Despite the rather slim offerings currently available on the Wii U (thanks a lot, Ubisoft), the amount of variety on display in the eShop is impressive. Nano Assault Neo delivered an awesome shooter to showcase the new systems graphics, Mighty Switch Force! provided some really great puzzle-platforming, and Little Inferno showed us a type of game we didn’t even know existed, opening our eyes to new gameplay ideas.
All that is to say, Puddle was always going to have a hard time standing out, even in these early days of the console. Similar to the eShop’s Trine 2, it’s a physics-fueled game based around action and puzzle solving. But unlike Trine 2, it’s consistently frustrating, not only in its faults, but also in that it has so many things going for it that just don’t quite pan out.
In Puddle, you control various liquids by tilting the world around them, which you perform by either tilting the Gamepad or using the shoulder buttons. While you might think a game of this nature would be perfect for motion-control, I found using L / R to be more comfortable.
Though you start out only controlling water, you are quickly introduced to liquids with special attributes, such as weed killer that will dissolve certain plant based platforms. This helps keeps things fresh, as you are constantly given different rules to play by. Unfortunately, varied as they are, these abilities help add to the very trying nature of the game.
The biggest fault of the game is that, much like older Sonic games, there is practically no warning when you are approaching a new hazard. This creates a really annoying trial-and-error game the player must partake in and, even with knowledge of what’s to come, these obstacles are still sometimes incredibly difficult to avoid. Because the liquid reacts rather sluggishly, it’s next to impossible to pull off the quick turns the game often requires without losing a large amount of liquid. While you don’t need to retain all of the water throughout the level, it always feels like you’re doing something wrong, even when you technically succeed.
Another frustrating aspect is that, when you do inevitably split your stream into smaller puddles, the camera makes little effort to keep all it onscreen. Often times when trying to reunite your streams, you’ll be foiled by the camera zooming in on the larger of the two puddles, leaving you to guess where the rest of the liquid might be. This happened on almost every level and was always a huge irritant.
The one aspect that may get you to play through the entire game is the great art direction. Not only is each level gorgeous, there’s also a ton of variety. I don’t want to spoil the various environments you’ll encounter, but the developers got really creative with locations. Occasionally, the graphics will drastically change to fit the mood of a new challenge and it really helps make each level feel like a new experience.
Unfortunately, while the level progression and abstract story do consistently impress, the core gameplay is more frustrating than fun. If you just go crazy for physics-based games, maybe give this game a shot. Otherwise, you may want to wait for the next great thing to hit the eShop.
Developer: Neko Entertainment
Release: January 25, 2012
Available On: PlayStation Network (Vita), Wii U, Wii U, PlayStation Network (PS3), Mac, Xbox Live Marketplace, PC
Super Monkey Ball - Love It
World of Goo - Love It
Portal - Love It