It’s really interesting that I’m reviewing Fluidity the day after the Spike Video Game Awards. Watching the awards show yesterday, it became clear to me that we are no longer in an era where pure originality and an interesting game mechanic can garner the acclaim of the average gamer and that games without multi-million dollar budgets will ultimately be thrown by the wayside. And yet, even in this cutthroat environment, some developers still believe in challenging the popular and introducing something new. Curve Studios, the developer behind the Nintendo published Fluidity, is one of those of those studios that challenges the norm and does it successfully.
The game’s idea is simple. The player gains indirect control of a moving pool of water that traverses throughout a variety of landscapes in order to to cleanse the land of Aquatica of an evil ink-like substance known as “The Influence”. However, in order to move about the land, the player must control the water by tilting the landscape with the Wii Remote. Essentially, the player holds the Wii Remote horizontally to tilt the environment and make the water move while flicking the Wii Remote upward will make the water jump. The controls are intuitive and feel tailor-made for the Wii. Most games for Wii use motion controls in ways that can substituted by buttons but in Fluidity’s case, motion controls are essential for the play experience and make it that much more enjoyable.
Throughout the game, the water also gains new abilities such as gathering, exploding out into a hydro pump and transforming into a rain cloud to zap enemies with electricity. And, in addition to the abilities, the water even gains new forms such as ice and steam. Mastery of each of these forms and abilities is crucial if you want to earn each of the “rainbow drops” (the multi-colored dew drops that are needed to wash the Influence away) and puzzle pieces, which open up the environment and unlock bonus levels. Honestly, Fluidity feels equal parts Banjo-Kazooie and Pixeljunk Shooter and that is most certainly a good thing. The use of the water’s abilities and forms as well as the feeling of achievement that is gained from collecting each of the drops and puzzle pieces feels exactly like Banjo while the physical feel of the water, the way it moves and how it interacts with the environment screams Shooter.
The water physics are surprisingly realistic as well and unlike Shooter, it feels much more like real water and a lot less solid. Droplets will get lost from the main pool that the player controls, water will be shot out of geysers that you’ll have to tilt the environment in order to aim and water eventually evaporates if it doesn’t find its way back to the main pool in time. At first, the highly-realistic physics will seem frustrating and in your first play of the first level, you’ll lose a large amount of water but thankfully, the game knows this and is forgiving. In no time, you’ll be traversing large gaps by shooting out of giant water windmills or rolling through cracks in the ground without losing a single water droplet and that feeling of perfection is enormously satisfying.
Fluidity‘s presentation is also wonderful. The game, visually, has a very clean cut cartoon feel without looking like a game for children and simply watching the game’s slick physics engine work its magic on the water is beautiful. The music in Fluidity also does a lot to add to the atmosphere: the soft xylophone melodies and quiet underlying drum beats give the game’s universe a very comfortable and relaxed feel. In addition to the music and visuals, the game’s map is also extremely helpful. Simply by pressing the “-” button, players can access a Metroidvania-like map that shows each of the game’s levels in relation to the other areas of the world.
Overall, Fluidity was one of the best gaming experiences I have had in all of 2010. In a year of high-budget sequels and franchise reboots, Fluidity takes us back to gaming’s true roots and reminds us why we all play games in the first place. After a feast of strong content on all platforms in 2010, Fluidity acts as the year’s palette cleansing after-dinner mint but, in this case, the mint was better than most of the main entree. Fluidity is, without question, the best game available on the Nintendo’s WiiWare service thanks to its perfect controls, excellent play mechanic, slick presentation, and extremely high level of replay value. Fluidity lasts longer than most disc-based games nowadays so at a price of 1,200 Wii Points, about twelve dollars, it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed under any circumstance. Come VGTribune’s Game of the Year votes next month, I would not be surprised to see Fluidity at the top of my list.
VG Tribune gives Fluidity 10 out of 10
This review was based off of a copy of the title provided to us by Nintendo of America.