Publisher: Fallen Tree Games
Developer: Fallen Tree Games
I'm not sure what's more noteworthy about Quell Memento: how addictive it is, or how relaxing it is.
Then again, maybe it's the fact that the game is both of those things at once. After all, it's not as if Tetris or Portal are known for being particularly soothing, or Flower or Journey are renowned for being games that compel you to keep coming back to each level time and time again. Rare is the game that combines both of those qualities in one package. And yet, here's Quell Memento with proof that it can happen.
Moreover, it's proof that when it works, it's a pretty great combination. On the puzzle side of things, Quell Memento does everything right: it's got a basic mechanic that's easy to figure out, but it also shows time and time again how many variations of that mechanic exist. You might not think there are that many ways you can move a bubble around, lighting up and collecting things, but by the third or fourth world, the game becomes unrelentingly — almost sadistically — hard.
The surprising thing about this is that there's never a huge spike in difficulty. Rather, it takes the mythical "frog in a pot of water" approach, very slowly increasing the level of difficulty until, next thing you know, you're spending all your hard-earned coins to have the game show you the solution. (And here I'll point out the game's sole flaw: you can buy more coins using real money if you're too impatient to earn them through puzzle-solving. I know that's just how modern game economies work, and I understand Fallen Tree deserve to be able to make back the money they invested in Quell Memento so they can turn around and make more great games, but it still feels like you can just buy your way to the end, if you're so inclined/obsessed with trophies. But I digress.)
This gradual increase in difficulty is also masked by how serene everything seems on the surface. You've got soft music, calming graphics, a grandfatherly narrator — in other words, a whole bunch of stuff designed to lull you into a sleepy puzzle-solving rhythm. Even when the game comes at you with puzzles designed to hurt your brain, it never lets down its soothing, nostalgic facade. You'd think this contrast between the style and the gameplay might be too much to take, that there might be too much of a disconnect, but that's never the case. Quell Memento lures you in with a welcoming face, and stays likable enough (for lack of a better adjective) that you can never get too enraged at it.
Of course, that's small comfort when you wake up at 4:30 AM, your dreams having turned to thoughts of puzzles. And I mean that quite literally: after putting in a marathon session one evening, I woke up far too early the next morning after dreams of endless glowing balls and impossible-to-navigate corners. It was the "Tetris Effect" come to life, except (obviously) applied to Quell Memento. So maybe avoid it before going to bed — but don't avoid it otherwise, because this is one heck of a game.