I cannot tell you how many flash games similar to Puddle that I have sat down and spent hours playing. Get the liquid to do this, do that, make it to some faraway spot, etc etc. I’ve done it all. None of them have quite compared to Puddle with their intensity, challenge, and the sheer awesomeness of the physics involved.
Most of the game consists of one thing – get the liquid from point A to point B. You accomplish this by using the triggers, which cause the screen to tilt. As the screen tilts in either direction, gravity pulls your liquid that way causing it to speed up. This speed is very important (or detrimental depending on circumstance) and you’ll use it to propel your liquid across gaps or through loops. In some cases, this gravity-changing effect will also be used to manipulate objects in levels without liquid; one case of this early in the game has you swinging a flaming object from side to side like a pendulum to activate a sprinkler system for the next level. Beyond the use of triggers to change gravity, there isn’t much else to worry about control wise.
The puzzles also force you to face various environmental hazards such as plants, fires, and other pitfalls that will cost you sweet, precious liquid. The majority of the game will be spent doing your best to avoid them, but there are levels devoted to you sacrificing yourself in order to progress. Just be sure not to mix the two up! If you do end up losing too much liquid before reaching the end of the level, you get what is essentially a “too bad screen” where you have the option of trying again from the start or whining. Whining is as it sounds – you get to whine and pass the level you’re currently stuck on. Don’t waste the whines though as you only have 2 to spend. Save ‘em up for those really hard levels or you’ll end up regretting it.
The game is fun, but damn can it be challenging too. There were a few levels I hit, especially within the second set where Venus Flytraps caused me no end of frustration. It’s all a matter of watching your moves and playing it the right way. Move too fast and you’ll end up in a hazard, but too slow and you’ll fall short into something else.
Playing through the game also earns you rankings that fall into the gold-silver-bronze standards. The neat thing here is that their elemental symbols and periodic info are used as the actual medals – Au, Ag, and Cu. It tickles the science bone to see such a thing. The rankings are based on speed and the amount of liquid you have remaining – get to the end fast and with a huge quantity of whatever liquid you have and you’ll get the better ranking. Get good rankings and you’ll unlock new things for your “Laboratory,” a neat extra where you can customize the background of the start menu. You can add interesting little trinkets and have different liquids pour out. It’s fun to mess around with, but ultimately it’s like collecting hats for TF2 – not necessary and just an extra time waster you can blow off steam with.
The game has surprisingly good HD graphics that I enjoyed. Granted, it’s minimalistic overall considering the content of the game, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The darkness of the obstacles in many of the levels against whatever liquid (or other things you can potentially be) makes your flowing goodness stand out remarkably. I was reminded a lot of Limbo in this aspect, though it uses more color and does some very vibrant things with the “enemies” you’ll have to get past. The music was also a very good aspect to the game – kind of a techno mix, but it got the liquid flowing and got me into the game.
Puzzle games are not for everyone, and even less so with this subcategory, but those that enjoy them will certainly enjoy Puddle. It offers a great amount of challenge and there are a number of levels to play and keep yourself entertained. Give it a shot if you’re up for some mental exercise.Note: Puddle was reviewed on Xbox 360. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.