Review: Puddle [Wii U]

Puddle first splashed onto our screens a year ago when it was released for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It dripped its way onto handheld screens this August with a PlayStation Vita release and its wet patch has now spread to include the Wii U, PC and Mac.

The game began as a student project that won a Student Showcase prize at the Independent Gaming Festival at GDC 2010 and is a physics-based puzzle game that sees you having to guide some fluid from one end of each of the forty nine levels to the other.

The puzzles take place across a background of eight different environments each playing host to six levels. The mathematicians among you will have noticed that is only forty eight. The forty ninth is a special one-off level unlocked during the course of the game.

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There is significant variety in the environments with your fluids traversing drains, leaping from branch to branch, passing through the human body, being processed in a rocket and more. These wide-ranging backdrops allow the developers to challenge you with changes to temperature, gravity and other hazards.

Further variety comes from each environment requiring you to handle more than one type of fluid. Some examples are coffee, water, weed killer and aerogel which is technically not a fluid at all. These all differ in properties such as their viscosity and how they react to and affect their environment; water does not like heat while plants do not like weed killer, unless, curiously, they are venus fly traps.

The settings and levels are attractively styled and strike a good balance between being visually interesting and not so cluttered as to hinder gameplay. The human body levels in particular stand out for their x-ray style presentation, not to mention their changing of the gameplay mechanics from tilt-to-move to requiring you to mimic the pumping of the heart.

[drop2]The game displays the keen imagination of its developers in many ways, extending to the short ‘cut-scenes’ that link each environment to one another and sometimes show how one liquid is transformed into another. It is not lacking in humour either, how you get “rat goo” is but one example that seems to betray the continental European origins of the development team.

Puddle is suitably fluid in motion, its simple 2D graphics looking great in HD but this game is such a perfect fit for a handheld that Wii U players may well eschew the TV in favour of playing solely on the GamePad. There are three control options available, the GamePad’s tilt sensor, ZL and ZR buttons or the left analogue stick.

While the tilt sensor seems like the obvious choice the limited amount of in-game tilt available means you will often find yourself tilting the GamePad beyond the game’s range of movement, which leads to a disconnect between your action and what is happening on-screen.

Many of the other interactions within the game, such as mimicking a heart beat, also feel somewhat clumsy and slow when using the motion controls. They have also missed a trick by not making the menu navigation possible via the touchscreen which is a small thing but contrary to the experience players will have in many other games.

[boxout]For those of you who like to chase medals and leaderboard positions there is plenty of replayability with your score for a level being determined not only by your completion time but also the amount of fluid you manage to get to the end. There is a minimum amount of fluid required to complete a level, you are not normally under any time pressure, but go faster and save more to achieve copper, silver and gold scores.

What’s Good:

  • Surprising variety of gameplay.
  • Imaginatively conceived and realized environments.
  • A great GamePad-only game.

What’s Bad:

  • The odd harsh difficulty spike.
  • Lacks any Wii U-specific features.
  • Limited replayability unless you chase medals and times.

Puddle is a very competent, well presented and enjoyable puzzler that offers enough variation throughout its levels to keep things interesting and if you want to chase those gold scores it will keep you playing for a while. It is a great little game to have on your Wii U for those times when the TV is not available.

Score 7/10

The game was reviewed from a promotional copy.

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3 Comments

  1. Hannypoppie and I tried the demo out (on the PS3) just a week ago. It was “okay” at best but nothing for us to enjoy. I quite like my puzzlers but this felt like we were going through the same old motions way too often. It’s a shame as I liked the mechanics of the game and the fluidity (no pun intended) of the graphics.

    • It does feel samey for the first couple of environments. It gets a lot more interesting after that.

      • Ah, bugger. The very time interest was lost. Might go back to it, fella. Thanks for the heads-up.

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