Did you ever do those experiments in high school chemistry where you lit the Bunsen burner, and then used an eyedropper to see how many drops of water it would take to extinguish the flame before the teacher caught you goofing off? Or, better yet, college chemistry class, where things exploded if you dropped the wrong type of liquid on them? It might end in serious consequences, but the point is, you proved that liquid is not a state of matter to be messed with.
This brings me to 'Puddle', a new game for Xbox Live Arcade. Simplistic controls and challenging physics platform puzzles makes this is good game to play in small doses. The controls are the left and right triggers, used to tilt your screen in either of those directions, as you guide the liquid of the level through varying environments, all with their own challenges to the type of liquid. It's very basic, yes, but it is fun once you get into the flow (sorry) of the game.
The first area involves water, so there are fiery areas that you must either move across very quickly, avoid, or 'jump' over, using the momentum of your tilts. This gets challenging quickly, as you have to use different pressures on the triggers to get the right amount of thrust forward. It starts out easy enough: guide the liquid through one straight pathway. Subsequent levels in the area throw in the heated hazards, and sometimes jets of flame, that you must navigate around.
You do have a timer on each level, but, more importantly, you have a set amount of liquid in your puddle, shown in a little test tube on your screen. In the water level, droplets can evaporate instantly if they hit fire, and if they separate from the main cluster, you will lose liquid. If you run out, or fall below the minimum limit, you lose the level, and are give an option to 'Whine and Skip', should you so choose. You start out with two allowable whines, and then you must go back. Unlocking the levels that gave you a challenge before opens up new areas, new liquids, and new challenges. It is addictive, and you'll find yourself trying and retrying levels until you get the puddle through.
The levels and liquids get more challenging, acting differently in flow, and allowing for new and interesting environmental hazards. The levels often come down to trial and error, figuring out exactly how much pressure you must apply to the triggers, as well as how much or how little liquid you can allow to escape from your puddle. There's even a level involving stomach acid. I'll leave the heartburn jokes to the professionals amongst the Joystick Division staff.
Overall, it's a fun, challenging, and addictive little game. The level design is clever, and you'll find yourself thinking of everything you remember about the properties of water and other liquids from science class all those years ago. I had a good amount of fun, and while it's not a game that I would play for long periods of time, it is a good example of a polished product made out of a game originally created by students. I'd recommend checking it out, especially if you're a fan of unique puzzle games.
The Official Verdict: 4 out of 5
This review is based on an Xbox Live Arcade download provided by the publisher.