Most gamers admit that there is a side of themselves who sometimes would rather set aside the multi-player matchmaking, role-playing, and adventuring to test their noggin on a challenging, yet rewarding puzzler. Of course, being the genre that requires its player to think the most, a true puzzler would arguably offer no instruction. Neko Entertainment’s Puddle attempts to present this challenge with physics-based gameplay, allowing players to decide just how to get a puddle of liquid from point A to point B. Though not for everyone, Puddle offers a relatively fresh, enjoyable experience while frustrating even the most tolerant of any type of gamer.
At the very least, Puddle is correctly titled. The goal in this sidescroller is to safely escort a small puddle of liquid across various environments, gaps, and obstacles. Contrary to the conclusion you may have come to while observing Puddle before playing it, the liquid is not what you are in control of. Basically, players manipulate gravity by tilting the screen. On the PS3, you have the option to use your Sixaxis controller, PS Move wand, or the R2 and L2 triggers to tilt the screen from left to right. The puddle of liquid you are protecting will (for most of the game) spill into which ever direction you are tilting the screen in. Traversing these environments ends when you take that deep breath of relief as you hit the finish line.
At it’s core, Puddle has a fantastic concept. The game has one general rule: don’t let your puddle break down, evaporate, or get destroyed in any way. A game with one central rule like this has got to feel repetitive, right? Not only will Puddle pleasantly surprise you, but it will feel like some of the most varied gameplay within its genre. You will go from spilling out of a coffee cup, to protecting the liquid within a snow globe, to launching into zero-gravity outer-space, and eventually having to constantly heat up liquid metal to keep it from solidifying! With almost every level, comes a new surprise. I thought I had this game figured out. Escorting liquid can’t be too hard, but how about when your liquid becomes an explosive chemical and must be handled carefully? This is just a taste of the variety Puddle provides. Even the limited "tilt" controls are not nearly as boring as they may seem.
"With an original concept, impressive gameplay variety, pleasing visuals and music, came a few problems that can be just too much to handle."
Unfortunately, Puddle’s few missteps significantly decrease the amount of fun you will have playing it. Being a game apart of a genre that offers no reward other than the satisfaction of completion, it is truly a shame how frustrating Puddle is. While the first few levels don’t suffer from this problem and are tolerable, the latter half of the game is overly difficult, frustrating, and not rewarding. Considering the game is played by tilting the screen side to side, this is where players are doomed to get angry. Because of this, the feeling of not being in as much control over what you are doing tends to bleed through. When you’re trying to make that tricky jump across power lines, the amount of trial and error is not fun at all. The fact of the matter is the constant variety in gameplay, also slightly hurts the process a bit. By changing priorities so often, players end up making untrained, lucky shots fed by numerous frustrating trial and error situations. While there is a "skip" feature (or "whine" as the game calls it), this can only be used twice. The only way to gain more whines is to complete those levels on which you whined on. If these levels anger you enough to skip them, there is not much chance you will want to attempt them again.
Luckily, Puddle’s visuals and sound compliment each other so greatly, you may just find some of your frustration soothed away. Level designs look clean and appealing to the eyes. Though some will definitely prefer a wackier, more colorful approach, what we have here definitely has charm. These environments are only escalated by the game’s mellow, yet catchy, soundtrack. Though the electronic style will of course leave some with a lot to be desired, I think everyone can find at least something to appreciated here.
What we have here is a classic case of (slightly) missed opportunity. With an original concept, impressive gameplay variety, pleasing visuals and music, came a few problems that can be just too much to handle. A puzzle game is designed for challenge, yet what gamers need is a reward. It’s satisfying knowing you trained yourself well at a puzzle game, but where is the reward if the "skill" basically all comes down to lucky shots? With an easier set of levels, Puddle would be a lot more enjoyable. Unfortunately, there is a limit to how much frustration a gamer can take without reward.
Release date : 2012-02-01
Publisher : Konami
Developer : Neko Entertainment
Gameplay : Puzzle
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