How to make a game for women

The Voxel Agents, of Train Conductor fame, has released a new type of puzzle game — one that is refreshingly zen.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read

The Voxel Agents, of Train Conductor fame, has released a new type of puzzle game — one that is refreshingly zen.

(Credit: The Voxel Agents)

Puzzle Retreat, Simon Joslin of The Voxel Agents told CNET Australia, was not intended to appeal to any one demographic when the studio started work on it almost two years ago.

"We didn't come from the angle of trying to discover what women want and make something for them," he said. "Instead, we made a game that we liked to play, but we realised that at its core, it's the kind of game that women really like to play, and when we showed it to them they loved it."

(Credit: The Voxel Agents)

As far as we're concerned, it's not hard to see why. It's a game that we think anyone would enjoy, with all the characteristics of a seriously addictive title: easy-to-learn gameplay; no pressure in the form of scores, timers or achievements; bite-sized levels that can be played for minutes or hours; and some quite cerebral problem solving.

It's based in a grid, and you have to fill the squares of the grid by sliding blocks of ice over the holes, but there are several features that make it trickier than it sounds. First, the ice can only slide in one direction. Second, the grids are irregular, meaning that you have to plan carefully — something that gets trickier as you move through the levels and reach more difficult grids with special blocks, such as fire blocks to melt the ice and arrow blocks to change the direction of the slide.

But if you get stuck? You can reset the level with no penalties and try as many times as you need.

The two years spent creating the game really show, as well as The Voxel Agents' commitment to a relaxing puzzle experience. Both the sounds and visuals are beautifully crafted, creating a soothing atmosphere, and the puzzles themselves feel intuitive and organic. The reason for this is the team's extensive testing process: each level was mapped out and tested in the real world, using poker chips on a grid, to make sure each level had a solution and followed the rules of the game.

That extra time spent has paid off. There is not a single flaw that we could find, from the touch controls all the way through to the basic premise of the game.

So how do you make a game that will appeal to women? Make a game that you want to play. Make a game that's great for all players. If you build it, everyone will come.

Puzzle Retreat for iOS (AU$0.99 — launch sale price)