Wake up to Puzzle Retreat's sliding block puzzles

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.

Get away from the grind

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:

  • Blocks with dice patterns on them will split up into 2-5 separate blocks when moved, filling multiple spaces.
  • Ice blocks can water Bonsai saplings or be melted by fire blocks.
  • Fire blocks melt ice blocks and turn into an impassable block when they burn out.
  • Bonsai saplings grow into impassable trees when ice blocks touch them.
  • Arrow tiles cause whatever blocks pass over them to move in a different direction.
  • And more!

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.

Sharp design

Puzzle Retreat for iOS

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.

One pack at a time

Puzzle Retreat for iOS

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.

Paul Acevedo

Paul started writing about games in 2003 with his first strategy guide (Bomberman Land 2) for GameFAQs. He continued writing guides while earning his B.A. in Literature. When Windows Phone launched in late 2010, the Xbox integration lead our hero to jump on board the platform. He joined Windows Phone Central as Games Editor at the beginning of 2011, going on to review over 125 mobile Xbox titles over the years. He now leads Windows Central's Xbox One coverage, personally specializing in developer interviews, indie games, controllers and accessories, and Twitch broadcasts. Paul loves games on all platforms; he goes where the games are. Although very busy with console coverage, he sometimes contributes gaming articles to iMore and Android Central.