Game Rant's Dwayne Holder reviews Puddle
Puddle is a unique physics puzzle title that will test both a player's mind and reflexes. The concept seems simple -- guide a puddle of liquid though a hazardous environment -- but the developers definitely put a ton of effort into creating a challenging and fun game. That said, the game isn’t without its issues - problems that could lead to some frustration with the title.
Puddle was originally developed by six French students and won the 2010 GDC Independent Games Festival Student Showcase Division. The game was later picked up Konami and developed by Neko Entertainment for the home consoles. For our purposes, the review is based on the PSN version of the game.
The goal of the Puddle is to guide a "puddle" of liquid through the level, avoiding various hazards along the way. Players control the movement of the liquid by tilting the whole environment, and they have three types of controls at their disposal. The first is using the L2 and R2 on the PlayStation 3 controller. The other two use the motion controls of the SIXAXIS or the PlayStation Move. This game could have easily been a PSMove only game, but players who aren’t keen on motion controls will be glad that the option to use standard buttons are included.
The hazards your puddle will encounter include fire, spinning saws, plants that can absorb the puddle and lasers. In one level the puddle is nitroglycerin and, in this case, the puddle itself is the hazard. Moving too fast, or falling onto a laser, will make the puddle explode. The combination of tilting and the nature of the liquid itself tends to create a lot of tense moments. These moments and the relief of making a near death jump with the liquid are what generates a lot of the fun in the game.
A level where the puddle takes on the form of nitroglycerin is probably one of the most challenging in the game -- mainly because it explodes -- though this chapter also exposes one of the flaws of the title. When the puddle takes on the form of different liquids, the corresponding level gives the player hints on how to utilize the properties of that particular liquid to make it through the stage. One problem, these hints are sometimes too subtle and it takes a bit of trial and error before players figure out what needs to be done.
This trial and error will lead to gamers restarting the level which then results in another gripe - the loading times. The loading times are long enough that they become annoying when the player wants to quickly jump back into the action. The loading times are understandable since the game is crunching a lot of numbers for the physics, though it would be nice to have a shortened time between restarts.
There isn’t much of a story to Puddle, it’s more about the journey this puddle of liquid and the twist and turns the player encounters during the game. The levels include a laboratory, garden, a rocket and even the human body. Some might look at being ingested by the human body to be a twist, but the real twist comes after the liquid leaves the body. I won’t spoil it but its definitely something that won’t be expected, and is quite disgusting.
Another thing to note is that there is a small indicator of how much liquid is in this puddle in the upper left-hand corner. If this level gets below a certain point then it’s game over. Completionists should know that it is somewhat impossible to make it to the end of a level with the whole puddle intact. This is due to the fact that in some instances parts of the puddle will need to be sacrificed to make it though an area. There are also “boss fights” that will require the player to sacrifice parts of the liquid to make it through.
Also the camera tends to favor the front end of the puddle. So if it gets stretched too thin then the camera will pan ahead with the section in the lead, making it hard to keep track with the rest of the liquid.
Since the physics are the real star of the show, the graphics are tailored to provide a nice clean aesthetic. The backgrounds are blurred with the focus being on the silhouetted foregrounds. One interesting looking level is the one that takes place in the human body. It basically looks like an x-ray from a doctors office, with the player moving past different bones and blood vessels as it they move through the body.
The sound is a nice mix of jazzy tunes and ambient noises. This provides a relaxing mood when navigating your puddle through each level. Since later levels become very challenging this music helps to calm the player down when frustration sets in. Also to aid in the frustration is the ability to skip levels - however a lot of thought should be placed in deciding to skip a level since there are a limited number of skips called “Whines” that can be used.
A physics game such as this wouldn't be complete without a playground to test out all the different liquids. By gaining high rankings in each level, the player can unlock pieces to build their own mini level in the Laboratory. Players can experiment with different liquids and layouts. This mini level is saved and becomes the default backdrop when the game is started up.
Despite its challenging nature Puddle can be a very a fun game and is definitely worth checking out. Demo versions are available for those who want to try before they buy.
Puddle is available now for PSN for 9.99 and XBLA for 800 MSP. A PS Vita and PC version are also in the works. Game Rant played the Xbox 360 version for this review.
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