Developer: Neko Entertainment
Publisher: Konami (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita); Neko Entertainment (Wii U)
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii U
Reviewed on: Wii U
At first glance, Puddle has a lot in common with WiiWare physics puzzler, Fluidity. Both ask you to use similar controls to guide liquid around veritable assault courses, but where Fluidity is all about using water to solve various environmental puzzles, Puddle is more akin to a liquid-based version of Lemmings.
When each stage begins you’ll be given a certain measure of liquid and be tasked with safe-guarding it from one end of the level to the other. You do this by tilting the Wii U GamePad to guide it through bends and bottlenecks, over obstacles and hazards, all the time trying to preserve as much as possible.
There’s no shortage of variety in Puddle’s levels. To begin with you’ll be guiding water through various valve-controlled pipes, avoiding gouts of flame that will cause your liquid to evaporate, but later you’ll swap those pipes for sewers or gardens and water for rat waste or weed killer. Different hazards affect different liquids, just as different liquids yield certain results with different obstacles. For example, weed killer can open up paths through the garden by killing plants, while fertiliser can be used to strengthen them to, say, build bridges. Later levels such as the laboratory provide visual thrills and interesting puzzles, but it’s the sequence of levels wherein you guide a controlled substance through an X-Ray’d human body that really stand out. The crisp HD visuals are beautifully striking throughout the whole game, but the human body level in particular is almost haunting.
Puddle’s controls couldn’t be simpler, as the screen can be tilted either by the shoulder buttons or by utilising the GamePad’s gyroscope – but that’s not to say that Puddle’s liquids are easy to manoeuvre. For a start, you can’t flip the Pad over to make liquids fall to the ceiling; they remain fixed on one plain, so to avoid longer hazards you need to learn to make your liquid “jump” by turning the GamePad at the right speed and angle. Too hard or too soft and you could lose half your liquid in one mistake. Also, on your first run through a level you don’t know what’s coming, and Puddle simply isn’t built for quick reactions. As a result, frustration sets in early and stays for the duration. If not for the constantly shifting play conditions, very few people would see the game through to the conclusion.
More levels are finished by luck than by skill, at least on the first run, and the sudden spikes in difficulty can be jarring to the overall experience, turning a simple concept that really should be a relaxing time-waster into an unexpected rage-fest. Thankfully, none of the levels last longer than four or five minutes, and an option to “whine” and skip any level (up to five times) prevents you from getting stuck forever on one puzzle.
Competitive leaderboards and challenges like finding shortcuts in levels stretch out the 4 – 5 hour play time, but beyond the main game there are no extra modes to keep you coming back.
VERDICT: The Wii U version of Puddle does nothing that the Vita release doesn’t, but it’s still an enjoyable if occasionally infuriating puzzle game. The physics are spot on for the most part – despite breaking its own rules by not letting you flip water onto the “ceiling” – and the visuals are absolutely gorgeous. Not one to be taken lightly, Puddle is only worth downloading if you’re looking for a serious challenge.