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Review: Quell for webOS
by Nathan Mylott on Sunday, Nov 21, 2010

Main menu of Quell

Soft music of a gentle tinkling on the piano, raindrops pattering against the window as you sit before the fire in your country home doing a puzzle. This is the serenity into which you are dropped as you launch Quell, a puzzler that just hit the App Catalog from developer Fallen Tree Games.

The game play of Quell is most closely related to Droplets, though in terms of its peaceful atmosphere and pretty visuals, it is more akin to Ancient Frog, at least in terms of the way it leaves you feeling mellow and refreshed. It is a fun, addicting puzzler that is not too hard for those of you who are easily frustrated by puzzles yet challenging enough to keep a pro puzzle solver interested.

 

Puzzle board in Quell The game consists of a window with raindrops falling upon it, the glass fogged over creating a hazy view of a scenic country landscape beyond. On top of that is lain a small puzzle that consists of mostly blocks and a big blue water droplet. You slide that droplet in lateral moves; only up, down, left or right in a straight line. The goal is to slide it to all of the little pearls on the board without exceeding the minimum number of moves.

The puzzles require the type of plan ahead thinking involved in Chess or Checkers. There are variables such as movable blocks, or teleporting rings, or obstacles like spikes that require some careful planning. If you make a wrong move, you are not doomed, you can simply start over and keep trying different paths until you get it right.

If you solve the puzzle in the minimum number of moves, you get a coin that you can use later to get yourself out of a puzzle that has you stumped. I think this is the best feature because personally, I get frustrated with puzzle games and usually stop playing if I get to a point where I am stuck and cannot find a solution online. Even if I do find a solution on the net, if I find myself getting stuck on every puzzle, that takes the fun out of it and I quit playing.

In Quell, the puzzles are usually solvable with just a little bit of patience and you always have that lifeline there, yet not so many lifesavers that the game ceases to be a challenge. You only get just so many chances to buy your way out of a puzzle with the coins. When I do use coins to buy a solution, I often end up saying to myself, “duh, why did that not occur to me?” I find this a refreshing change from most of the puzzle games I have played, where I usually am baffled as to how the developer thought anyone without psychic powers could have ever guessed that solution. Puzzle window in Quell

I was hard pressed to find any flaws in the game. I really could not find anything significant to put on the negative side of the pros and cons. There were some minor audio glitches where it would skip for a second or two, mostly when first loading up. This may have been due to other sound events on the phone interfering with it, and may not be in the final version as I was playing with a pre-release copy. I do also wish that I could see out of the windows onto that attractive landscape beyond. It would have also been nice if those raindrops on the window made some sound too. This is may be nitpicking, but I did find the noise it makes when you restart a puzzle to be rather irritating, like nails on a chalkboard. It only lasts for a second though.

There are awards you can earn in the game but there is no way to push them out to Facebook or Twitter, or any kind of gaming network associated with it like Plus or OpenFeint. As far as I know, no such thing exists for any webOS game so it is not the fault of the developer. However, the awards could have at least been used as a way to unlock more levels or powerups or other such prize. As it stands, they are rather meaningless. Though I do also realize that likely no one on Twitter or Facebook cares how many pearls I collected in a game, or that I have been playing it for an hour straight. As these two examples indicate, some of the awards are very easy to attain and not really reflective of any achievement on the player’s part. What also takes away from the meaning of the awards is that when you buy a solution to a puzzle, you still get full credit for it as if you solved it yourself.

The artwork in the game reminds me of some of the ultra realistic paintings I have seen in the art museum. It was created to “evoke a peaceful feeling of a world of yesterday; a slightly melancholic memory of 'wet sunday afternoons',” as the developer explained.

Personally I enjoy traditional art styles more than 3D. I think it adds a certain flavor to the game experience that makes it feel a little bit less like a video game and more of an old fashioned puzzle. The developer echoed this feeling in saying that they were looking for a “somewhat 'painterly' look and feel all of our own. We wanted Quell to be immediately distinguishable for it's understatement and quiet elegance.”

The game’s musical score features songs by composer Steven Cravis, who also lent his soul soothing melodies to some Flash games at www.orisinal.com, which you should also be able to play on your webOS device in the near future now that Flash support is at long last on its way.

Update: The developer has plans to add new levels and features in the coming months.

 

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