Puddle is an indie, physics-based puzzle/platformer that was originally released for the PS3/360 back in January 2012. Since then, it has released for the PS Vita (read our review here), PC, Mac and now, Wii U. Developed by Neko Entertainment, is this a title to help quench the Wii U drought of titles?
Puddle has a unique 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 (plus an additional unlockable chapter that I’ll discuss later), 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 snow-globe 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 game’s concept 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 liquids you’ll control. Thankfully, for a game based entirely on its physics system, Neko Entertainment put in a lot of their effort 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 an 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 minimum requirements and you’ll only receive a simple checkmark to state that you just barely completed the level. Since the Wii U has no official “Trophy/Achievement” system, Neko incorporated an in-game rewards system called “Challenges”. All the challenges equal up to 1000 points and can be viewed amongst friends and random players on leaderboards.
Back when I reviewed this for the PS Vita, I stated the game’s difficulty could be a bit steep. Neko Entertainment was aware of the difficulty curve for a few of the levels and went back to tailor them a bit more, making them much more manageable, while still keeping it challenging. Some of the areas now seem slightly less demanding in terms of how much liquid you’ll need to pass the level. Throughout the game’s 49 levels, you’ll be thoroughly tested with great challenge, but with enough patience, you’ll get better and better. Levels vary between 20 seconds long to almost 3 minutes, which sounds incredibly short but keep failing at certain points towards the end of lengthier levels and this extends a bit. There are no checkpoints in the stages so trial-and-error and memorization are key, giving the game an old-school feel. Thankfully, frustration never really ensues here as this version has been tweaked a good amount. 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. While I found myself using these on the Vita, I never once resorted to it on my playthrough of the Wii U version. Also, the developers have included three different controls methods that will pertain to practically any player. You can play the entire game by tilting the Wii U GamePad left and right, utilize the left analog stick, or press the zL and zR buttons 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 of 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 accompany the game pretty well.
So what’s different about the Wii U version? Well, you have off-tv play so you can use your GamePad to venture through the whole game. Visually, the game looks absolutely amazing on the Wii U, both on the TV and GamePad. The game is in full 1080p and runs at a butter smooth 60 fps, giving Puddle a much more fluid look (no pun intended) than when I last played through it on the PS Vita. Earlier, I mentioned that this version has “Challenges” to complete. Not only are they there just to show off to your friends which ones you’ve accomplished, but when you achieve 250 points out of the 1000, you’ll unlock a hidden chapter called “Pixels”. This level changes the game’s visuals and audio entirely to an 8-bit style. Even your health meter changes from a liquid gauge to three red hearts. While it’s only one level, it’s really sweet to see the game stylized in 8-bit.
Simply put, Puddle is an incredibly imaginative and engaging game that I couldn’t recommend enough for Wii U owners. I really enjoyed it on the PS Vita over the summer but after playing it on the Wii U, it’s clear that this is the definitive version. The concept is very well imagined and it works just as well in execution. Playing with various liquids has never been so fun. The Wii U still has time before it gets flooded (again, no pun intended) with more eShop titles. However, this really works in Puddle’s favor, making it stand out amongst the small amount, yet very impressive titles available. Puddle is a refreshing experience that should not be overlooked.
Overall Score: 8.5 out of 10 = BUY IT!
A special thank you to Neko Entertainment for providing us a review copy for Puddle!