After a weekend spent lazing around the house, partying, or lazily parting, it can be tough to get your mind sharpened back up for the new work week. What better way to get the brain juices flowing than a devious puzzle game?
Puzzle Retreat is just such a game, coming from Australian developer the Voxel Agents. With more 60 free levels of block-sliding challenge (and many more available for in-app purchase), it will thrill - and stump - even the most intellectual gamer.
The basic goal in Puzzle Retreat is to fill every empty space on the board by sliding blocks into it. A block can only be moved once, and only in the cardinal directions. Once all the empty spots are filled and the blocks have all been used, you win the level.
Before long, a variety of special blocks and tiles make their way into the puzzles:
Since blocks can only be moved once and puzzles get increasingly complex, it’s possible to make a mistake that prevents you from finishing the level. If that happens, players can undo any move they’ve made so far by pressing the undo button on the previous move. Or start from scratch by tapping the reset button at the top of the screen.
If you really struggle with a puzzle, help is only a button press away. Press the Help button at the top of the screen to visit a Facebook page dedicated to that specific puzzle. There players can ask questions and offer advice. It’s definitely an innovative use of Facebook.
Besides clever and challenging gameplay, Puzzle Retreat also benefits from an intuitive UI. On the level select screen, you get a preview of the level’s appearance and indicators for whether that level is unplayed, in progress, or completed. During gameplay, all the functions you’d need are just a single button tap away.
Backgrounds look like they’re made of wood, as do most of the blocks. Slide a block into the spaces and they make a satisfying “thunk” sound. The only splinter in the sound design is the complete lack of music. I always prefer at least the option of an in-game soundtrack.
Oh, and owners of more than one Apple device will appreciate the game's iCloud support. Hop between iPhone and iPad, why not.
Puzzle Retreat includes two free level packs: “Welcome” and “Morning.” Welcome starts out easy enough, but the challenge ramps up around the 15th level or so out of 24. Morning is even more deviously difficult from the get-go. It will take careful thought and practice to clear its 36 levels.
Players who want more block-sliding puzzles can buy extra level packs for 99 cents each, or three packs for $1.99. Every pack offers 36 levels. These new level sets feature unique backgrounds, advanced block varieties, and new completion animations and sounds. I grabbed the “Piano” pack and was not disappointed to hear a piano fanfare when I beat a level.
Puzzle games don’t tend to amaze from a technical standpoint. But games like Puzzle Retreat can grab certain players and refuse to let go. These puzzles require plenty of planning and/or experimentation in order to succeed. I imagine the game has some will be too hard for certain players, but at least you can always move on to a different puzzle or use the Facebook help feature if you’re stuck.