Puddle began life as a project developed by six students from a French videogame school. Independently developed games usually have the most innovative and original ideas, and Neko Entertainment’s Puddle is no different. Eschewing any form of tutorial, the game immediately launches you headfirst into its quirkiness.
You control a puddle of liquid, and must keep that pool of fluid together while navigating obstacles and heading towards a destination. The game is a physics-based puzzler, and the gameplay is entirely comprised of tilting the game world left and right to slow or speed up your liquid. In the first level, you sit staring at a cup of coffee on a table, and the game tells you nothing. Eventually you’ll realize by pressing buttons you can tilt the game world, and the coffee cup spills over. After that, you’ll need to use your brain to successfully navigate the pipes and obstacles. It’s a neat concept, and a lot more addictive than it sounds. It’s also much more difficult than it sounds, as hazards abound which seek to absorb or evaporate your puddle of liquid. If you lose too much fluid, the level will restart.
The game does a good job of slowly increasing the difficulty and complexity. It also will begin to throw various forms of liquid at you, such as acid that can burn through obstacles, nitro glycerin that can ignite if it gains too much momentum, and T-1000 style liquid metal that will slow to a crawl if it isn’t ran through a heat source.
If a puzzle begins to make your brain hurt, you have the option of using the game’s skip feature, called “whines”. You only get a set number of these however, so you’ll want to spend them only when absolutely necessary. When you successfully navigate a level, you’re given a ranking of Au, Ag or Cu (Gold, Silver, and Copper, respectively). Gold and silver medals unlock things to play around with in the game’s Laboratory mode, where you can experiment with liquids and environmental hazards.
Puzzle’s gameplay is deceptively simple, but later levels can require the patience of a saint and the steady hands of a surgeon. Casual gamers will likely be turned off by the difficulty spike near the end, but those who persevere will feel a real sense of accomplishment, and possibly expand their minds a bit.