Water is an element that is not often focused on in the world of videogaming, fiery explosions or protagonists soaring through the air usually receive much higher billing. Puddle, a science-infused puzzle game released on PSN and Xbox Live, doesn’t just use water as a backdrop; it instead focuses on it as a main character. Throughout the course of Puddle you will be tasked with guiding liquid through various tracks, with the objective of saving enough liquid to meet the quota come level’s end. It sounds easy, but with the amount of obstacles placed in your path, you’ll quickly come to realise the importance of careful movement, strategy and accurate timing. Is Puddle the game that will draw more focus onto liquid-based gameplay? Or should it have long ago been flushed away?
Like A Snowflake - I must admit, Puddle is quite unlike any game that I’ve seen before. Using different aspects of physics, such as gravity, movement and timing, developer Neko Entertainment has created an environment in which you will start to view liquid as a living entity. You control the liquid by tilting the screen left and right, which builds up momentum and allows you to move through the rollercoaster-esque levels. In fact, the only place that I may have seen something similar to Puddle is in the tube systems present in some of the early Sonic titles.
Upon Further Reflection - Whilst Puddle won’t be winning any awards for furthering the development of videogame graphics, I must say that I enjoyed the visuals that were offered, however one-note they may have been. Pipes and tubes aren’t perhaps the most exciting basis for visuals, but Puddle’s shadow-based graphics definitely give it some sense of style.
A Huge Storm - Considering that your liquid starts off inside someone’s coffee cup, which happens to get spilt, there is actually quite the adventure waiting once you flow down the drain. Whilst there understandably isn’t a huge amount of narrative, the first two chapters alone see you travelling through the waterworks of an office building, and moving onto a nursery. In some areas you have to turn your water into steam and back again, in order to build up pressure and break out, and other areas will have you converting your liquid to an acid, or even fertiliser, with the plants you help to grow aiding you in your escape. Obviously some imagination has gone into Puddle, which helps you to feel that you’re travelling somewhere, and not just completing unrelated courses.
PUDDLE OF MUD
Bathroom Break – I don’t know if this is the actual reason, but I hypothesise that the amount of physics-related information that has to be established before starting a level on Puddle is the reason behind its achingly long loading times. Even some of the shorter levels have longer-than-usual loading times, and when you’re reloading a level, there’s a sizeable wait. It certainly breaks up the ‘flow’ of the game.
Unpredictable Weather – The problem with using liquid as your main mode of transport is that, compared to a solid, it is a lot less predictable. This is highly evident in Puddle, with some questionable sequences that seem almost random with their dispersal of your liquid. Obviously there are a lot of calculations going on behind the scenes to determine where the liquid ends up, but there are so many different variables at play in certain locations that you can do the exact same thing twice and end up with a different outcome each time.
Whilst Puddle is one of the more unique gaming experiences that I have had the chance to enjoy recently, I must admit that it almost works better as a gameplay demonstration than as a game itself. The flow-based technology makes for an interesting twist on the puzzle genre, but puzzles need to be fair and play by certain rules. Too often I found myself thinking that the liquid in Puddle didn’t play by rigid-enough rules to create a reliable and predictable environment. That’s not to say that Puddle is a bad game, as I did have a lot of fun trying something different, but be aware that you need to have a good deal of patience to deal with some of its eccentricities, and its loading screens.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*