I was happy to finally play a Vita game that made the back touch pad feel like the optimal way to play
In Puddle you are tasked with controlling something a little different than usual, liquid, through a wide variety of environments. If the name Puddle sounds a little familiar to you it is because the game originally came out on PS3 earlier this year. While there were some problems, Chris enjoyed it when he reviewed the PS3 version and I am pretty much in agreement with him. Puddle is an excellent puzzle platformer.
In each of the 48 levels you tilt the world left to maneuver liquid across an environment. What makes this mechanic interesting is that each liquid has different characteristics and therefore acts differently to movement and the environment. You have some liquids that tend to stick together, are explosive, others that you must periodically heat. These different liquids are coupled with varied environments that you must transport the liquid through. These are very imaginative and well laid out and range from such places as a sewer, power plant, and even the human body. Seeing where you will end up next and how the (very loose) story connects them was one of the highlights of the game for me.
Getting from one part of the environment to another isn’t always an easy thing to do. At the beginning of each level you have a certain amount of liquid and if you lose too much along the way (shown by your liquid indicator in the upper left corner) you need to restart the level over from the beginning. It can be quite a challenge to maneuver through the twists and turns of the environment while keeping your liquid intact and leaving as little behind as possible. There are also hazards that counteract with your liquid, like fire when controlling water, which can evaporate your liquid either instantly or after a short period of time when touching it. Because of this you have to balance getting through the environment as quickly as possible while trying to lose as little liquid as possible. If you manage to be speedy enough you can earn a bronze, silver or a gold medal (based on time and bonus based on the liquid above the needed amount). These medals are no cake walk either; for some levels you will need almost a perfect run to be able to get the coveted gold medal and acquiring all gold’s will definitely take a lot of skill. There is leaderboard support as well but it’s a bit lacking. All you can view is your overall time; there is no leaderboard for each level which really takes away from competing with your friends.
With challenging levels you need to have good controls, and Puddle has you covered. The game offers you four different control methods: L and R buttons, left analog stick, tilting the vita, and the rear touch pad. Since your only inputs for the game is tilting the screen left and right all of these inputs seemed to work well, but for most of my play though I stuck to using the rear touch pad. Just holding the vita and pressing the touch pad on the left and right edges felt really natural and less obstructive then the other control methods allowing me to concentrate more on what I was doing in each level.
One of the major problems with the PS3 version when it was first released was the loading (which has since been fixed via patching). Each time you reloaded a level you would have to sit through around 10 seconds of loading, which could get a tad bit annoying on that 15th retry of a stage. Not in the Vita version though. Reloading is done instantly and you don’t even have to go into the pause menu to do it. Simple pressing the select button does the trick. For those really hard levels that you simply can’t pass no matter how many times you retry, the game also includes a whine and skip mechanic. Up to four times during the game you can skip a level if you are having too much trouble and to get your whine back just go back and complete the level later on. It’s a helpful mechanic since the difficulty can be a little uneven from level to level.
On the way of getting transferred to a portable the biggest problem from the PS3 version was fixed, but the Vita version lost something along the way: The ending. Strangely when I finally managed to beat the final level (after many, many tries), the game just suddenly ended and went back to the main menu. While there wasn’t a lot of story throughout the game, there were short videos that connected all the locations together and I really expected something to finish it off. Also in the PS3 version the ending video contained a code that when entered on the credits screen unlocked a secret level. While this level is still in the Vita version, the code isn’t and if I never already knew of the level the chances of me playing it would have been pretty slim. (For those interested, the code is XXOOO/\)
While the Vita is capable of handling those big blockbuster story driven games it’s nice to have smaller titles like Puddle, which offer quick game play and a good challenge. It’s also nice when those games control well and I was happy to finally play a Vita game that made the back touch pad feel like the optimal way to play. While the game may be a little on the shorter side and it’s odd that there is no proper ending, Puddle is interestingly built, challenging, and most importantly fun.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
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