Casual puzzle games like Puddle are a conundrum to me. I enjoy kicking back with a casual game when I’m watching TV or if I need a few minutes to myself at the office. But to spend my valuable free gaming time playing a casual game does not make sense to me. If I’m at home in front of my desktop, I would rather devote my time to a serious PC game way beyond the capabilities of a smart phone.
I’m not belittling puzzle games by any means. If you prefer spending your time with Solitaire or Bejeweled instead of Assassin’s Creed or BioShock, then more power to you. But, as a writer with an audience of hardcore PC gamers, it’s easy to be honest: if I can’t play a casual game on my smart phone or tablet, I’m not spending my time playing it on my desktop.
Being a puzzle game, Puddle is without a story… unless you count a little puddle of liquid making its way from point A to point B as a story. I do not, and I’m the one writing the review, so there!
That said I will certainly not take points away from Puddle for not having a story. It’s a puzzle game, after all… they cannot all be Portal, now, can they?
The meat and potatoes of any puzzle game are its gameplay. And the foundation of a solid, successful casual game is ease of control. Puddle is as simple to control as tilting the screen back and forth with the left and right arrow keys. Your charge is to guide a puddle of various types of liquids through obstacle courses by using your friends: the laws of fluid dynamics. The player moves the liquid by tilting the environment, much like the classic game Marble Madness, and the less classic game Super Monkey Ball. The puddle's movement is affected by gravity, inertia, and friction, so clever manipulation of the motion of the environment is the primary path to success.
But it's not as simple as it sounds. Your little puddle of goo needs to make its way through an obstacle course that will separate it and destroy/evaporate it. Depending on the level you're on, your puddle can be made up of various substances from water to pesticide, all the way to highly volatile nitroglycerine. The player must be careful to avoid environmental dangers that will destroy the puddle. For example, when guiding water you must carefully steer clear of fire, or else your puddle evaporates. When you cross the finish line, you must have a minimum amount of fluid to be successful. If you do not keep your puddle "gathered" throughout the level, droplets break away, and these droplets can be lost and unrecoverable. This will also affect your ability to complete a level with a minimum level of fluid. After each level you are rated based on your performance, and you can earn bonuses based on the amount of fluid you finished with and how quickly you finished the level. For those levels that are too difficult, you have a limited number free passes to progress.
Puddle is a solid puzzle game, but its appeal quickly wears thin. The concept is as basic as it sounds, and there is no more to it than what you would expect. Again, it is an ideal game for a smart phone where you might play it in small chunks when you need to kill a few minutes. But on a PC, I would rather play something else.
Puddle is not a game that will challenge your system. There is not much on offer, graphically, that will catch your eye or push your GPU. But the overall style of the game is charming, and serves the lighthearted tone of the game.
And that's it. There's really not much else to talk about here. It's a 2D casual game meant to play on low end PCs and laptops.
Like the graphics, Puddle's audio is simple. The game's music stands out as working particularly well for the game. It's a funny, quirky collection of tunes that serves the tone of the game well.
I did not experience any bugs, glitches, or crashes.
While some may argue I am criticizing Puddle unfairly based on its genre, I believe a game's platform is important to its overall relevance. No one would want to play Assassin's Creed III on an underpowered smart phone with a 4" screen and touch controls.
Puddle is a nice enough little puzzle game, but a game that's really better on Android and iOS. Given its gameplay, it's more fun on a device with a built-in gyroscope (e.g., a smart phone and tablet) since you can play it without touching a single button. I would play Puddle quite a bit on my Galaxy Note II, but in Android form, it is not compatible with my device (it's a Tegra title). As a PC game, I will likely never touch it again.
It's a puzzle game, so a story is not expected.
The controls are easy to pick up and understand, but like many casual games, it loses its appeal after a play session longer than 15-20 minutes. It's better suited to a handheld device.
They're nothing special, but the visuals serve the game's purpose well enough.
The music is fun and fits the tone of the game.
FINAL SCORE: C+