Cat take damage and repel him backwards, and randomly at times instantly kill him and force you to restart at a checkpoint.
The most depressing aspects about Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark are found in the writing and sound design. The incredibly forced humor and attempts at trying to make science sound “cool” is not only sad, but downright annoying as it’s constantly thrown in your face throughout every facet of the game. Every time Schrodinger’s Cat hits a checkpoint, punches an enemy, or finds something significant, he shouts a random phrase that sounds like scrapped ideas of “cool lingo” from the mid-90s. There would be humor in this if it wasn’t consistent every minute or so of gameplay, where another bad pun or phrase is said just for the sake of being said. This gets even worse with the constant repetitive goofy sounds that the Quarks make every time you collect one of them. Again, there would be an element of humor here if it wasn’t given to us nearly every second spent playing the game. The small dialogue that’s exchanged between Schrodinger’s Cat and some characters he encounters can be briefly funny, but then it all too quickly becomes forced and bland again.
Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark is not a good game. There clearly could have been a lot more energy put into other aspects of the experience, rather than how many science puns were put into the dialogue. The unique platforming ideas are overshadowed by terrible controls and level design, as well as inconsistent enemies and a seemingly unfair level of challenge partway through the experience. There is almost nothing given to the player to have them care about Schrodinger’s Cat or even understand why he is as cool as other characters say he is. Technical problems and audio bugs, as well as a completely unnecessarily long name, only add more insult on to an already messy game. This is science done at its most wrong.
This review was based on a digital copy of Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark for the PlayStation 4 provided by Team17 Digital.