The original Fluidity, from British developer Curve Studios, came out in North America as an exclusive on the WiiWare service at the end of 2010, making it the perfect little game to knock out quickly over my holiday break; or so I thought at the time. The game ended up surprising me in many ways, taking the basic concept of controlling a water in its various forms and churning out a long, deep, and fully engaging physics-based adventure / platformer that had a lot in common with Super Metroid. It took me well over 20 hours to finish the game to my satisfaction. I would have reviewed Fluidity myself, but Guillaume beat me to it, and I find it difficult to disagree with anything that he said.
But this isn’t a review of Fluidity, this is a review of its sequel, Fluidity: Spin Cycle (also from Curve Studios), which takes the basic concept of the console game and modifies it to create a brand new handheld sequel on the 3DS. Does it live up to the brilliant original?
I wonder who built all of these locks that require fish to open them?
Fluidity: Spin Cycle puts you in the role of a water spirit named Eddy who must find rescue his rainbow spirit sisters, trapped in a wizard’s storybook by the the evil Goop. The game humanizes Eddy a bit more than its predecessor, giving him a personified form, although this change does not reflect itself in the gameplay, and his new form is really only shown at the beginning and end of each stage and for reaction shots on the bottom screen. The overarching plot of rescuing the rainbow spirits never really evolves either, and leaves a lot to be desired. What I found much more interesting are the unique interactions that you will find yourself engaging in with various NPCs, which include helping a botanist to collect flower samples, a secret agent to infiltrate an enemy’s base, and a rusty robot to complete the tasks that his programming demands of him but he is no longer able to complete on his own, among others. Helping the NPCs adds a personal touch to many of the stages.
The controls in Fluidity: Spin Cycle are kind of a mixed bag. To give some perspective, I felt this way about the original game as well, but I think that they are maybe even a bit tougher to manage here. You move Eddy by tilting the 3DS, and all other actions are accomplished with a mix of the shoulder buttons and “buttons” on the touch screen. His cloud form is especially a bit convoluted to control, as the left and right movement is done with tilting but the up and down movement is done with the shoulder buttons. Optionally, you can use the face buttons instead of the touch screen buttons for many of Eddy’s actions, but this is never explicitly made clear, and this control method has issues of its own. This isn’t to say that the controls are terrible or anything, just that they take awhile to get used to, and you may never feel 100% in control of Eddy.
Treasure! Mountains and mountains of treasure! Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Fluidity: Spin Cycle will have you guiding Eddy through 60 stages set in 4 themed chapters, each chapter representing a different era in time; you start the game in a prehistoric, dinosaur-filled environment and by the end you will have worked your way well into a future complete with robots and flying cars. This differs from the interconnected, “Metroidvania” world of the original Fluidity, as each of the stages in Fluidity: Spin Cycle is completely independent of the others. This was a bit of a disappointment to me, as the progression mechanic of the first Fluidity was one of the things that I loved about that game, and I’m not sure that breaking it up into self-contained stages was a positive change, but it does work nicely with the portable nature of the title. And lest you worry too much, non-linear progression is still the name of the game within each stage.
One new addition to the series which is sure to turn some people off are the full 360° stages, in which you can (and must) flip over the play environment by turning your 3DS completely upside down (or, as Guillaume helpfully pointed out to me, tilting it forward enough that it thinks that it is upside down.) I didn’t mind these too much, and in fact found many of them to be rather enjoyable, but I must admit that I generally preferred the regular stages. If these 360° stages had been scattered throughout the game, it wouldn’t really be an issue, but they make up nearly half of the playable stages; 46 ⅔% of them, to be precise (yes, I counted.) It doesn’t help their case that these stages all have the same purple color palette too; they are the “corrupted” pages of the book.
Aw. Aren’t they just too adorable to bear?
