Brain bending fun.
The Playstation Vita arguably doesn’t have too many puzzle games, and even less that require forward thinking and logic. Quell Memento is a new puzzler that is published on mobile by Bulkypix who if you have a smartphone you will possibly have heard of. Fallen Tree Games have developed and self published the title for the Vita and while this is actually the third in the Quell series of games, it’s their first foray into the realm of the Playstation Vita. Quell Memento capitalises on a simple concept yet manages to expand and evolve the more you play with over 150 levels and several trophies to earn. It’s a budget title that will only set you back £2.99, yet it houses a sizeable experience for the price tag it offers.
The concept of the game is simple. You control a small water droplet (though in later stages more and more are introduced) and play happens on single screens with open spaces and cleverly placed walls and blocks. Each time you push your bubble either horizontally or vertically using the left stick, touch screen or even the rear touch pad your bubble will move in the chosen direction and only stops when it reaches a wall. If there is a gap at the edge of the screen your bubble simply appears on the other side and keeps on moving. The aim of the game is to complete each level in as few moves as possible and the number of moves you have taken plus the perfect move count is handily noted at the top of the screen. Each Chapter of the game is broken up into four sections with four levels each, however you can chop and change and so don’t need to play each set of four again if you mess up. The actual goal to complete each level varies depending on the chapter you are in with things naturally become more complicated and elaborate as you progress through the game.
Initially the first chapter is used as a tutorial to get you use to the mechanics of the game and involves collecting all of the pearls within each stage to progress. As you get further into the game gold pearls are also introduced which destroy a gold brick if touched. This mechanic continues into the second chapter where you are tasked with turning all of the lights in each stage from red to blue. If you touch a gold pearl you will turn the lights yellow instead, so planning forward and working out which way to move and when becomes important. As you get further still into the game spikes, switches, ice blocks and so on are introduced as well as new objectives such as lighting up jewels with beams of light from your bubble. I won’t spoil any more of them as half of the joy of this game is finding out what the next chapter has to offer is half the fun, but Fallen Tree Games have done a good job of changing things and keeping it varied enough to stop the concept going stale.
As you progress through each level you are also awarded coins which in turn you can spend to unlock solutions to the puzzles you have difficulty with. This is a good system and helps make perfect moves achievable, though you can take as many moves as you like to progress. Many of the levels also have hidden jewels in certain blocks and you can only discover these by exploring the levels completely and finding where they lie. When you do uncover them the block they are encased in cracks and must be broken open. There are also many secrets levels throughout game which are discovered in the same way but house a hole instead that teleports you to a different, often incredibly complex level. These hidden levels house clocks that can be discovered in the same way as jewels so if you want to find everything the game has to offer you’ll be playing for quite some time. If you get totally stuck or impatient and want to play a chapter you haven’t yet unlocked you can apparently purchase a skeleton key from Playstation Store however I don’t know how much it costs as the link in game doesn’t actually allow you to purchase it; something which I imagine will be fixed in a patch.
Running alongside the puzzles is a slightly confusing design decision. The “Memento” aspect of the game is owing to the story that it attempts to tell with voice overs chapter by chapter. The story is supposed to take place in an attic and each chapter is unlocked by rubbing the dust off an old photo or picture using the touch screen. This triggers a well acted but painfully vague voice over, often with complaints that you are digging into his memory. While an intriguing concept the execution is somewhat lacking as it ends off becoming a little vague. Still, it’s charming enough to not annoy. The soundtrack is wonderful with soft, slow piano music that really fits the game well. Graphically the art direction is also top notch with lots of beautiful pictures that burst with colour and levels that are clean and easy to understand. I particularly like the little added touch that when you start the game you get a shatter effect where you placed your finger which shatters away then reforms. It’s little touches like this that make Quell Memento feel like like so much more than a mere mobile port and instead something that feels much more polished and a perfect fit on the Vita.
I’m not saying you will play the entire game through in one run, as it’s not that sort of experience, but it does have the immediacy and leaves a lasting impression that works very well in short bursts. Often the hardest games to describe are puzzlers with simple concepts and I hope I have managed to make Quell Memento sound anything but boring, as it’s a lot of fun and taxes your brain in similar ways to Sudoku and Chess. With so much variety on offer here it’s a game you will keep coming back to until you have seen all that is on offer and I really hope Fallen Tree Games continues the theme and releases more titles like this on the Vita because it’s so well suited to the format. I love blockbuster games as much as the next person but sometimes when you just want to chill and relax with nothing too intense, and for this very reason Quell Memento is just the ticket.