Quell Review: The perfect rainy day puzzler

A raindrop on a window pane.

Stop reading, close your eyes and concentrate on that image for just a moment. I’ll still be here when you get back.

A painting on an easel. Picture frames on a bookcase, each a view of a world outside. And through that window — just one window — a myriad views to behold. A raindrop on that window pane.

Such is your environment — idyllic, soothing — in Quell, by Fallen Tree Games.

From the beginning, the game provides a seamless, zen-like experience. As you make selections from the main menu, the camera pans and zooms through the room, revealing a space well lived in. There are no loading screens, and nothing to interrupt or distract you from the atmosphere of the room. The touchstones of the room are the bookcase and the window. On the bookcase, a series of dated shelves, ranging from 1928 to 1945, displays framed landscape paintings. Selecting a pane causes the view to shift to the window, with the view outside the window being that of the painting. On the window pane, four puzzles emerge and our focus moves to a single raindrop.

The object of the game is simple: slide the raindrop across the window by flicking it with your finger. The raindrop will move in a straight line until it hits an obstruction. Avoid obstacles and collect pearls to move on to the next puzzle. The puzzles begin simply while the game shows you the ropes, but steadily increase in difficulty as you progress. Over the course of the game’s 70 levels, the difficulty curve is gradual, natural feeling. At times, the game will challenge you, but it will never frustrate you. Front to back, Quell never breaks character; it may be the most calming game I have ever played. As you advance, the game moves seamlessly from one puzzle to the next, back to the shelf, into the next frame, then back to the window.

As the puzzles become more difficult, new elements are introduced such as spaces which may only be passed over once, spikes that burst your raindrop into tiny droplets when struck, and levers that cause the board to change. Puzzles are scored according to the number of moves taken to collect all of the pearls. Players may take as many moves as necessary to advance to the next puzzle, but earn achievements by finishing puzzles with a perfect score (in the least possible number of moves); the minimum number of moves in which a puzzle may be completed is displayed for each puzzle, and the game tracks your best score. Perfect scores also earn the player hints which can be spent at any time to help you solve tough puzzles.

There is nothing to dislike about Quell; the game is the very embodiment of relaxation. The visuals are excellent, the  interface easy, the controls responsive, the music soothing and the puzzling superb. Playing the game feels as if gazing out the window on a rainy day, lost in your thoughts and recollections of days gone by. And as you unravel the complications of memory, the showers pass, the sun comes out and shines down on the outside world with its uplifting rays.

Quell. Is. Perfect.

Quell is developed by Fallen Tree Games, and goes for $0.99. Reviewed at version 1.01 on an iPhone 4.

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