Puddle: Just go with the ever-changing flow

February 9, 2012

What began as a simple school project has come further than any of its creators ever expected when Puddle was released on XBLA. It is the first game from new developers Neko Entertainment and, while it succeeds in many respects, it’s a frustrating in many others.

Puddle is a fluid-mechanics-based puzzle-platformer in which you’ll have to guide various liquids through 48 stages by doing nothing except tilting the world a little bit in each direction. Your range of tilt isn’t much, maybe 30 degrees in each direction. On the way to the exit from each stage, you’ll have to avoid various obstacles and traps from holes to fires, even acid reflux and venus fly traps. The stages vary from laboratories to sewers to the human body. That’s right, some of the stages take place inside of a body.

The thing that sets Puddle apart from any other fluid puzzle/platformer (such as Fluidity) is that you aren’t stuck with just one type of liquid. Water, ammonium nitrate, petroleum, nitroglycerin and even melted rat goo are used in the levels. Each liquid has unique characteristics that you’ll need to either exploit or take care not to activate while getting to the exit. For instance, the rat goo has very high friction and thus sticks to walls and moves slowly. Petroleum burns when it gets too hot, ammonium nitrate can fertilize plants to open areas of a stage and nitroglycerin does exactly what you’d expect: if it moves too quickly or hits something too hard, it explodes violently.

These are all good things, and I applaud the game for it, but there’s one really big problem with Puddle. Some levels don’t follow the laws of physics or fluid dynamics. For a game that is based entirely around those laws, every stage really needs to control correctly. Oh yeah, and most of the levels are devilishly difficult. That’s not really a problem, but it is something that you should consider before purchasing.

This is a promising start for Neko Entertainment. I just hope that future games are more consistent in their environment.

Pros: Nitroglycerin is fun and challenging to use; multiple fluids keeps things fresh
Cons: Some levels throw physics out the window

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.