Sometime in the distant future, we’ll have teleporters and spaceships and time-travelling devices, which unfortunately won’t always be used at the right time or for the right reasons, often causing trouble throughout the multiverse. In fact, we’ll need specialists to endlessly fix problems, repairing the damage where they can – except, of course, when they happen to cause a few accidents themselves. Such is the premise of Quantumnauts, a science fiction indie adventure which sends an ordinary man unwittingly into a dangerous alien world filled with space pirates, robots and mutants, forcing him to seek a way back home… or even just survive. Produced by Midian Design, Quantumnauts represents the studio’s first stab at releasing a slightly-commercial title after a few freeware releases. The end result is a hit-and-miss affair that includes some interesting puzzles to keep you entertained, but also some poor production values and a somewhat under-developed narrative.
The game starts out with unlikely hero Bob Marshall walking out of his local bar late one night. Bob normally stays until closing time and regularly attempts to stumble his way home (which is just two doors away), and on the odd occasion he even manages to make it. On this particular night, Bob is well and truly drunk but slightly more coherent than his usual form, when out of the blue he's teleported onto the bridge of a futuristic spaceship belonging to the Quantumnauts. This was an accident, it seems, as the ship’s captain was meant to be beamed back aboard. Unfortunately, lone crewman Lieutenant Robinson got the coordinates ever-so-slightly wrong and picked up Bob instead. Before this mistake can be corrected, they are set upon by space pirates determined to capture the ship. In a desperate move to escape, a time travel device is engaged, catapulting the craft into a distant future time and causing them to crash land on the planet Pyr. With Robinson dead, all ship power gone, and no hope of returning home, Bob sets out to explore the alien planet alone.
As Bob soon discovers, the Quantumnauts are part of an intergalactic organisation whose main goal is to travel throughout the galaxy, ensuring the preservation of time and space from anyone who may choose to interfere with it. For better or worse, it seems that Bob's chance meeting with the Quantumnauts has had the entirely opposite effect, quite literally altering the course of his own destiny. After recovering from the crash, Bob assumes the identity of the bridge lieutenant and finds a multi-lingual translation device, allowing him to communicate easily with the local population. Finding a way home won’t be so easy, however, as the adventure Bob embarks upon will lead him to discover a secret rebellion, a notorious alien dictatorship, a strange mutant dwelling that exists underground, and a pyramid that draws people to a secret location buried deep within the planet.
Your journey is initially spent travelling through the alien city of Minaxith, seeking allies and adapting to a land that's been invaded by a conquering space army, placing the world under an oppressive martial law. There are plenty of robots, alien creatures, and sci-fi paraphernalia to liven up the story along the way. One such artifact is a bracelet that activates a live hologram of a woman named Neena, who is in need of urgent assistance after being trapped in an ancient ruin. The hologram forms part of a communication device that allows the wearer to see and talk to a projected image but doesn't allow anyone else to view it. Bob agrees to help Neena in exchange for assistance escaping his own current predicament.
Much of the game is centred around conversation and character interactions. Dialogue for the most part is very good and keeps you interested in uncovering more of the story as things progress. Whether it’s the mutant character in the sewers, some of the snail-like administrators who run Minaxith or the aggressive alien conquerors, there are plenty of conversations to be experienced. There's an air of cheeky humour throughout, portraying Bob as a slightly desperate character whose aspirations in life have been extremely limited, yet still having a deluded sense of grandeur that contributes to his somewhat inflated ego. This makes for some amusing interactions between Bob and Neena. When the pair need to share a very cramped mine cart, Bob attempts to charm Neena into sitting on his lap for the duration of the ride. Unfortunately for him, it leads to a very humourous cutscene instead.
Quantumnauts pays tribute to other sci-fi movies and novels by borrowing various technologies that feature prominently in other works. The first is the spaceship, which looks oh-so-similar to the Enterprise from Star Trek, while the planet looks highly reminiscent of both Mos Eisley from Star Wars and some of the landscapes from David Lynch's Dune. Another recognizable detail is the socket implanted into the back of your neck so you can interface with the city’s computers. The list goes on of other elements that could be attributed to one movie or another, all apparently done in a light-hearted attempt at familiarity and humour. That’s not a bad thing, as there’s something to be said for homages to other works, but the Quantumnauts story is strong enough not to rely on any kind of parody, and after a while it becomes something of a distraction to the game’s own mythology.Continued on the next page...