Let me drink his water.

In the whiz-bang that is next generation, console gaming, it’s always refreshing to encounter a title that pays attention to the little things. By ‘little,’ I’m referring to high quality physics engines, sound mapping, 3D textures, and/or control interface nuances. It’s amazing how these seeming after thoughts in big budget titles become glaring roadblocks, however, if even slightly off. Think bunnies with devil horns.

‘Puddle’ is anything but big budget title or cocker spaniel souvenir, instead the beautiful by-product of a student game development team looking to be a contenduh. The premise of Puddle is a fairly simple one: navigate – via simple tilt, motion or bumper controls - liquids of various kinds through assortments of traps, devices, and ‘boss’ battle puzzles. Keep said liquid above a certain threshold, or the level ends. Puddle offers a liberal level skip feature if a particular stage is driving you batty. And batty you will certainly become.

See, the problem with Puddle is an omnipresence of being close…but no cigar. Meaning, the game almost gets it right in so many ways, but is always one step behind in proper execution.

To elaborate, the premise of Puddle is an outstanding one…but the liquids inherent in the literal title never truly feel like, well, liquids. They don’t move like it, interact with objects as expected, nor possess a dynamic feel of constant flow Puddle is clearly aspiring toward. It’s not that Puddle is that far off in this regard (note stogie reference above), but enough to detract from what should be a more engaging gameplay experience. To put it best, imagine the difference of manipulating milk shake versus H2O through giant straws…with a requirement for exact precision when doing so. This hydration versus ice creamy goodness discrepancy becomes glaring with movements confined to tilting only. Oy, what a dairy mess!

As a comparison point - and while the ‘Hydrophobia’ series didn’t blow me away - it nevertheless presented a physics engine where water can, in fact, move naturally. Ditto for ‘Portal 2’ gel levels, where flow and/or liquid-to-hard substance interaction looked as it should. Puddle, however, is always just a physics smidge behind. In giving it some considerable thought plus gameplay time, I’ve deduced expedited flow combined with more randomized droplet-to-liquid, mass formation might correct Puddle’s physics shortcomings. Perhaps a patch toward this end and/or adjustable sliders would do the trick.

The unwanted stepchild of said physics misstep is Puddle’s accidental high difficulty, one where completing what should be semi-obvious puzzles devolves into near-endless trial and error in how to tilt the screen j-u-s-t right. Kindly note the absence of ramp-up period toward this end; Puddle becomes confounding hard only the second level in. In tandem, I simply can’t understand why the game penalizes for droplets off screen but seemingly on their way to join watery friends. If you’re going to count literally every last drop, don’t turn off the spout due to auto-advance. Even the itsy-bitsy spider doesn’t approve.

A third Puddle pet peeve is the proliferation of loading screens…plus their length when retrying levels. Endless, epic fail…combined with long waits to retry said fail…equates to a rough go-round. In my case, a desire to fling beloved DualShock 2 through nearest screen. (Sorry, PlayStation 3DTV. It’s me, not you.)

The loading conundrum is likely part of a bigger data question; there’s clearly something remiss in how Puddle’s code is both cached and housed within its core engine. Puddle took eons to download and install for a game barely over 1GB in size. Perhaps an inevitable outcome of a student project, one where code development is a work in progress versus final say.

These criticisms aside, Puddle is not a bad game…and certainly both original and hipster cool. Changing substance type via environmental interaction is always fun, and the game’s underlying sense of humor constantly evident if looked for. Puddle’s soundtrack and audio-visuals also stand tall and proud; there’s oodles of polish on what is a very affordable PSN offering. Last and worth noting, Puddle seems tailor-made for motion sensitive portables. Thus, I wasn’t surprised to discover it slated for the upcoming Vita.

“Puddle for PSN is a clever, affordable puzzler in need of some subtle tweaks.” Questionable physics, difficulty, and loading mechanics serve as speed bumps in what is otherwise a solid, original title. 6.5

  • Nifty concept
  • Solid presentation value
  • Good price
  • Lack of ‘water’ feel
  • Highest difficulty
  • Loading en masse
Quote: "Puddle for PSN is a clever, affordable puzzler in need of some subtle tweaks."
Reviewed by Paul Stuart - 02.10.12 - Platform Reviewed: Playstation 3






US Release
February '12



Players 1
Trophy Support
Price $9.99