Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: Puzzle Retreat for iPhone and iPad

It's worth talking about Puzzle Retreat, a good puzzle game by the Voxel Agents, because it is one of those rare cases where a good production value is also backed up by interesting and original puzzles.

With a clever design idea, the game presents its mechanics right on the title screen:
An animated hand instructs the player to touch the tile on the left, then slide over the START letters. This causes five ice blocks to rise from the tile, and slide in good order to cover the holes.
Filling all holes in a grid is indeed the goal of the puzzles. Each puzzle has a different shape, and the tiles, which look like the faces of a die, contain a varying number of ice blocks.
When a hole is filled by an ice block, other blocks will slide over it. The one limiting rule is that to release the ice blocks from a tile, there must be enough empty holes to accommodate all the blocks. If that isn't the case, a red animation indicates that the move is not allowed.

Other game elements include arrows, which make the blocks do 90 degrees turns, and blocks with a handle on top, which cannot be passed over by other blocks.
In the previous image you can also see the inventive way how the undo feature has been implemented: instead of having a single undo button somewhere on the screen, the button appears on top of the starting position of the last tile moved.

The final game element is fire blocks. When they slide over an ice block, they melt it, and leave an empty hole that needs to be filled again. This significantly increases complexity.
No matter how many tiles and holes there are at the start of a puzzle, at the end all holes will be filled.
There is only one way to solve each puzzle, which gives a nice feeling of achievement.

As the game progresses, the solution to the puzzles becomes more complicated, but it never seemed excessive in the levels I played. Logic will help a lot in figuring out the correct order of the moves, so as an extra challenge you can try to avoid experimentation and attempt finding the solution on the first attempt.

The game has 100 levels to play initially, and additional 26-puzzle packs available through in-app purchases. The puzzle packs have names like "Nature" or "Mist", but this doesn't seem to obviously translate into a theme common to the puzzles (or at least, I couldn't see one).
New puzzle packs are promised on a monthly basis, which should guarantee longevity—provided that you are willing to pay. I think only 26 puzzles for each purchase might seem a bit too few, and would appreciate if the developers added the ability to bulk purchase multiple packs at a discount. Still, I'll probably buy some additional pack when I finish the first 100 levels, because the game is fun.

I hope new game elements will be introduced in future packs, otherwise the puzzles might become repetitive in the long run.

For the technically inclined, the blog and the Facebook page also contain some interesting behind-the-scenes information about the design and development of the game.


Logical Reasoning★★★★☆
User Interface★★★★☆
Loading Time★★☆☆☆
Saves Partial Progress
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©2013 Nicola Salmoria. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Salmoria and nontrivialgames.blogspot.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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