As in the first Fluidity, you start the game as a lowly puddle of water without the ability to do much more than move around and jump, but you will gain many power-ups throughout the course of the game, including the ability to gather yourself together and burst apart, as well as transform into a block of ice or a cloud of air, each of those forms with its own unique power-ups that can be acquired. One small disappointment is that there are no new power-ups for your water spirit beyond the ones seen in the original Fluidity. On the other hand, there are plenty of new ideas within the stage designs and puzzles. Fluidity: Spin Cycle rarely feels tired, continually offering up unique gameplay elements to keep it fresh. One stage may have you turning into ice and attaching yourself to the gears of a clock, another planting beans that, when watered, grow into beanstalks that you can climb upon, a third helping scientists prepare to launch a rocket ship. Riding on ski lifts, operating drills, flying in taxis, controlling laser guns, swinging grinders, collecting goldfish; Fluidity: Spin Cycle has it all!
The non-linear nature of the game comes into play heavily in each stage, often requiring you to backtrack after pushing buttons and pulling levers, returning gears to the correct machines, finding and acquiring upgrades, switching between water forms, solving puzzles and more to open new ways to progress. Each stage almost feels a bit like a 2D Zelda dungeon would, albeit on a much smaller scale.
There are many of the Goop roaming around these stages, who will drain water from you if you hit them when they are powered-up, as well as several environmental hazards like pits of fire, crushing pistons, and other such things that can draw water from Eddy in his various forms. If you lose too much water, you have to start over at the last checkpoint. There is also a boss fight at the end of each chapter, although more accurate would be to say that there is a single boss fight in the game which comes back several times in a somewhat modified form. It’s a pretty cool battle, but I wish that there were more variety in the boss fights instead of rehashing the same one multiple times.
Eddy sure seems excited for someone about to walk into a huge angry mouth.
The visuals of Fluidity: Spin Cycle are very pleasing to the eyes. It’s not a particularly technically impressive game, but it has an expressive and detailed 2D art and animation style that, combined with many interesting and varied environments, makes it a joy to view. Unfortunately there is no 3D effect in Fluidity: Spin Cycle, which, due to the focus on tilt controls, is understandable. The presentation is topped with a light-hearted, upbeat soundtrack that fits the style nicely, although the songs repeat a bit too often for my liking.
Much like Fluidity before it, Fluidity: Spin Cycle is a rather lengthy experience for a digital download, and it took me close to 15 hours to complete all of its 60 stages. There are a few ways to extend your time with the game, such as collecting the hidden puzzle piece in each stage, or shooting for a score of five stars, which requires a combination of speed and maintaining high water levels.
Fluidity was easily one of my favorite games on WiiWare, and I naturally had high expectations when I heard that a sequel had been announced. Although I was initially disappointed at some of the structural changes in Fluidity: Spin Cycle, including the shift to individual stages and the focus on the 360° stages, as well as a control system that took a bit longer to get used to, the game won me over with its pure creativity and variety, both in the environments and the gameplay. Never would I have thought that a little puddle of water could meet such a vast assortment of characters and do so many amazing things. Fluidity: Spin Cycle is not without its faults, and it ultimately falls short of its predecessor; but it’s still a superb game with enough new goodness to it that it more than justifies its existence. The $10.99 price tag may seem a bit steep, but with 15 hours or more of nearly filler-free play time, it’s one of the best bangs for your buck on the 3DS eShop.
When it rains, it pours. Or so the saying goes. And then the huge creature comes...
I concur, solid review. I just beat the final stage and the game was a pleasure to the end. The latter stages definitely had a twang of Zelda mini-dungeon, good comparison. The pacing was superb and it didn't outstay it's welcome - I can even see myself returning in a month or two to attempt those 5 star ratings. Loved it.
One thing that I forgot to mention in my review is that getting 5 stars your first time through a stage is nearly impossible, barring a few of the early stages. The time given to complete a stage requires you to pretty much know exactly what you have to do and execute it nearly flawlessly, and you're not going to do that in your first run through. In that sense people who get really into mastering a game might find going for 5 stars adds a bunch to the experience. For me though, I was happy enough to just do what I could my first time through and move on.