I don’t tend to get all artsy fartsy when I review video games, but with years of studying French films under my belt, I have the ability to. I am going to partially utilize that pseudo-pretentious ability in reviewing Quell Memento, because I think it’s a game that deserves more praise than simply stating, “it’s a good puzzle game.” Truth be told, it is a good puzzle game. But in dusting off the various placards in the game’s attic setting, I found much more.
Quell Memento starts off with you, the player, being asked to touch the screen to start. A typical touchscreen game command, for sure, but you’re treated by a glass breaking effect that is quickly proceeded by the glass coming back together. My analytical senses started tingling, and I guessed that this was going to be a game about Alzheimer’s, memory, forgetting, remembering, etc. I also thought about the title. If my two semesters of introductory Italian serve me right, the title translates to “What Memory,” “What a memory,” or “What a reminder.” The title can be interpreted as a question: What Memory?, which goes along with the idea of losing ones thoughts. Initially, I thought the game was titled “Quell Momento,” or “What moment”, which made me think this was a game about completing puzzles and experiencing that ‘A-Ha!’ moment. ‘Memento’ is also close to ‘momentum’, which is an apt description of the raindrop’s movement. I might be digging too deep, here, but my point is the game has a multiply interpretable title. The next command has you dusting off an old picture. By swiping your finger across the Vita’s screen, you uncover an old-timey landscape. An introduction like this is more simply aesthetically pleasing; it sets the tone for the entire game. You’re uncovering memories, and the narrator, an elder fellow, is wavering back and forth about whether he wants to remember any of them at all.
Levels are broken up by pictures that act as themes, grouping the narrator’s memories in chronological order. The first picture, titled Prologue, contains four tutorial puzzle levels. (Each picture has four puzzles, with a total of over 150 puzzles.) In true puzzle game fashion, each level has a title that is either a clever play on words, a reference to another piece of work, or a hint to help you accomplish the task at hand. The first level of the prologue is titled “The Beginning of the End,” which hints at the fact that this might not be a game about rainbows and Nyan cats. The initial objective of each level is to move your raindrop around to collect all of the colored pearls. Swiping the screen in any direction will move the raindrop in that direction. The raindrop moves until it hits a wall (or, later, hostile blocks), and you don’t necessarily have to be touching the raindrop to move it; you can swipe around anywhere on the screen to move. Alternatively, you can use the directional pad or the left analogue stick to move. You can pause by touching tapping the top-left of the screen (or pressing ‘O’), request a hint by tapping the ‘?’ (or pressing Square), or restart by tapping the curved arrow (Triangle). Each level has a “Perfect” number of moves that it can be completed in, which is displayed on screen while you’re playing. It isn’t long before the game adds a handful of other twists to the mix, and things get tough quickly.
Warning: Playthrough Preview may contain spoilers.
Some levels allow you to leave the side of the puzzle area in order to appear on the opposite side, a la Pac-Man. The Illumination stages introduce lightbulbs which have to be touched by your raindrop in order to be lit blue. The succeeding pictures add breakable ice cube blocks, diamonds that must be illuminated by the your raindrop, thorny roses, and more. Each level contains a hidden gem that can be collected. The gem is almost always hidden in a block that must be broken open by hitting it three times. The collection aspect of gem-finding adds a lot of replay value to the game, as it’s often as difficult to find the gem as it is to complete the puzzle. There are also 24 time clocks hidden in sub-levels for the true collection enthusiasts. The soundtrack to Quell Memento is composed by Steven Cravis, who did a great job creating and highlighting the game’s zen-like mood. Most of the tracks are relatively short violin or piano riffs played on repeat. There’s enough variety in the tracks throughout the game to keep them from getting boring. A few of them even reminded me of a certain other critically acclaimed puzzle game.
The narrator chimes in at the beginning of a few pictures, providing short quips like “When you’re young, you rush to turn over every stone” and “I want my blissful ignorance.” He outright asks you to stop prodding, to leave things the way they are, but being as how I needed to beat the game, I kept on uncovering new pieces of his story. Every once in a while, a level will contain a small picture that you have to swipe a few times to wipe the dust off of. They depict pictures of a man and a woman, a man and his children, wartime planes, etc. I don’t want to spoil much, but the game definitely tells a story about a man near the end of his life remembering his loved ones. It’s not blatantly told, and it’s not necessarily a tear-jerker, but between the believable voice acting, the dusty attic photos, and the puzzles themselves, Quell Memento crafts a human story, which, especially in a puzzle game, should not be understated. It is consumable in short chunks or long play sessions. Either way, the game contains a lot of content. With great sound design, a touching story, and truly head-scratching puzzles, Quell Memento is a must have for fans of the genre or those with a few extra dollars in their PSN wallets.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
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Developer:Bigyama, Fallen Tree Games
Release Date:June 2013