Then in July, Neko released a downloadable version of the game for PlayStation Vita, and I'm happy to say that Puddle has finally trickled down into its natural home. Now that it's on the Vita, it seems perfect for portable play, and extremely well-suited to the Vita's overwhelmingly numerous control options.
Of course, the most literal control method is available: you can tilt the Vita system left and right, actually tipping the game world over as you do. But that's not necessary. I opted not to do that because I prefer to be able to watch the screen closely instead of shaking it around. You can also use the left analog stick to tilt, or – in one of the more sensible uses of the functionality – hold the left or right side of the rear touch pad.
My favorite, for ease of use reasons if not realism, is to simply push the L and R buttons to tilt the world, LocoRoco-style. I appreciate the options, and I generally prefer that approach to the usual Vita "use every possible input simultaneously" scheme. This way, Neko avoids the missed opportunity of not using the Vita's tilt feature ... but I also don't have to play using the tilt feature.
As for the game itself, it's entertainingly insane. The first few levels have you controlling water, which you have to fling past open flames quickly enough to avoid evaporation. One exciting early level has you attempting to raise the heat inside a pressure cooker, by tapping buttons found on either side, in order to cause it to explode and allow your escape.
Other levels have you control a puddle of weed killer, melting mosses and grass as you dribble down branches, or fertilizer that uses rapid-growing plants as elevators, or a solution traveling through a bloodstream. Each fluid has unique properties and interacts with different parts of the environment differently, varying the gameplay.
If some of those varying challenges are too hard and you repeatedly lose all of your liquid to the elements (this will happen), you have the option of using a "whine" to skip to the next level. These are a limited resource, refilled by legitimately finishing a "whined" level, and, like the controls, I appreciate having the option.
Even though the game is frequently incredibly difficult, I'm still left with the impression that Puddle is a serene experience. That has a lot to do with the quiet nature of the game: you're guiding water (or whatever) through environmental puzzles, rather than directly manipulating a character through combat. It also has a lot to do with the hypnotic, lava lamp-like movement of the fluids.
Puddle is available for $7.99 on the PlayStation Store. We're always looking for new distractions. Want to submit your game for Portabliss consideration? You can reach us at portabliss aat joystiq dawt com.