Nothing says indie game like something made by six French students for a class project. Puddle started out as an assignment to make a game with simple mechanics that anyone could pick up and play and went on to win the Student Showcase division at GDC 2010. Since then Konami has picked up the game for a full PSN/XBLA release.
Puddle’s controls are about as simple as you can get, use the shoulder buttons to lean the world to the left or right. That’s it. But gamers know that simple controls don’t necessarily mean easy difficulty and they’d be right in that idea. Leaning your world to the left or right makes the puddle of liquid move in that direction with realistic momentum as well as surface tension to hold it together.
Even just moving the puddle can be a bit of a challenge, go too fast and you’ll separate the puddle into more difficult to control smaller puddles. Add in jumps and other obstacles and you have yourself a game. The liquid you control depends on the theme of the level and varies from water to oil or even fertilizer all with different consistencies that you have to deal with. There are eight different themes with six levels in each theme.
The first theme I played was a plant nursery where your liquid would cause certain plants you stopped on to grow for a natural elevator. Things were going great until I got to a larger elevator with deadly something or other on each side that I had to try and dodge. If you lose too much liquid the level will start over, and that’s exactly what happened.
Next I tried out a human body based level that was extremely well presented. It used what appeared to be an actual X-ray as the environment and uvula-like triggers to open up the next section of the patient’s digestive tract. I soon came upon a section where you had to hide in valleys periodically while acid sprayed overhead periodically. My lack of timing made the level end here for me.
A laboratory setting was up next so I felt right at home. This time the liquid was contained in a beaker surrounded by a hot surface that would evaporate the liquid if it ever touched it. I dodged centrifuges that were dangerously open (not common lab practice) that would have knocked over the beaker if I wasn’t careful. Victory didn’t elude me this time and I actually made it to the end.
Finally I played two snippets of levels in a nuclear power plant theme. First I used the tension of the water to hang onto the power lines heading into the plant and jumped from line to line where gaps required. It was interesting seeing the game try to simulate the complex relationship between the surface tension and the liquid's momentum. After that was the coolest looking level of the bunch, a blueprint for the power plant itself. Everything was made to look like a sketching including the liquid you were controlling. Unfortunately I was having so much fun looking around that I died instantly and it was time to go.
While the controls and perhaps mechanics may be simple I’m impressed with all the places these guys took it. Eight themes may not seem like a ton but when they’re all as vastly different as the ones I played I think it’ll work perfectly fine. This will be the perfect thing to cool off with this Summer when it releases on PSN and XBLA.