Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark first launched on Steam back in September 2014. Now, with the help of Team 17 – the minds behind the Worms series, developer Italic Pig has released the quirky action-adventure platformer on Xbox One and PS4. With a clever sense of humor, unique gameplay, and a great amount of replayability, Schrödinger’s Cat establishes itself as one of the weirdest and most fun platformers on current-gen consoles.
Schrödinger’s Cat is a thought experiment in theoretical physics developed by Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. If you want to know more, you can check out a pretty cool explanation here. Thankfully, Italic Pig’s platformer is a lot of fun whether you’re a physics geek or you can’t tell a bottom quark from an up quark.
All is well in the Particle Zoo, a subatomic park where visitors can observe all of the particles of the Standard Model in their safe, secure enclosures. Unfortunately, a crisis occurs that lets all of the particles loose, threatens to unleash the strange quark on the world, and throws the Zoo into complete chaos! That’s where you come in. In the interest of not spoiling anything, I’ll refrain from too much plot summary, but you should know that you’ll be interacting with a lot of really great characters and hearing a lot of awesome dialogue.
As you may have figured out from the title, you’ll be playing as Schrödinger’s Cat, a two-toned feline with a smart mouth and a knack for platforming and taking down bad guys. Italic Pig describes him as “Action Hero of the Quantum Polyverse,” and that’s pretty much all you need to know. Even if you don’t know (or don’t care) the theories behind his existence, he’s a really cool cat. The incredibly talented A.J. Locascio brings Schrödinger’s Cat to life with an attitude that sits somewhere between gaming legends Sly Cooper and Ratchet. With his silly catch-phrase “Slabam!” and the witty quips he speaks after respawning, it doesn’t take long to really fall in love with the character.
Speaking of voice acting, Locascio did every single voice in this game. Before playing the game, that doesn’t seem too impressive. But, after a few hours of play, you’ll see that the voice acting is one of the best parts of Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark. When the game launched on Steam, HardcoreGamer called it “the funniest voice work since Psychonauts,” and I wholeheartedly agree. The game has a wickedly clever sense of humor, and all of the jokes are delivered perfectly by the many characters that populate Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark‘s Particle Zoo. The jokes often have real-life scientific applications as well, which is an extra treat for the science nerd in all of us.
As for the gameplay, Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark takes classic platforming and adds a twist by introducing the use of quarks. Quarks are real-life things that actually exist, and they’re super important, so it only makes sense that quarks are the heart and soul of Schrödinger’s Cat. There are six types of quarks that you’ll come across during your adventure: up quarks, down quarks, top quarks, bottom quarks, charm quarks, and strange quarks. Since charm quarks and strange quarks have more of a plot-based significance, you’ll be working primarily with up, down, top, and bottom quarks.
As you make your way through the Particle Zoo, you’ll use each of those four types of quarks to pull off combos that will allow you to progress. Combos are performed by placing quarks into groups of three. Three up quarks will provide you with a copter power-up that can help you reach higher ground, and three bottom quarks can create a small platform for Schrödinger’s Cat to use while traversing difficult terrain. You can also blend quarks together to make unique results. For example, two up quarks and a down quark will arm you with a missile that can break through certain walls. There are quite a few possibilities, and it’s always fun to figure out which combo is best for your current situation. These combos are easier than ever to perform, as the triggers and bumpers allow for quick input. Things seem to work best if you press the first two buttons of the combo first, and then wait until you’re in just the right spot to hit the third button and activate the ability of the quarks you’ve chosen. This isn’t the only strategy, though – like any great game, there are many different ways to make it through every level.
Fighting gluons, collecting quarks, and exploring the Particle Zoo are objectives that provide way more fun than they have any right to. In addition, Italic Pig has put a lot of work into making their platformer replayable. Normally, platformers are some of the least replayable games in the industry simply because the goal of getting from one place to another isn’t exactly as exciting when you already know how to do it. Schrödinger’s Cat brings an element of randomization to the genre without also including the brutal difficulty of roguelike titles (e.g., Rogue Legacy, Cloudberry Kingdom). The Zoo’s Promenade is a series of randomly generated puzzle stages. Enclosures are randomly generated as well, but are more objective-based. Though it’s not as revolutionary as the game’s description makes it seem, it is still a really awesome feature that adds hours of enjoyment to the game.
The art style reminds me of Rayman Legends, though the process of randomization can result in different levels looking strikingly similar. Unfortunately, this does detract from the overall experience. The music can also get a bit repetitive and dull. While the characters, quarks, and action animations look great, the background environments are a weak spot. In the same way, the music fails to live up to the high standards set by the title’s voice acting.
Though it is something of a short experience, Schrödinger’s Cat is a game that will stay in rotation on your system for quite some time, primarily because of its unique nature. There are a lot of platformers on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but none of them come close to the vibe that Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark gives off. Even when the music and environments get repetitive, the voice acting and the pure fun of the game’s platforming picks things up again and keeps the title moving, though the game is most definitely most enjoyable when played in relatively short sessions. While there are a few jokes, references, and stylistic choices that not everybody will appreciate, there’s nothing here that any fan of side-scrolling platformers won’t enjoy.
Bringing together quarks, physics, and the Schrödinger’s Cat experiment should result in a painfully boring science class. Somehow, though, Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark manages to create a unique, quirky experience that uses fun platforming, real science, a decent amount of replayability, and truly superb voice acting to bring gamers a title that belongs in every Xbox One and PlayStation 4 library. You can download it now from the Xbox Live Marketplace or the PlayStation Network Store.
Reviewed on Xbox One. Review copy provided by Team 17.