It’s a difficult task to improve on the archetype of our favorite classic games. Most attempts either end up as failures or they just don’t make the same impact. A game like Pac-man is simple, fun, and challenging all at the same time. How do you improve or update that idea without taking away one of those three items? Well, if you really want to know you should contact Luke at Radiangames because he apparently has found a formula that does just that. Fluid is Radiangames 4th release this year. I really enjoyed JoyJoy, Crossfire, and Inferno so I was looking forward to this release.
Fluid differs from the previous releases as it does not focus on survival, destroying enemies, or reaching a goal. In Fluid your main objective is to capture all of the dots as quickly as possible. Based on how quickly you collect the dots you will get a star rating of 1-4; if you’re fast enough you will actually get a 5 star rating. While this may sound like a simple task, I assure you it’s not as easy as it sounds. Each level has a different layout, different obstacles, and a different path in which the dots are laid out. On top of that, every dot you collect creates a killer jellyfish that will follow you and try to kill you. The swarm grows larger and larger to the point that it can easily turn into an overwhelming situation. This is why you need to plan carefully before starting your run.
The timer doesn’t start until you move. If you pull the right trigger the camera zooms out so you can see the entire field; this is key to planning your run. Planning is just one part; execution is the other. You can plan all you want, but unless you can move efficiently you will find yourself in the 1-2 star range. Keeping a straight line or cutting a close corner will shave milliseconds off of your time, and milliseconds matter here. There is no right or wrong way to complete a run; it is completely up to you. However, poor planning and/or execution will lead to you running into jellyfish and failing the run. Not every level has jellyfish though. Every fifth level is a time trial in which no jellyfish spawn from the dots. The catch is instead of time counting up, it is now counting down. Part of the puzzle of this game is that things aren’t always what they seem. The dots are laid out in such a way that make you think one path is best, but if you think outside the box a little or sometimes simplify what you are looking at you may find a way to complete the run even faster.
Besides the jellyfish, there are also levels where if you touch certain objects you will die. Not to worry though, because there are several items to help you collect all of the dots. Power pills make you puff up and allow you to plow through jellyfish as well as touch objects that would normally kill you. Vortices pull jellyfish to it and keep them there. You also have speed pads and teleporters to help you move around the level faster. If you make it to the extreme levels you will also experience black holes. Black holes are like big teleporters that suck you in when you get close to them. If you’re careful you can actually use them to sling you around corners to gain some speed.
Even if you finish all 30 levels the extreme levels aren’t automatically opened. In order to unlock them you need to get three or more stars on each of the normal levels. Extreme levels not only have black holes, but also increase your speed by a noticeable amount; sometimes to your detriment. I found that with the increased speed plus using speed pads it became increasingly difficult to maintain good control of my character and would sometime lead to my destruction. However, I guess that’s kind of the point of the challenge. Other than that, I really didn’t find the extreme levels to be much more difficult than normal.
The look of the game is unique, as are the other three games from Radiangames. The frame rate is smooth and the graphics really make you feel like you are in some type of fluid as your character moves its tail to swim and ripples flow through the liquid. The soundtrack is pretty smooth and relaxing. I think this helps when dealing with some of the more difficult levels. The movement sounds, collection sounds, and even sound of being destroyed are all pretty mellow. It feels like the games sound design was made to keep the player calm.
Overall, I think the game is pretty good. Radiangames has a great track record with their previous three releases, and Fluid is no exception. It was fun to play, yet challenging at the same time. It’s one of those games that you can play it for a few minutes and have fun or buckle down for an hour or so and still have fun. Those of completionists out there will definitely get their money’s worth because it will take some time to get a 5 star rating on all 35 levels. Hopefully we will see some additional levels in a DLC or possibly a sequel. You can purchase the game on XBox Live Indie Games for 80 points ($1). Only $1, so skip the apple pies today and pick up this game!
[Images provided by Radiangames]