Quell Zen promises to deliver “the very embodiment of relaxing logic games.” A bold claim, but I enjoyed the last title I played in this series, Quell Memento on 3DS (later released for the Switch). How do the 200-plus puzzles in Zen fare?
You’re tasked with navigating raindrops across the maze-ish settings of window panes. The puzzles have a single-screen Sokoban structure, but they manage a fair amount of goals for the time-honored setup. You may need to collect a key first to unlock a section. Or, alternate control of two raindrops on opposite ends of the screen. Some objectives are more relaxing than others, but new elements get dolled out gradually across themed chapters. I should add that tutorial tips are an option early on, if you’re unfamiliar with this type of foundation.
For existing fans, the setup for Quell Zen is pretty recognizable. It does have a puzzle within a puzzle element via portals, which I find odd though I shouldn’t complain about more content. Letters provide a bit of storylike context for this outing, though I haven’t found any spoken cutscenes this time. The core game will be well-known, along with its various replay incentives.
Beating each puzzle isn’t necessarily the end. Can you do so in the minimum number of moves? Can you find the hidden jewels and zen stones? These are optional, but completionists and series vets know the satisfaction that comes from completely mastering each puzzle.
Some of these puzzles are quite a challenge to master, too. But the music goes a long way to combating any frustration before it can set it. Fine tracks, superbly composed, the instrumentation manages to put you at ease. The only sizable audio letdown is the elimination of rain sound effects from Quell Reflect.
The mainly simplistic graphics have small touches that reflect the Japanese setting. Cherry blossoms and colored candles perk up otherwise serviceable visuals that value function over form. Modest animations augment.
This game is 100% linear (unfortunately), so you can’t bypass a frustrating pizzle. But a hint for each is available, and even full solutions via earned coins. Plus, you can always go back to an earlier puzzle and try to perfect it, especially if you overthought it on your first play. Those gold checkmarks are calling.
Thankfully, no frustration stems from Quell Zen’s controls. You have your choice of traditional button or touch screen controls. The latter – with a capacitive stylus – is my preference for smoothness and speed, besides being what I’m familiar with from the 3DS.
It’s not my favorite in the series, but Quell Zen is a game that puzzle fans should enjoy. It manages to be simultaneously relaxing and quite challenging. Is it worth the regular price of $7.99? That’s probably a smidge high. On the other hand, the $1.99 launch discount was a steal. I say split the difference and grab it if it’s on sale for $4.99 or less.