CGRundertow PUDDLE for Xbox 360 Video Game Review
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CGRundertow PUDDLE for Xbox 360 Video Game Review

Man. Puddle is a hard word to say on mic without
something going absolutely haywire. Two plosives and an alveolar lateral approximate. All of
those words? Easier to say on mic than Puddle. So I’ll boil it down to its basic components:
This is a game about fluid dynamics, one which looked at LocoRoco’s mechanics and said,
“Yeah, that’s a good idea.” But it decided to do without the pervasive cuteness of the
LocoRoco series. All that adorable false-language babble is thrown to the curb. This is a more
stylish and elegant game for a more stylish time. Even if you’re dealing with… erm.
Wastewater. Your goal concerns a fluid, be it water, coffee,
petroleum, or ammonium nitrate, as it flows through a course littered with a diverse array
of hazards, from inexplicably heated industrial plumbing to various forms of plant life to
a laboratory full of centrifuges, trap doors, and the occasional blowtorch. Your interaction
with said liquid is minimized, though; to wit, all you can do is tilt the world to the
left or right, and even then only to an angle of about 30 degrees. That’s it. That’s
your entire involvement with the game. The rest is all about gravity, viscosity, hydrostatic
pressure, and speed. But, like every equilibrium, you’re fighting
two opposing forces in the completion of each stage: Speed and accuracy. While you need
only a small sample of your starting allocation of fluid in order to “pass” each of the
game’s four dozen levels, the more you maintain, the better your score. And while some games
would be content just giving you a number, Puddle goes one further into breaking down
the exact scoring mechanics, right there in front of you, so there’s no question whatsoever.
See that? It’s a SCORE VECTOR. It starts from your time and rises proportional to the
mass of liquid you carry through to the end of the stage. And where mass intersects time,
your metal – I’m sorry, Medal – for the course is awarded. Damn plosives. Visually, there’s a striking minimalism
to the graphics that I believe does well to accentuate what is, or is not, a part of the
gameplay. In this case, the walls are flat black, as though they are thrust completely
to the foreground, almost as though you were trying to roll a coffee spill through the
opening credits of Mad Men. Frankly, I think the simplicity is for the best, because the
gameplay itself is anything but. It’s a very easy premise to grasp, but the actual
execution on the part of the player – vis a vis, you – is intense. As far as puzzle
games go, this is among the most adrenaline-pumping I’ve played, possibly because it’s rooted
in constant, realistic action. Though sometimes convoluted, this is less an abstraction like
Tetris or Puzzle League, and more a physical exercise in timing, judgment, and control. Puddle is available for the PlayStation Network
and XBox Live Arcade, and if you’ve ever played LocoRoco on mute, you’ll probably
be right at home here. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about a little cuteness
now and then, but sometimes, you just want SCIENCE. And that’s what Puddle offers.


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