While everybody remembers Tetris and Dr. Mario, the original black and white Game Boy played host to a number of addictive puzzle games. You may not remember them now, but games like Boxxle, Kwirk and Daedalus Opus all offered their own unique spin on the genre. Those were good times, back when any harebrained idea could be the next sensation.
Quell Memento reminds me of the Game Boy's early days. It's the kind of simple concept that would have won raves from the critics in 1991. Full page advertisements would have been created in hopes of making it a hot seller at the local KB Toys. Thankfully you don't need an original Game Boy to play this imaginative puzzler, because Quell Memento is now available for the PS Vita.
Here you play a blue bubble that is able to paint other objects. Much like the aforementioned Game Boy puzzlers, Quell Memento shows the action from an overhead perspective. Although you control which direction the bubble moves, players cannot change its direction until it hits a wall. This makes it vitally important to plan your moves ahead of time in order to avoid spikes, dead ends and other nasty obstacles. Paint enough tiles blue and it's off to the next stage.
Of course, it's never that simple. As you progress through the game's 150 stages, new obstacles and objectives will be created. For example, not all levels require color swapping. Many puzzles want you to collect all of the dots. Some stages have flowers you can open and close with a simple touch. Others include tiles that can be pushed around. Mid-way through the game, rays of light are introduced.
Quell Memento successfully avoids becoming monotonous by constantly mixing and matching objectives and obstacles. There's a surprising amount of variety across the stages. Tactics you used to race through one set of levels won't help you when breaking ice blocks or pairing moveable tiles. Each of the game's nine areas features its own unique twist on the theme.
On top of testing your puzzle solving skills, each level features a hidden jewel just waiting to be knocked free. Players do this by smacking up against every part of the wall in hopes of finding one that cracks. A few hits later and out pops a shiny jewel to add to the collection. Some levels will also feature a hidden warp zone that will send them to a brand new puzzle. Between the various hidden items, there's a lot of incentive to go back through completed stages.
If there is one knock against this ingenious puzzler, it's that many stages are far too easy. I was able to breeze through the first eight areas without a problem, never once using my in-game currency to ask for help. The difficulty ramps up at the very end, but the challenge never comes close to what you find in games like Boxxle or Daedalus Opus.
Like many modern puzzle games, Quell Memento offers a vague story that ties the puzzles together. Here you are going through an old man's house cleaning up the clutter. The story is full of obvious metaphors that add nothing to the clever puzzles. On the other hand, the voice overs are mercifully short.
It won't surprise anybody to learn that Quell Memento's strength lies in its puzzle designs, not the presentation. To its credit, the game's interface is gorgeous and there are a few effects late in the game that really stand out. But even that is being purposely polite to an otherwise plain looking game. Thankfully this is the one genre where graphics don't matter.
On the other hand, the music in Quell Memento is among the best I've heard all year. It's an emotional mix of soothing melodies and acoustic guitar. There were times when I stopped playing the game in order to let the music transport me to a more peaceful world.
With 150 levels and an impressive amount of variety, Quell Memento is an easy game to recommend. It harkens back to the heyday of portable puzzlers. The simple gameplay and short levels are perfect for on-the-go gaming, and it's hard to resist the soothing music. It's not the flashiest game on the PS Vita, but Quell Memento is worth remembering.