The Secret Life Of A (Puddle Review)

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.

Ever wonder what secret life may be in store for your basic liquids when you’re not looking? Me neither. But the imaginative minds at Neko Entertainment have dreamt up a wondrous adventure for a discarded cup of coffee; the obstacles it will overcome, the terrors it will face, and the redemption it will find in the end.

Well, there isn’t necessarily any redemption, but the rest of the above is true.  And while Puddle may not sound very entertaining, it is quite.

Puddle is the brainchild of six students from the French video game school ENJMIN.  It was the winner in the 2010 GDC Independent Games Festival Student Showcase Division, and was later picked up by Neko Entertainment.  The game in essence is simple: guide your little puddle through the maze of obstacles to the end by tilting the environment to the left and the right.  You’ll brave a variety of locations from the kitchen plumbing, to a green house, through a human body and more. With each new zone, your puddle will take on different properties, such as water in the kitchen, mercury in the laboratory, and the like.

With the PlayStation 3 version, you have a variety of ways to control the environment around the puddle.  You can opt for the traditional method of using the trigger buttons, use the tilt function of the Six Axis or Dual Shock 3 controller, or choose the PlayStation Move wand if so desired. In any event, you’ll find that finesse and patience are two virtues most used in Puddle. In order to successfully navigate the levels, you need to be able to maintain a decent amount of speed to jump across gaps or make it through fire obstacles, thirsty plants, lasers, and other hurdles. Of course, you need to pay close attention to the amount of liquid you have as well. Go too fast and your puddle breaks apart, which can lead to leaving parts of it behind. Lose too much of your puddle, and you will have to start back at the beginning of the level.

This is where the game can become overly frustrating, as the camera seems to hone in on the center of where your puddle starts and ends, which can keep you from viewing very far ahead at times and you won’t be able to properly plan ahead. If you wind up losing too much of your puddle, you’re greeted with a loading screen that flashes a number at you. This is the number of times that you’ve attempted, unsuccessfully, to traverse a given area. You can of course skip the level if you so desire by using a Whine. A Whine is a token (in the shape of a sobbing sad face) that you can apply if you feel that a level is just too much and you want to move ahead. You can only Whine and skip twice in a game.

But you aren’t a Whiner, are you?

Backhanded insults aside, Puddle is highly entertaining and addictive, not just for the gameplay, but for the ingenious level design and beautiful environments.  A nice thing about Puddle is that you can actually take a moment to really admire the colorful and varied environments while you’re on the move. To keep the monotony at bay, Puddle changes things up with numerous puzzles. For instance, in the plant nursery, you’ll have to push seeds through the level to areas where they can be planted and grow, providing you with platforms to raise yourself up to the next level. In the laboratory, you start off inside a beaker and use it to push on switches to disarm lasers and avoid harm.

Puddle carries quite a bit of replay value with it.  At the end of each level, you’re graded on how quickly you make your way through a level and how much of your puddle survives to the end.  An elemental ranking of Copper (Cu), Silver (Ag) or Gold (Au) is awarded to you at the end of the maze.  These rankings are tallied and unlock objects in the Laboratory.  The Laboratory is a kind of free range area with a nozzle and a drain.  In it, you can select different objects such as pipes, platforms, pumps and more to build your own little fluid maze.  This makes for an entertaining distraction as well as a motivator to go back through and get the best scores possible in the main game.

What really grabs you in Puddle is the unspoken narrative of the game. Neko Entertainment has done a wonderful job of crafting a story about an unliving object, and bringing it to life with a rich adventure. Many developers struggle with bringing a speaking, animated character to life with far more tools available than what Neko is able to use. Kudos are definitely in order here. What started off as a physics-based puzzle game has been refined into something that’s truly enjoyable.  If you like puzzles, or you’re just looking for something to wind down after a long night of playing shooters, you might want to pick this up.

Puddle receives a 4.75/5.

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

February 2, 2012 - 8:40 am