E3 2011: Puddle First Look Preview
We went for a splash through the physics-based puzzles of Puddle.
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Konami's E3 booth may have been dominated by the likes of PES, Metal Gear Solid, and No More Heroes, but tucked behind the giant monitors and gangs of booth babes were a number of smaller downloadable games. One of the most interesting was Puddle, a physics-based puzzle-platform game that has you guiding a blob of water around a range of obstacles and mazes.
Who's Making It: Puddle started out life as a student project, which was showcased at the 2010 Game Developers Conference. It went on to win the Student Showcase award, attracting the attention of Konami, who's publishing the game on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. The same group of French students is still working on getting the game ready for release, so despite the big publisher involvement, the game should retain its indie charm.
What It Looks Like: Puddle doesn't push the boundaries of design, or indeed the power of the consoles it runs on, but it holds a certain charm. The blob of water you control shimmers and moves like the real deal, with objects passing behind it becoming distorted. The environments range from metallic structures filled with glowing pylons, through to simple levels populated with just the blob of water and a single puzzle to solve.
What You Do: The first level we played was called Fireman, and it had us controlling a stream of water, which we had to use to put out a fire on a burning pylon. The fire was split into three sections that all needed putting out as fast as possible; otherwise, other sections would reignite. Another look took place on a telephone wire. We had to carefully guide the water across the wires and make it to the end of the level. If we moved too fast, the water would bunch up, becoming too heavy and falling off the wire. There were also gaps to traverse that required long run-ups to get the required speed. The final level we saw was called Yellow Cake. Our blob of water was trapped in a maze of small tunnels, populated with areas of live electricity that would evaporate our water.
How It Plays: There were two ways we could control the water: by using the triggers or by tilting the controller in the PlayStation 3 version. Rather than move the water itself, tilting the controller moved the environment, simulating pouring. Getting the level of tilt right was tricky, particularly in maze sections filled with obstacles at the end of long slopes and tight corners. The controls worked well, though it was easier to use the triggers, which felt more accurate than the motion controls.
What We Say: Puddle is an interesting concept, but it does bear more than a striking resemblance to Curve Studio's excellent Hydroventure. Regardless of its origins, there's lots of potential for interesting puzzles and skilful platforming. Puddle will be out on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in Q3 of this year. Head over to our E3 hub for more from this year's show.