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As if particle physics wasn't weird enough on its own..., May 23, 2021
As I was reading the lengthy and funny prologue to Dr. Dumont's P.A.R.T.I. I was quickly drawn into the backstory to this game. Allthough it's a fairly traditional comic/surreal puzzle romp, the fact that the weirdness is explained in-game put the entire experience in a whole other light.
Our protagonist is an accidental guinea pig trying out the newest particle accelerator in the university lab. The A.I. controlling this advanced particle detection machine needs genuine creative input from a human mind to teach it how and where to look for the elusive particle X. In order to get this input, the computer generates a metaphorical world in which the human subject must solve puzzles for the computer to learn from.
With this in the back of my mind, there were many instances where I could relate the superficial silliness of the puzzles and their solutions to my limited layman's knowledge of actual scientifically demonstrated properties of the subatomic world. ((Spoiler - click to show)the golfball, the bubble wand,...)
It's certainly a welcome change from getting lost in a magical realm as an explanation for unbridled silliness. When push comes to shove, that is exactly what this physics-themed adventure is: a stack of bizarre, weird and silly circumstances with their own internal consistence, strung together for the player to test her wits against.
After a bit of just wandering around enjoying the views, I did have some trouble to find an appropriate starting point to the game proper. The map has a spoked hub-structure with each spoke open to exploration from the moment you find the central hub. I assumed that each spoke would be its own self-contained puzzle area, independent of the others until I had gathered everything needed for the endgame. I found out this was a wrong assumption after bashing my head against a timed puzzle in the first spoke I tried. It turns out that although the spokes are freely accessible from the get go, they have to be entered and solved in a particular order to solve the game, each game area building on objects or clues you got in the previous one.
Once this was clear however, I had a very enjoyable time finding my way through the many locations. The puzzles were just right for my skill- and knowledge-level. Most are common sense physics/mechanics puzzles with enough of a twist to keep them from being overly obvious. There is also a tip of the hat to a quite common link between quantum physics and Zen meditation (nature of reality stuff...) that appears in many layman's books about particle physics. Suffice it to say that you have to MEDITATE ON some topics to get the insight needed to find the solution to a puzzle.
The writing is consistently funny, the humour ranging from slapstick to surreal, interspersed with small in-jokes for the subatomically in-the-know. A lot of the comedy comes from the descriptions, behaviour and conversations of the NPCs, who all seem to be the same guy in various transparent disguises.
Gameplay-wise, Dr. Dumont's P.A.R.T.I. is very much a classic puzzle-heavy text adventure. The quirky humour and the quantum-physics background does set it apart from others of its kind.
Not too hard, lots of laughs, lots of fun. Chucklingly recommended.