Puddle is an indie, physics-based puzzle/platformer that was originally released for the PS3/360 back in January and has now hit Sony’s new portable handheld. Developed by Neko Entertainment, is this a title to help quench the PS Vita drought of titles this summer?
Puddle has an interesting premise. As the title insinuates, you’ll take control of a puddle from a specific liquid by tilting the world left and right. Broken up into eight chapters, each containing six stages, you’ll enter a journey in which you’ll see this puddle you control take various forms, all of which have certain properties to keep in mind. Upon starting the game, you’ll begin controlling coffee in a cup and have to escape down the drainage. From that point, the coffee then simply converts to water, in which you’ll have to navigate your way through the waterworks. Once completing the waterworks environment, there are a great variety of locations that await you and change-up the gameplay during the 4-6 hour experience. Such locations are foundries, nuclear power plants, nurseries and the most memorable, the human body. There are even “boss battles” that await you in various chapters. Technically, they aren’t “bosses” but rather, more creative challenges that confine you in a single room as opposed to going from point A to point B. Throughout the game, there are also levels where you’ll control devices which the puddle is contained in, such as a snowglobe ball or a beaker to name a few. While the game’s standard levels are clever and fresh enough on their own, it’s great to see Neko Entertainment added even more diversity throughout the game’s course.
While the concept of Puddle is to guide the puddle from point A to point B with as much liquid intact as possible, the way you’ll traverse the environment changes every couple of levels. Hazards change depending on the environment, and at times, so do the physics of the various types of puddles you’ll control. Thankfully, for a game based entirely on its physics system, Neko Entertainment put a lot of their effort in to provide an accessible, yet very intuitive experience. Depending on the angle of the platform and the amount of liquid contained within your puddle, you’ll notice the velocity the puddle moves changes naturally and realistically. Upon completing a level, you can receive a Au (gold), Ag (silver) or Cu (bronze) grade depending on how much liquid was conserved and how fast you were able to reach the exit. Complete the bare minimum requirements and you’ll only receive a simple checkmark to state that you just barely completed the level.
While the game is accessible to anyone, it is not easy by any means. Throughout the game’s 48 levels, you’ll be thoroughly tested with great challenge and will demand for a solid amount of patience. Levels vary between 20 seconds long to almost 3 minutes, which sounds incredibly short but keep failing at certain points towards to the end of lengthier levels and frustration will kick in often. There are no checkpoints in the stages so trial-and-error and memorization are key, giving the game an old-school feel. The developers went an extra mile and gave those who are having a difficult time with a level to “Whine and Skip” to the next stage, but can only use up to four of these. To earn those back, you’ll have to eventually return and complete the level you skipped so that you can retrieve that “skip” again for a later stage. It’s a handy feature as some of the levels will become beyond frustrating to complete. You’ll find yourself just wanting to advance to the next stage for the time being and return later on. Also, the developers have included four different controls methods that will pertain to practically any player. You can play the entire game by tilting the PS Vita left and right, utilize the left analog stick, press the L and R buttons or utilize the rear touch pad to tilt the environment. No matter which preference you choose, all handle incredibly well and should you want to try other control styles, you can do so by simply accessing the pause menu in-game.
While Puddle’s story may not make much sense (not that you should be looking for a deep story here), it cleverly connects why you’re accessing each environment. You won’t just go from a laboratory to the insides of a human body for no legitimate reason. It’s actually Puddle’s presentation and visuals that make it stand out. Combine partial elements of Mercury Meltdown with a Limbo-esqe style and you’ve got a very neat concept. Environments are cleverly designed, with the backdrops having some color while the foreground consisting mostly a silhouette. The environments are as much of a character as the puddle you control, bringing forth a pretty engaging experience. The audio provides for some great sound effects, giving the game a more immersive experience whether it be the ambient effects or those of the puddle colliding with objects. The soundtrack consists mainly of atmospheric, techno tunes that aren’t anything memorable but accompany the game pretty well.
Puddle ended up becoming quite the surprise indie title. While the game can become devilishly difficult at times and turn off some newcomers, the concept is very well thought-out and it works just as well in execution. With the lack of PS Vita games available on the market at this time, Puddle is a solid breath of fresh air that provides for an experience that definitely deserves attention.
Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!
A special thank you to Neko Entertainment for providing us a review copy for Puddle!