Puddle, previously released on other platforms, is now making a splash on the Wii U eShop.
Despite being released on the 360 and PS3 a year ago, and other platforms like Android and the Vita since, Puddle is just now making its way to the Wii U. But if you're like me and haven't played this challenging physics puzzle game yet, the Wii U version is rather impressive and possibly the best. This isn't because there is any new content with the Wii U version, rather it's because it plays so well on the Gamepad.
Despite having forty-nine levels, the game itself actually isn't very long given that most levels can be completed in under two minutes. However like most puzzlers, Puddle makes up for its brevity by being stoutly challenging after the first two chapters or so. For me the challenges began in the third chapter, the laboratory, where you control a puddle of hydrocarbon, at least to begin with. Besides the challenge, certain levels offer optional challenges and there are online leaderboards with roughly three thousand scores submitted at the time of this writing.
So what is Puddle, exactly? Well, in Puddle, the player controls literally a puddle of liquid (well, for the vast majority of the game). This liquid might be as familiar as water or as deadly as weed killer, and a variety of other liquids come into play as well. Each substance has its unique features, i.e., water evaporates with heat, the weed killer can be destroyed by certain plants, and nitro blows itself up if thrown around too much. The challenge to the player is to get from A to B while maintaining as much of your original puddle as possible. This is done by tilting the gameworld to the left or right using either ZL+ZR or actually tilting your Gamepad. All the while, you have to account for the physics involved -- speed, gravity, friction, even temperature and other particulars. The level ends when you have reached the end goal, or, if you lose enough of your puddle to the environment, the level ends in failure. Failed attempts can either be restarted with no load times, or the player can opt to use one of four "Whines," which is the name given to the ability to skip that particular level and move on to the next one.
Like a lot of these indie puzzlers, the premise is simple, and deceptively so. Picking up the mechanics of Puddle is a no brainer -- but executing those actions gets to be a real challenge before too long. At first, when you're racking up Gold awards on your first attempt of each level, you might start to think, as I did, that you had this game's number. But Puddle turns the heat up and then it becomes time to really focus. This is where some players might realize that the reward isn't worth the effort anymore while others may see this surge in difficulty to be welcomed. I was somewhere in the middle, to be honest. I found the challenges addictive, and I refused to use a Whine, but for all its charm and accessibility, this is not a game I see myself chipping away at in frustration. I have yet to complete all forty-nine levels, having hit some brick walls myself. With my attention constantly being pulled in other directions, I'm likely to move on before completing the game but it's one I could see revisiting at some point. The ability to quickly and quietly fire it up on the Wii U makes it just that much more accessible, and that's a significant benefit to the Wii U that I'm appreciating more as time goes on.
In fact, what struck me first about Puddle on the Wii U was just how pretty it looked on the Gamepad. I actually didn't even play this game on the TV at all because it really doesn't benefit from it. Given the nature of how the game controls -- either with ZL and ZR or by tilting the Gamepad -- it behooves you to just play it on the Gamepad screen. I felt slightly more immersed in playing on the Gamepad than I would have otherwise. That said, the colorful and interesting graphics go hand-in-hand with the impressive physics that the core of the gameplay is built around. You'll quickly learn to adjust your speed and playstyle to whatever type of liquid you are controlling, and the differences between the types is clear. Level design throughout the multiple chapters and stages stays surprisingly fresh and interesting, not to mention challenging.
Overall, Puddle's simple concept, high accessibility, creative presentation, and addictive challenge make it a standout title on the eShop that Wii U owners should strongly consider, although money conscience would do well to wait for this to drop down to $4 or $5.