If I wanted to suggest a game that would appeal to the widest range of players, from small child to the disabled to a brilliant adult engineer or gamer, it would be Puddle.
If you love to watch fluids flow, from coffee to rocket fuel or decomposed rat (yes, rat rot) and just have fun making them flow in strange, interesting or even funny ways, this game can be JUST that simple. And if you reach a level where more demands are made, and the player is unwilling to commit intellectually, they can take one of four “whines” (two whines on “extreme” skill level) in order to skip that difficult level. Each category grows more challenging as it progresses, and each group is VERY different from the preceding one. Each fluid flows differently, and is affected by factors such as fire or consumption by carnivorous plants (though gratefully not on the same level.) A glass globe filled with water must be handled with great delicacy, as must nitroglycerin, both in the Laboratory section. (But it may also be necessary to CAUSE small amounts of the nitro to detonate to proceed. Or to sacrifice fluids to make a branch break to facilitate a pathway, or destroy a container to free a fluid to flow. Such skills are a bit beyond the “small child” level.) Some fluids are highly flammable, but can also be extinguished if action is taken quickly. Sometimes “winning” may consist of sending a flaming mass of liquid pouring quickly over the finish line (though not likely with a high score).
For those seeking an intellectual challenge on an intensely scientific level, this game is just a little slice of heaven. While in its simplest form this game is simply gravity acting upon fluids, Puddle vastly exceeds the simple. Anyone not familiar and comfortable with the phrase “water seeks its own level” may find themselves at a severe disadvantage, but understanding Newton’s laws of motion is REALLY helpful. Ultimately, as there are only two buttons, there are also two goals: get as much of the original fluid mass to the finish line as quickly as possible. If the constantly monitored fluid level drops below a preset amount, you lose. If it doesn’t, you WIN! What you win is gold, silver, copper, or simply completion. The scoring is given in the form of a rather sophisticated graph where the meeting points of the two measured variables are displayed in comparison to the three award levels. Players are also informed if their score is a new record.
It takes skill and intelligence to use the force of gravity alone to keep the fluid in a compact mass, especially when it’s gravity trying to spread it out and break it into separate droplets. On several game levels that may be helpful, on others, the deal breaker. Some fluids, such as water, slosh about and need to be “damped” (as is done with the swinging weight hanging from an overhead crane.) Often trailing bits of fluid must to sacrificed so that the leading mass isn’t slowed as it crosses flame, or other reductive forces. Knowing that science will help the trailing fluid to move faster, thus pushing the slowly moving leading fluid quickly over a destructive force is often critical. So is trusting that momentum will keep fluid moving uphill if direction is changed as early as possible, helping the full mass end up downhill faster than if you waited. The real challenge in this game is trimming milliseconds off the time, and adding the tinniest fraction of a drop to the mass by speeding it along instead of waiting that extra tenth of a second.
For many disabled or impaired players, this game is “perfectly” simple. All that’s required for play are the left and right arrow keys to tilt the world displayed onscreen (though split-second timing can be VERY crucial in many levels.) I have played exclusively on the Mac version, and Puddle does not appear to have adaptability for colorblind players. The game is very nearly photo-real with a wide range of colors, and the fluids themselves often change color during play. I can’t speak for how this might be an issue for the “color-impaired”.
There are some issues with Puddle. If your fluid gets broken into several masses, the camera may ignore the one needed for completion. I’ve had to manually close games when I was unable to even know where the remaining fluid was, much less maneuver it effectively. On my Mac the mouse is useless in the menus. The menus themselves need LOTS of work. It would also be nice if the score you were trying to beat was shown in some way on the score screen, or better still, in the graph. To see what scoring you’ve achieved on each level takes several steps more than could possibly be necessary. Some levels (Human Body: Tension & Stout Hearted) are FAR more difficult and cumbersome, bordering on impossible, on my Mac than what I’ve seen on YouTube.
All in all, the BEST $2.49 I’ve ever spent on a game in my life. I expect to be playing this game for quite some time to come.