A review by Jeremy Hardin
Puddle, previously released on Xbox Live Arcade and the PSN, has now made its way to the Wii U in what the developers are calling the “best version” of the game. As a Wii U owner, I must say I like the sound of that!
Alright, so Puddle is a 2D physics based puzzler in which you control various types of liquids by tilting the environment using one of the 3 control schemes provided. In the beginning, you’ll start off having to tilt a cup of freshly poured coffee so that it spills out the cup and down through a drain in the ground. From there you move onto a plain old pool of water, but don’t think it stays that simple for long. In fact, the difficulty begins to ramp up and the liquids change not too far from the start of the game. You start each level with a set amount of liquid and a goal of reaching the exit retaining as much of the liquid, and if you want a high-score, as quickly as possible. Located on the upper left corner of your screen is a gauge indicating how much liquid you have as well as a mark indicating the minimal amount you need to retain in order to complete the level. If you go below the minimal indicator, you lose the level.
During the load screens you will be told which liquid you will need to direct to the exit. You are also given basic information about that particular liquid’s weakness. For instance, water evaporates on prolonged contact with high temperatures. Naturally you’ll find yourself coming up against heated pipes and small flames. This same theme continues throughout the games 49 levels as you manipulate a variety of environments to move water, juice, ink, aspirin, napalm, rat goo and more. Yes, I said rat goo. I won’t tell you how it is made, so I’ll leave you to find that out on your own. You’ll even test your skills against zero gravity and reversed controls.
The game has a continual theme throughout of chemistry and the most obvious implementation is the screen you’re presented with upon successful completion of a level. The screen displays a basic line graph detailing where your scored and what medal, if any, you achieved. I don’t have a screenshot from the Wii U version showing the level complete screen, so I grabbed a PS3 screen just to give you an idea. Rather than there being a chocolate coin medal, in the Wii U version you receive either a gold, silver, or bronze medal with the symbol in the center. It’s actually a cool take on rewarding your efforts and I like the direction the developers took with this theme.
For some of us, these levels will present somewhat of a challenge. Thankfully, you have at your disposal a limited number of ‘whines’ to use when you desire to skip a level. You only have four of these whines, so you won’t be able to skip around much. Upon exhausting all your whines and losing a level the developers leave a simple, humorous message stating something to the effect that “you are out of whines, go back and complete the levels that made you cry so you can whine some more.” Getting back to the challenging aspect of the game, leaderboards have been included, both worldwide and friends, so you can boast of your skills in every level.
Controlling the environment is easy as you simple use the LZ and RZ buttons to shift the environments either left or right. Of course, there is the option to use the Left thumbstick, which I didn’t care for. You can also use the motion controls but I found those to be very distracting and unnecessary. The physics mechanics seem to work quite well and I never had an issue with getting my liquids where they needed to be. The only drawback is that the camera doesn’t keep track of lost particles of liquids. There will be many times that some of your liquid gets left behind and the camera stays with you and leaves those particles wherever they are. Granted, those particles could perhaps find their way back to your main puddle, but it would be nice to have an idea of where the droplets are.
Visuals and Sound
Both the visuals and sounds used throughout the game are high quality and are enjoyable to take in. The visuals in the foreground are clean, crisp, and clear. There is good use of contrasting colors as the environments sport a lot of black, almost like a silhouette for many objects, and the colors that are present are quite vivid. The background has a lot of blur and is not in focus, as you want to be paying attention to your immediate surroundings. Every level is excellently themed and the variety ensures you won’t get bored with the surroundings. The musics/sounds are good, nothing too fast paced or memorable. I think the electronic/drum sounds do a good job of drawing you into the experience without overdoing it. The further I progressed into the game, the more impressed I was with the quality and variety of visuals. For fans of older games, the Pixels level is a real treat!
Concluding Overall Impressions
Puddle is a fun 2D Puzzler with fun physics, challenging but entertaining levels. The variety of levels and themes, high quality graphics, engaging gameplay and leaderboards all come together in an affordable unique package. My recommendation is to give Puddle a shot. At only $7.99, you get quite a bang for your 8 bucks.
Final Score: 9 out of 10