by Matt Porter
reviewed on PS3
Salty Tears (cont)
If you do well enough in the main levels, you gain extra unlockables for the Laboratory mode, which is where you can place objects and mess around with the game's fun physics engine without the pressure of time or score. A nice small touch is the way your creation plays in the background on the main menu screen. Another incentive to do well is the presence of an online leaderboard. This combined with the promise of new items for the Laboratory make it an easy decision to go back and try to get better scores on previous levels after you finish the game. Puddle's main mode itself is of a decent length for the game's price, you're looking at a good few hours to complete it, accounting for times when you get stuck on a puzzle or two.
The visuals and sound design, much like the gameplay, are simple, yet effective. Many of the levels are simple silhouettes of recognisable shapes, with colour being used to warm you of impending danger. There is more detail and colour in the background images, but these are barely noticeable as you are usually only worried about what is happening in the foreground. The music has an almost industrial feel to it, with repetitive and simple drum beats and it does well to mesh with the visuals while remaining ambient. However, if you get stuck on a particularly challenging level, where you have to repeat it over and over, the music can start to grate. Due to its simplicity, the game seemingly has no technical issues and the frame rate didn't drop noticeably at any point during my playthrough. The load times do seem a touch on the long side for what the levels contain, but never frustratingly so.
The game certainly has its fair share of challenging levels which have you tensing up every time your puddle gets near a dangerous area. Each time you load a level, whether it be for the first time or after reloading, a big number will dominate your screen telling you how many attempts you have made on that level so far. If that number taunts you enough, you can skip levels using one of your 'Whines'. The game delights in embarrassing you by first showing your failure, and then giving you the option to whine and run away. I'm not sure whether to be insulted by this, or to accept it as a quirky aspect of the game!
At times, Puddle can be quite frustrating if it doesn't warn you of impending danger in time, and it can become a game of trial and error in places as you try to work out the best way to approach a level, especially later on in the harder levels of the game where your movements seem to require greater and greater delicacy. Another minor annoyance is that you have no camera control and it will usually focus on the main bulk of your puddle, meaning you can sometimes leave a few droplets behind without being able to see what you have to do to get them back.
Puddle is a neat little game, with decent visuals and addictive gameplay which is simple to pick up, but tricky to master - which is always the sign of a good mechanic. New types of level are introduced every now and then, such as using the shoulder buttons to generate blood pressure in the veins of a human, but it never strays far from the core idea, which means it isn't as compelling as it could be. However, once you're in, it's tough to stop yourself from puzzling – or puddling- your way through level after level, from controlling the ink on a designer's drawing, to manoeuvring rocket fuel on a space ship!
Dynamic level design, simple, addictive
Core gameplay gradually wears thin