A couple of days ago we promised you lots of gaming coverage from the Casual Connect event in San Francisco. Well, my schedule has been overstuffed with meetings (including some I didn’t list in the previous article!), but we’re going to start getting some of those articles up today. First up is our video interview with Sam Wong from the Voxel Agents, an indie game studio located in Melbourne (pronounced “Mel-bin” for some reason), Australia.
The Voxel Agents have created a surprisingly clever and unique puzzle game called Puzzle Retreat. I say surprising because there are so many puzzle games out there, it seems like every possible concept has been done to death. So if I’m interested in a puzzler, it might possibly be a game worth noticing. Making Puzzle Retreat even more worthy of notice, the game is coming to Windows Phone 8 later this year!
Puzzle Retreat’s gameplay concept is deceptively simple. Each level has a hand-crafted pattern of empty holes that the player must fill with Play-Doh, I mean blocks. It takes no time at all to learn the controls; just touch a block and slide it up, down, left, or right. Once the block lands in a hole, it can’t be removed. Successfully fill all the holes and you win the level.
Things get more complicated before long though. Players will encounter blocks that split into multiple pieces when moved, allowing them to fill up a whole line of holes. Fire blocks will melt ice blocks; arrow blocks will change the direction of blocks that pass over them; and lots more. The most recent level pack introduces bonsai seedlings that grow into full mini-trees when watered by ice blocks. Other blocks can’t pass through trees, so you’ll need to think carefully before allowing one to mature.
A puzzle game doesn’t end up playing as intuitively or cleverly as Puzzle Retreat just by chance. As Sam explains in the video, the Voxel Agents took a uniquely iterative approach to the game’s design. They spent about six months prototyping designs, making radical changes until they found one that really worked.
To further polish the game, they braved the rampant herds of kangaroos and dingos I imagine populate every cranny of Australia in order to take to the streets and get random local players to test Puzzle Retreat. The feedback from these street-level tests allowed the Voxel Agents to polish and hone the game that we’ll soon be playing on our phones.
Now that’s gonna be a puzzler!
Sam and his team plan to release Puzzle Retreat on Windows Phone 8 by the end of the year (a Windows 8 version is possible as well). Check out the video to learn what convinced them to jump onboard the mobile Windows ecosystem.
The game will launch with 60 free puzzles for players to enjoy. Additional level packs will cost 99 cents each. Puzzle fans won’t want to miss it. We’ll have more Puzzle Retreat news in the months to come, so stay tuned!