Quell, “the puzzle game of logic and tranquility”, is an instant classic with its relaxing music and ambient sounds coupled with interesting and at times challenging puzzles
Fallen Tree Games released the original Quell in 2010 and followed it with Quell Reflect in 2011, then Quell Memento in 2014. I reviewed the Steam version of all three games (in beta) over the course of the past week, and found them to be absolute gems of the puzzle genre, with minimal flaws to speak of. The minor issues I did have stem from the beta status of the games (which were previously released for iOS/Android) as some touchscreen elements are still apparent in this new PC version, like instructions to “swipe”. These will no doubt be smoothed away in the production versions. The only other (very tiny gripe) I had was the apparent inability to quit mid-stage, thus needing to complete all four levels before being returned to the stage select screen and being able to close out of the game (this doesn’t apply to Quell Memento which has a different stage selection mechanic than Quell and Quell Reflect), however this wasn’t a big deal as I enjoyed the puzzles so much.
The basic premise of the Quell games is to move a raindrop through a series of levels collecting all the pearls to win. Unsurprisingly, the levels become increasingly more challenging as the game proceeds, and introduce a range of elements you must avoid or use to your advantage. Quell and Quell Reflect are very similar in gameplay, but Quell Memento introduces several additional elements, a different stage selection method, and a basic storyline.
The Quell games are essentially of the “sliding block” style of puzzle, however you can move through the sides of the screen to add a slight variation on the usual theme. The first game introduces initial obstacles consisting of walls, blocks (which can be pushed around; moving them together clears them from the screen), gates that block return access, transporter rings, spikes (some of which are safe to touch on the non-spiked sides), and switches to change the direction the spikes face. Completing the level in the designated number of moves will earn you a coin, which you can use to unlock solutions to levels if you get stuck. There is also a hidden jewel in each level, which can generally be found in an obscure, off-the-path location, meaning you will rarely get a perfect score and the jewel on the same level playthrough – this increases the replayability of the game: you may need to play each level more than once to obtain a full completion achievement. Coins can also be used to determine the hidden jewel’s location within the level.
Each stage has four levels to complete, and whilst many are quite challenging and will need a bit of practice and lateral thinking, the beauty of Quell is its relaxing music and ambient sounds, and importantly to me, its distinct lack of time pressure. There are no time limits to the levels, so you can enjoy the sounds and music of the game, whilst working through its puzzles at your leisure, a feature which I found very satisfying.
Quell Reflect is an extension of the first game, but introduces some new features such as companion drops, which you can switch between or push together to merge. You can (and often will need to) sacrifice one to continue with the other, and as the game proceeds you will need to use a great deal of forethought on how to use your companion drops to advantage. Quell Reflect also introduces gold pearls which let you break through gold walls. A tip to remember is that your collection of gold pearls does not stack – once your drop turns gold after collecting a gold pearl, it will return to its natural blue state the first time you touch a gold wall, so you’ll need to be careful on levels that require collection of more than one gold pearl. Red drops are poisonous and will insta-kill your raindrop if it touches one. Wooden spikes are a new obstacle which can be moved around like blocks, and can be pushed into red drops to burst them safely. In the final levels of Quell Reflect, you will need to carefully time the moving of blocks and drops to stop at certain places, but this is the only timing element to the games.
Quell Memento includes all the elements of the previous games, but has a somewhat darker more ominous feel to it with an old man voiceover that felt strange to begin with, but becomes sad and wistful as you play on. This indicates the storyline of Quell Memento, and the puzzles are all related to the history of the house and the old man; completing levels will reveal a little more background each time. Quell Memento has a more robust hint feature than the previous games, with specific instructions and a “rub here for a clue” section, which, once revealed, gives a useful hint on how to complete the level. You can also use coins to reveal the solution, hidden jewel or, for some levels, a special portal which leads to a secret level (of which there are 24 throughout the entire game).
Even more obstacles and gameplay mechanics have been added to Quell Memento, and the game feels much more polished and involved than the previous ones. It’s a rounder product and probably will appeal to a broader audience than casual gamers, which the other games seem more likely pitched at. Besides the elements in Quell and Quell Reflect, Quell Memento also has additional success requirements, including illumination, ice and follow mechanics. For the illumination challenges, you may need to turn on (or off) the lightbulbs using a battery, and move your drop past blocks to light them up. As in Quell Reflect, gold pearls change your drop to gold, however, in Quell Memento this can be to disadvantage as it usually means you can’t illuminate the lightbulbs to the right colour, so you must coordinate battery usage accordingly. The Cold Heart stage introduces ice blocks into gameplay, which break when they are hit (by your raindrop, or some other element) – once something hits an ice block, it will stop immediately, which will prove useful when moving multiple items around on the screen.
The Ray of Light stage requires you to move your drop to a specific position in order to illuminate all the diamonds on the playscreen at once. Light beams from your drop can go off the edge of the screen to flow through the other side, and likewise can be used with teleporters to the same effect; gold diamonds need to be lit by gold drops. The initial levels show you where to light up the diamonds, but that hint soon disappears and it’s entirely up to you to work it out. There are also light diamonds within moveable blocks in some levels, which will need to be moved around to the right location. The Guiding Spirit stage introduces a spirit drop which will move along a set path, as your raindrop moves. You can use this mechanic to move the spirit into obstacles that need getting rid of such as poisonous red drops or spikes. The final levels introduce thorny roses which open and close each time you hit them (when closed they are safe, but when open they will burst your raindrop); and wormholes which let your drop move around freely but affect other game elements like diamond illumination. The final levels will challenge your logic skills as all the game’s elements are brought into play.
Quell and Quell Reflect have a total of 84 levels each, whereas Quell Memento has 144 plus its 24 secret levels. With aiming for perfect scores, finding hidden jewels and unlocking portals to secret levels in Quell Memento, the Quell series have a good several hours of gameplay each and provide plenty of satisfying achievements to unlock. There’s also an online leaderboard for each level if you are feeling competitive.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing through all three of the Quell games and I derived great satisfaction in getting a perfect score on my first go of a level. All up, I spent probably five hours playing all the games, however in the interests of getting through it for review purposes, I did use a coins to unlock solutions for the later levels, which meant I did finish the games in a much quicker time than if I’d played purely for pleasure. If you spend your time replaying until you get perfect scores, you’ll get plenty of enjoyment for many hours from Quell, Quell Reflect and Quell Memento, and at a $8US price tag on Steam, your money will be well placed. Highly recommend to all lovers of logic puzzles.