Review: Puddle (XBLA)

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Is there room for another liquid-based puzzle game? The answer is a definite yes, find out why…

 Puddle is the latest liquid-based puzzle game to be released, this time Konami takes a stab at the genre first popularized by ‘Loco Roco’ on the PSP. Although not exactly liquid based the same basic game play idea persists, where you must reach your goal by navigating a levels twists and turns, avoiding traps, and getting to the finish in a certain time, or even with a certain mass.

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Don’t let your puddle boil for too long!

 Puddle is perhaps closest compared to Nintendo’s Wiiware title ‘Fluidity’, but sets itself apart by taking on a more mature tone. Whereas Nintendo’s title is unsurprisingly a lot more colourful and is jammed packed with collectables, Puddle resembles a hybrid of ‘World of Goo’ and ‘Limbo’. The backgrounds aren’t in focus which work well with the foregrounds silhouettes. The games obstacles and the puddles themselves really stand out, and look subtly incredible.

The game begins with the level, cleverly titled ‘coffee break’. As quite simply a silhouetted figure pours a cup of coffee, and sets it down on a table. With no instruction from the game, your left on your own, with no tutorial, to work out what to do next. After pressing a few buttons, it becomes clear, you can only manipulate the world by pressing and left and right triggers. This in turn, makes the coffee in the cup form gentle waves. It instantly becomes clear that you must escape the confines of your cup-shaped prison, by rocking back and forth. Once you’ve gained enough momentum the plastic stirrer inside the cup falls to one side, giving you that extra boost to topple over and pour out over the edge of the table and into the drain below!

At the end of each level the game rates you on your time and the amount of liquid you have left. You are presented with a graph, which scales the results, giving you a very in-depth and helpful report of your success. It will then award you with one of three medals, quite cleverly named Au, Ag, or Cu (Gold, Silver, and Copper – go check your periodic table shower curtain!).

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Varying Compositions – This time, Pesticide!

 As you progress through the game, the liquid under your influence changes, from coffee or water, to a pesticide and even liquid metal. Each kind has its own unique properties, and can be affected by speed, mass and gravity, as well as the obstacles you face. Early on you’ll face furnaces which will boil your water, but later on you’ll need these furnaces to keep your metal liquid, or else it will start to solidify and slow down.

 The game also features ‘boss fights’, which aren’t quite what you’d expect. Rather than fighting an enemy where you’ll need to hit its weak spot for massive damage, you face up against a larger obstacle, often with its own time scale. These can be very difficult and frustrating, but as is always the case, the feeling of reward once you’ve beaten them is significant.

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Yeah – Thats a Boss Fight!

 Thankfully the game includes a system of ‘whines’, which act as a free pass, if you’ve reached the point of throwing the controller out the window. These however are not infinite so you should use them sparingly.

The game also features a ‘laboratory’ mode, where you can experiment with differing materials and obstacles from the game. The more gold medals you earn, the more items you can unlock to experiment with.

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This isn’t a walk in the park – it’s hard!

 Puddle isn’t a unique game by any means, but definitely brings something new to the genre. It is very beautifully presented which helps set it apart from the competition. Puddle appears very simple and minimalist by design but this certainly doesn’t apply to the game play which is clever and challenging. If you have enjoyed similar games before you will enjoy this one, but anyone who hasn’t played a game like this should definitely pick this one up!

 For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this game was provided to The Paranoid Gamer by the publisher for review purposes.