I must admit, at first I wasn’t sold on Quell Memento. I had heard good things about previous Quell games, both on phones and on the 3DS eshop, but hadn’t played any of them myself. As you first boot up Quell Memento, you’re presented with a simple puzzle: slide a ball across the touch screen to pick up all the gems. Accompanying this simplistic puzzle is emotional piano music, and the voice of an old man talking about his memories. “This is shit,” I thought. Who would want a game like this, when you could just take a Connect 4 set to a retirement home and get much the same experience (though perhaps with more of a urine smell – then again, that depends where you usually play 3DS)? I thought this for a while, but as I continued playing I got more caught up in the atmosphere of Quell Memento.
The puzzles are all based on the idea of moving raindrops around a small level. To begin with you just collect gems, but as the game continues there are additional elements: you have to change the colour of lightbulb blocks by going past them; you have to destroy gold blocks by temporarily becoming a golden raindrop; you have to avoid and push around a collections of spikes; and so on.
While the puzzles aren’t very difficult just to complete, the true challenge comes from trying to do them in the lowest number of moves possible. At the top of each puzzle is a number saying the number of moves that you have taken, and the minimum number of moves that it is possible to complete the puzzle in. This is where I feel the true meat of the game comes from – it’s possible to spend ages working out how to reach that elusive minimum move number. When you’ve taken 10 moves to complete a puzzle but see that the minimum number is 9, it provides a taunt like no other. There are also some special jewels on each level, which you find by bumping into and smashing particular blocks in the wall – collecting these provides another avenue for increasing the replayability of this game.
The various individual puzzle levels are divided into stages, which are in turn divided into chapters. In between chapters the old man’s voice starts blaring out over the piano music, sharing (pretty meaningless) words of wisdom about life and such. This is honestly something I could have done without, but it does help to give the game a very idiosyncratic tone of relaxing reflection.
This being a port of a phone game, there is no 3D. The game also doesn’t do anything special to make use of the 3DS – the top screen is empty the vast majority of the time, and the controls are exactly the same as on the app version. The graphics are basic, but in a puzzle game like this they don’t need to be anything more.
There are lots of great puzzle games on the 3DS eshop (the Picross and Pullblox series and the recent Boxboy come to mind), and Quell Memento is worthy of being among them. While its pretentious trappings of classical music and old men trying to be deep may be off-putting to some, they will doubtless appeal to others, and they don’t change the fact that at the core of the game is a very solid puzzle experience. I look forward to seeing future Quell games getting released in the eshop.
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