REVIEW: Puzzle Retreat [iOS]

The team behind the award-winning Train Conductor has now launched its next brain-bending adventure – Puzzle Retreat! The premise of the game is simple, and only has two rules: Fill the grid by sliding the ice blocks and make sure you use up all of the provided blocks. With an idea this simple, does Puzzle Retreat provide a challenge?

Yes. An entertaining, frustration-filled yes. On the first level you are presented with four holes in a grid and four ice blocks to move. The game instructs you how to play and then bam! You’ve completed the first level in your descent into entertaining madness. While it starts out simple enough, the game guides you, very easily and constructively, into new challenges and more ever-more complex puzzles.

These new challenges include the ability to slide an ice block over other blocks, in order to reach new places. Another adds multiple ice blocks, which drop one block per hole as they slide, while a third throws in arrow directional blocks to change the direction of movement. Each of these additions are every bit as simple as they sound, but can provide some challenge depending on your own puzzle thought processes.

Moving up in difficulty, the game brings in the addition of Stop and Fire Blocks. Naturally these do what you would expect – both essentially stop other blocks sliding over them. The Fire Block also melts anything it slides over, adding a new level to the basic mechanic. Sometimes, in order to follow Rule 2 (use all the blocks), you need to first place ice in holes, melt it and then move new ice into the recreated holes.

Puzzle Retreat: Level 1 - Easy right?

Level 1 – Easy right?

With such a simple premise, it can still get challenging quickly. If you’re unsure, it’s handy just to throw the blocks around and see what happens. The Voxels have built in an “undo” feature for each action (or for the entire puzzle if you want to start over), making it easy to try various options without fault. It would have been nice to have an option to see how many undo buttons were pressed in a puzzle for a player to show off their best, but this is the gamer in me and not the casual player.

Honestly I can’t think of a puzzle game that I have been as entertainingly frustrated with and not in a bad way. I’d decide “Nope, stopping this now,” only to realise five minutes later that I’ve picked it up to try the same levels again.

Some of the puzzles in the later stages of the packs just blew my mind when I tried them first, and took several efforts to complete. A nice bonus: If you ever get stuck on one particular section, you can just go back to the menu and select the next level. There is nothing to stop you from trying any puzzle in a pack. Maybe this will inspire you to have some new thought on the previous puzzles!

The visuals look great. The Voxel Agents‘ art team has managed to make Puzzle Retreat a clean and precise experience, but not boring to look at. It is engaging when sliding and the small effects add that nice level of polish, like a cherry, on top. The audio is nice and responsive to the actions on screen. The only criticism I have in this respect is the lack of an ambient soundtrack. Playing on my iPad with no background music kind of felt like something was missing. It doesn’t need a a crazy, addictive tune but just some light muzak would be nice.

Puzzle Retreat - iPhone Puzzle Retreat - iPad Puzzle Retreat - iPhone
Master the blocks! …click to embiggen

Overall, Puzzle Retreat is a great game to pick up. The level packs available at release range from beginner to challenging, even to a gamer’s mind. If you ever get stuck you can always undo or come back to it later (and trust me, you will come back later). Beating the trickier levels gives you a fantastic sense of accomplishment and with more level packs to try, and more being release later, you certainly won’t be stumped for a challenge.

Puzzle Retreat is a chilled game that heats up in difficulty and is a must buy for your iOS device.

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