Friday, March 02, 2012

The Friday Review: Puddle (XBLA, PSN, PC)

Puddle (demo)
review by CJ

Well, so far we've given you mostly great games to look up, but this time I've got beef. Actually, I like beef, so I'll call it turkey. It may look like chicken, but don't be fooled! Puddle is about guiding liquids through a maze of obstacles by tilting the map left and right, and letting gravity do the rest of the work; however I sense a far more nefarious purpose lurking within those seemingly harmless, oozing liquids.

"Reviewing a demo?" you say. "Is that fair?" you ask. Yes. In this "Golden Age" of gaming, there is so much good content being released on nearly a weekly basis, that I simply don't have time to play every good game that comes along, let alone the bad ones. I believe this is why demos are so necessary, as it allows the consumer to decide for themselves which games are worth their time. I didn't even finish Puddle's demo. I mention that I played only the demo as a disclaimer. I suppose it's possible that the worst levels were put into the demo to display the ultimate level of difficulty the game eventually achieves, but since it was a demo, I expect that it is a representation of the majority of the game's levels, rather than the exceptions. Now let's get down to the bottom of this gooey mess.


- Puzzles. It claims to be a puzzle game, and it delivers. If you love puzzles, are a glutton for punishment, and have so much time on your hands that you are sick of all the great games flooding the market, this may be enough reason for you to try out Puddle.


- Trial, error, and luck. If you like to solve puzzles through logic and quick reflexes, play something else. When your options are pull the left trigger or the right trigger, there's not a whole lot of thinking going on. Most of the puzzles are solved through endless repetition until you get a favorable result; which is an unknown variable. A single lost drop early on may mean not having enough liquid to survive later down the line.

- Long and complicated. Other than the early learning levels, you aren't going to pass on the first try, as you can never tell what's coming, and more often than not a single miss-tilt, even for just a moment, can mean sudden, or eventual death. At times I found myself plodding along, as slow and carefully as I could, so that nothing could surprise me, just to find that what I needed was some serious speed and momentum, and that it was my caution that killed me.

- Start over. No checkpoints. This may not be unusual for puzzle games, but for me this was the breaking point. Nothing is worse than finally getting to the end of the level, after twenty tries, just to be taken out by the final obstacle, and having to start all over from the beginning again, taking another ten tries to get to the end again, just to have a second chance at figuring out how to get through to the end. And it may take five tries on that final puzzle before you get by.

- Impossible. Seriously. There were a couple levels of the demo that I just gave up on (one before I could even get anywhere significant) because of how ridiculous the difficulty was. Mostly this is because of the above mentioned problems, but even without them, there were some obstacles which I simply could not get past.

SUMMARY:  I'd rather have an anvil dropped on my head than play Puddle again. It would be less painful. Maybe I'm just not cut out for this level of difficulty, but I don't know anyone who would rather get angry at a game than enjoy it.

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