Games aimed at the core PlayStation audience are what many PS Vita owners want to see push Sony’s handheld to its limits, but it’s also an ideal platform for puzzle games that you can dip into and pick-up-and-play when you fancy a break from the intensity of fire-fights and in-depth storylines.
Originally released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in January, Puddle is just that: an accessible 2D puzzle platformer that requires players to navigate a body of fluid around a series of levels controlling its momentum to get past obstacles and complete a series of courses.
The PS3 version of Puddle took advantage of the DualShock 3/SIXAXIS or PS Move’s motion-sensing capabilities, and a similar control method is available in this Vita port as players can use the gyroscope feature to help move the liquid around the levels by tilting it at different angles. However, Puddle also offers conventional control methods via the analogue sticks or shoulder buttons, so you can choose whatever scheme feels most comfortable.
The tilt functionality works well and makes controlling the mass of liquid feel as if you’re physically holding one of those old-fashioned wooden maze games where you needed to tilt the board in different directions to find a path through a maze. That physical interaction makes Puddle feel more immersive than when using conventional controls, but the margin for error is small and using the tilt method is much more difficult to master. This is largely because the liquid can break up with the slightest of movements which can be frustrating; however, it’s also part of game’s challenge that some players may relish.
The idea of Puddle is not to lose over half of the mass of liquid as you travel around the course. Along the twisting and winding levels there are plenty of obstacles to navigate, including jumps, fire-pits and puzzles, such as having to use the weight of the liquid to trigger pathways through to a new area. There are different types of liquids too which pose new problems. Water, for example, can be absorbed by fire, while chemical liquid may explode upon heavy impact with a wall.
With 49 levels available, the challenge and complexity of the levels gets more intense so the addition of tips is a nice touch, while the ability to be able to skip a tricky level and come back to it ensures you don’t have to spend hours on a course that you’re having problems completing.
While its attractive visual design and good variety of levels has ensured we’ve played Puddle with that “one more go” mentality, gameplay impresses most with its finely-tuned physics engine. Liquid realistically interacts with objects and majestically flows around each stage as the ambient soundtrack tinkers away nicely in the background giving gameplay a hypnotic feel. Success is all about achieving the best score and beating online opponents by getting to the finishing line as quick as possible and with the most liquid intact, so there’s some replay value to be had in competing for the most coveted places on the leaderboard.
Puddle doesn’t exactly re-invent the puzzle genre, but it is a fun game to play with a good variety of levels that require logic and thought to complete. Costing approximately £7, it’s also decent value for money if you’re a fan of the genre. Though the trial and error approach to some sections can get a little infuriating, it should appeal if you’re up for a real challenge.
-The Final Word-
Trail and error approach can frustrate, but Puddle's attractive aesthetic and increasingly difficult challenges make it one of Vita's top puzzlers.