Splish, Splash, Bloop! – Puddle For PS Vita Review
This game was reviewed on PlayStation Vita
Water: something we couldn’t live without, something often featured or used in games, but never truly used as the core mechanic. Enter Puddle, a wonderful little 2D puzzle game for the PlayStation Vita. How does a title based entirely on liquids hold up? Let’s take a splash in it and find out!
Puddle follows the chain reactions set in motion by a single spilt cup of coffee, which is eventually separated into water. Players take control of this water by tilting the camera left or right to change gravity, with the task of guiding it from start to finish. This can be done one of four ways: using the left thumbstick, the L and R buttons, or using the left and right sides of the front touchscreen or rear touchpad. As the game progresses, gamers’ H2O will either change properties or be replaced by other liquids, such as weed killer, nitroglycerine, a cocktail, or sticky goo. Each liquid has its own properties and weaknesses, such as goo sticking to moss or nitroglycerine exploding if handled roughly, so players need to utilize these aspects to get them to their goal safely. The use and inclusion of all the liquids in Puddle give it incredibly varied and creative gameplay that will keep gamers tilting and flowing for hours.
As your fluid changes, the scenery usually does, too. Starting out in a break room, environments stretch out diversely, covering areas like overgrown gardens, factory assembly lines, and even the human body. Every environment has hazards unique to it and the liquid used in it, such as carnivorous plants, laser beams, and stomach acid. These give the gamer a challenge to overcome through skill and wit, as well as creating a believable and interesting setting to play in.
What’s truly impressive, though, is the game’s actual physics. As liquids flow, they lose pieces of themselves, which break off into little droplets, no longer affected by the weight and speed of larger chunks. As players bring these pieces back together, they will rejoin themselves seamlessly as though they were a real liquid. This plays a heavy part in gameplay, since large bodies of water accelerate slower and have a greater difficulty overcoming inertia than smaller ones, but tend to have a greater top speed. As well, individual pieces will not affect the general set until they rejoin it. For example: flammable liquids that catch aflame will not set off other puddles until they connect, where the fire will then spread. Viscosity also plays a factor, as certain fluids will flow faster or slower than others, making them easier or harder to control. Overall, the entire engine is simply astounding, making Puddle not only a smooth and fluid (pun intended) play experience, but a somewhat realistic one as well.
For the competitive-minded, each level keeps track of your time and scores you for it when you reach your goal – presenting you with a bronze, silver, or gold medal. Your overall score is then posted to the Puddle leaderboards, where you can compare yourself locally, amongst your friends, and even globally! Speed demon gamers with everything to prove will certainly get a splash out of trying to break their neighbor’s best times.
Graphically, Puddle is a beautiful sight to behold. Less important objects (such as general outlines and static set-pieces) are presented with an artsy black-and-grey palette very reminiscent of Limbo, while key objects and hazards are given a more vibrant and highlighted color such as blood red or bright green. Liquids themselves are also given a nice touch depending on their properties: water is a very simple matte blue, while weed killer is a bright and glowing yellow. Factor in a smooth frame-rate and pop-free textures, and Puddle presents a brilliant visual show that will not leave you high-and-dry.
In terms of audio, Puddle takes a very minimalistic approach that ends up being very relaxing. Your liquids make the standard “slosh” and “bloop” sounds as they flow, separate, and reconnect, and the accompanying soundtrack is made up of several string and woodwind instruments swelling and diminishing, mimicking the natural ebb and flow of water. This collection of noises is very calming to play to, but if you find yourself wanting more it also presents a perfect opportunity to turn on your own personal collection of music in the background, thanks to the Vita’s music player.
From front to back, drop to drop, Puddle proves to be an amazing addition to your Vita’s game collection. Whether you’re just dipping your toes in while on the bus, or diving right in for a long play session at home, the title’s brilliant gameplay, beautiful art, and tranquil sounds are sure to catch you in their waves and keep you coming back for more… and possibly make you want to pee if you’ve had too much to drink!
Final Score: 5.0 / 5.0 and a puddle of liquid awesome.
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