Sam and VFX hit the road.
Look, I get it. Even at the height of Quantum Leap’s popularity three decades ago, turning an anthology TV series into a video game would have been a hard sell. This was a show that bravely hit the reset button every single week. In a flurry of electric blue flashes, time-travelling scientist Samuel Beckett would zap into a new body with the laudable but rather vague mission to “put right what once went wrong”. Even with the probability analytics of his hologram guardian angel Al, it tended to be a painful process of trial and error. Sam would style it out while trying to deduce the win conditions that would allow him to advance. One week a blind concert pianist, the next a convict on death row. Such was the life of a cosmic samaritan.
Yet the more I think about Quantum Leap – and all five soul-nourishing seasons are, at time of writing, available to stream on Now – the more I reckon it would make for a tremendous gaming chassis. The concept of “leaping” into other people has gradually become a familiar trope, from the creepy sight jacking of Forbidden Siren to the vehicular hopscotch of Driver: San Francisco. Titles as varied as Dishonored, Beyond: Two Souls and Superhot all allow you to borrow a passer-by to achieve your next objective, while Watch Dogs: Legion made recruiting an army of remote-controlled London meatbags its main selling point.
The difference is that any Quantum Leap game would be altruistic. Poor Sam has to permanently park his own desires so there would be no mucking about with Paragon/Renegade paths. Instead all that energy would go into vamping your way through your host’s work and social lives while attempting to engineer the most beneficial outcome. Decency as a game mechanic, basically.
With access to a working quantum accelerator the obvious thing to do would be to teleport back to the early 1990s – perhaps into the body of Ron Gilbert – to pitch this to LucasArts. A Monkey Island-style Quantum Leap point-and-click adventure feels like such a perfect fit I am bewildered it does not already exist, even just as proof-of-concept or parody. In my mind’s eye I can vividly visualise a shining white hologram doorway crackling into life as Al steps through to give your stressed avatar some useful pointers. Right here, right now it feels like Double Fine – no strangers to helping troubled characters work through their issues in Psychonauts and its recent sequel – could work some modern wonders with the licence.
Or perhaps I need to move even further with the times. The second most famous Quantum Leap motif occurs at the start of each episode as Sam frantically scans for a reflective surface to see the face of the person into whom he has just been decanted. Now imagine that moment in VR! Oh boy, indeed.
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