Physics-based action games are nothing new in the industry, but it’s always nice to see what different development teams do with the concept. When Sony released LocoRoco a few years ago for PSP, many marveled at the creative presentation, but also dug the tilt-based gameplay. And we wouldn’t dare forget about Taito’s Cameltry, which got its start way back on the SNES before becoming a sleeper hit on iOS platforms. Now joining the ranks is Puddle, which originally started as a winner at the Independent Game Festival in 2010 and now gets its debut as a downloadable game on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.
Konami, who opted to pick up the project from the developers at Neko Entertainment, have an interesting addition to its digital library with Puddle. In the game, you don’t control a truly fundamental character, but rather liquid itself, as it makes its journey from a number of locations to its final destination, whether it’s in the sewer or back to its original purified state. The journey is an interesting one, as you’ll slide down pipes, past obstacles (like burners and fans), and even getting into some boss encounters where you’ll have to use true physics in order to prevail.
We’re not trying to make this sound like a school lesson here, but the more you know how water swishes around, the better off you’ll be in the game. You’ll tilt levels back and forth to make liquid move about, falling out of cups, going over ramps and slip-sliding to the stage exit. You’ll need to be careful around objects, as your little puddle can easily disperse by coming into contact with flame or solid objects. If you lose a certain amount of your liquid volume, you’ll need to start the stage over again – or quit, if you use one of your very few skip options.
It’s safe to give you a fair warning right now – Puddle is no cakewalk. Even in the first few stages, you’ll understand just how challenging the stage design gets, as sudden obstacles force you to think quickly and react even quicker, lest your reigning water stream become evaporated. Neko would’ve been wise to throw in some kind of preview for each stage, so you could at least prepare for the dangers that lie ahead. Luckily, you can always run through each level again, shooting for a better time and, if you’re savvy enough, discovering bonus stages.
There is some ingenuity behind Puddle’s design, and though it’s infuriating at times, it’s seldom boring. One minute you’re rummaging out of a coffee cup, looking for a way to purify itself; the next, you’re a pool of liquid alloy trying to get the better of machinery while eventually looking for an escape. Creativity is a strong suit in this game, and truly gifted gamers will get the most out of aiming for the top of the leaderboards.
Puddle benefits from a savvy presentation, complete with the kind of graphic design you’d find in a given nerdy science program, with a little style added for good measure in the shadowing and text. Some of the puzzles will definitely poke your brain a bit too, even if you’re a fresh college grad. We like the music, as well. While it’s not nearly as lively as, say, the LocoRoco collection, it has its moments, and will keep you intrigued on your liquefied journey.
Had Neko lightened up on the difficulty scale quite a bit, we could see Puddle having some appeal to the general market. As it stands, though, it’s worth checking out the trial game, though it’s probably best left to the most dexterous and patient of puzzle gamers, the ones who don’t mind weathering the storm to reap the rewards.
[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]