Does Puddle leave you feeling washed out, or does this puzzler make a big splash? Read on for the review.
Developer: Neko Entertainment
Price: 800 Microsoft Points/£7.99
(Also available on the PlayStation Network)
The basic premise of Puddle is quite simple, but don’t let its looks deceive you, it’s not quite the walk in the park you might think. Your main goal is to guide a puddle of liquid by tilting it through various 2D levels, which include a psychedelic forest, plant nursery and chemistry lab. The tilt mechanism works really well, it’s incredibly simple, yet perfectly implemented and never over complicates the game’s control scheme. It’s not all about tilting though, as certain levels require you to speed the liquid up and then slow it down at points to get through an obstacle of some sort. How you guide the liquid through all depends on what obstacle is in your way. For example, if it’s fire, then you need to speed through as quickly as possible, but other obstacles require you to adopt a more careful approach.
The first few levels of Puddle are quite straightforward, giving you plenty of time get to grips with the game and its mechanics. As you progress though, naturally, the levels become more challenging, with obstacles such as venus fly traps, lasers, timed levels and property changes of liquids making you scratch your head.
You’ll start off with water, which is by far the easiest liquid to use in the game. The only real downside with water is if you keep it on the fire sections for too long it will, of course, evaporate. However, when you compare it to the other liquids that are introduced later on in the game, such as nitro-glycerin that explodes if you move it too fast, water is child’s play.
Another important aspect of Puddle is the “liquid meter”, which needs to have enough liquid inside it for a level to be classed as a completed. If your liquid doesn’t meet the requirements of the meter, then its back to the beginning. When you complete a stage, you are awarded with one of three ratings, Au, Ag or Cu. To receive one of the higher ratings, you will need to complete the level as fast as possible but still have enough liquid in your liquid meter at the end. If you are in need of a little assistance, you have the option to skip a level with the help of a “whine”. These are very limited though, so you have to make sure you use them wisely.
Whilst Puddle is very challenging, it’s also a very rewarding title too. At times you will feel like the world is against you and want to smash your controller into a million pieces, but all of a sudden everything will just click into place and you’ll manage to progress. In that respect, Puddle is very much a game of trial and error, but with each failure comes a better understanding of the liquid and level you’re guiding it through.
Being a puzzle game, Puddle isn’t all about the visual, but that’s not to say it doesn’t look good. The environments are nicely detailed, and the overall presentation of the game is very impressive. It has very simple and clean look, a visual style which is actually quite refreshing.
Unfortunately, there are a few downsides to the game, such as long loading times. It can become a bit of an annoyance when you have to restart a level on multiple occasions and witness the loading screen every single time. In a move that is somewhat bemusing, Puddle doesn’t feature any online play at all. It would have been nice if the game had some sort of online leaderboard functionality, so you could challenge friends over Xbox LIVE or the PlayStation Network and compare scores. The last problem is probably the biggest one of all, and it relates to the camera. There will be times in the game where the liquid you’re guiding through the level will split up into sections, resulting in the camera not knowing which part to follow. As you can imagine, if you are trying to follow the front section of the liquid and the camera goes elsewhere, it will result in you having issues completing the level.
Sure, it has a flaw or two, but if you love a challenging puzzle game and fancy experiencing some impressive liquid based physics, Puddle is the game for you. Its concept might be simple, but the execution is brilliant, ticking all the boxes in regards to what a puzzle game should be about.