by Matt Porter
reviewed on PS3
Puddle is a physics based puzzler from Neko Entertainment which began life as a simple student project. After being announced as one of the winners of the Student Showcase in the 2010 Independent Games Festival, it was released for PSN and XBLA in January 2012.
The sole purpose of the game is to guide your puddle of liquid to the end of each level by tilting the world around it. The controls are some of the simplest you'll find in a game, as you'll only be using the shoulder buttons to tilt left and right. The PlayStation version has the extra option of using a Move controller, or the tilt function on a standard DualShock to control the game. These easy controls seem perfectly suited to a mobile device like a phone or a tablet, but there has been no announcement about a port to those platforms yet.
Although the premise of Puddle is simple, the levels are sometimes fiendishly difficult obstacle courses made up of real world objects. Your puddle starts life as a cup of coffee which you must tip over and guide the liquid down a drain where the coffee is filtered out and becomes water. From there, your puddle goes on a fantastic journey, aiding in the production of oil, which you then have to guide further onwards. It eventually becomes petroleum and then turns into highly unstable nitro-glycerine, at one point you're even controlling a filthy mixture of dead rat and urine.
The fluid dynamics on show in the game are quite impressive and most of the time the controls feel pretty intuitive as you use momentum to manoeuvre your puddle around. Some liquids are different than others and so control slightly differently as the speed at which they are moving will affect certain factors like their stability. For example, if your puddle of nitro-glycerine impacts a surface too fast then it will explode! That horrible urine mixture is a lot stickier, as such it will cling to walls as it moves around, making it easy to get round tight corners, but it also has a high risk of getting stuck somewhere and being left behind.
There is a meter in the top left of the screen which measures how much liquid you have at your disposal, at all times. As expected, if the liquid drops below a certain limit then you have to restart the whole level. You can lose liquid through any number of environmental dangers, such as heating filaments in the laboratory, special plants outside which absorb it or by accidentally leaving some of it behind somewhere in the level. As long as you have enough liquid when you reach the end of the level you may continue on to the next one, but the more liquid you have, combined with the speed with which you complete the level dictates your overall score. This is all shown on a charming score screen where a graph is plotted showing your time and liquid remaining, and you are awarded Au, Ag or Cu rather than your standard gold, silver or bronze.
Dynamic level design, simple, addictive
Core gameplay gradually wears thin