Puddle Review (XBLA, PSN) -- Oozing Right Along

Neko Entertainment's puzzle platformer has its moments, but drowns in tiresome difficulty.

But design can only go so far if the game isn't fun.  At first, you can see where Puddle's appeal truly lies, with opening stages that let you get a hang of the gameplay and see what's at stake.  But ouf of nowhere, it gets diabolically deviant, and soon you'll be cursing up a rainstorm merely because you didn't figure out what was up ahead, or how to get around it.  The game doesn't provide any sort of hints, and its only sign of relief is the ability to use one of a limited number of "skip" tokens.  But skipping past a level doesn't do any good.  You want to feel the satisfaction of completing it.

Puddle doesn't let up either.  The game requires you to hit switches with a certain amount of water volume.  Some are relatively easy to reach; others require the degree of a biometric scholar just to get past.  It's ridiculously high, and while Neko thinks it's on the creative side, they didn't really provide much to help us get past some of the more impossible-looking ones.  A "peek" option at each level would've made things a little easier on us, as well as possible little arrow guides, or on-screen prompts, to let us know what's what.

If you can tolerate Puddle's ridiculously high difficulty (or, for that matter, the stuttering loading problems that occur when the game starts up -- that's mildly annoying), there are bonus levels you can unlock, if you explore enough, as well as online leaderboards that judge your best times.  There's some good ones out there, but these guys probably have scientific degrees on their walls.  And wear glasses.  (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

We can see why Konami chose to publish Neko's Puddle.  It does have some elements that definitely make for an interesting gameplay experience.  But the developer should have lightened up a little bit, to remind us what was fun about it in the first place.  Because, honestly, the only people who are going to see it through to the end are the Chuck Norris types that don't want an umbrella during a thunderstorm.  How drippy...