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Game Review

Hydroventure: Spin Cycle Review

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Posted by Damien McFerran

Water way to go

2010 WiiWare title Hydroventure (or Fluidity as it was known in North America) was a fine example of how to harness the unique properties of a console’s hardware to deliver a refreshingly original experience. The water-based gameplay was accentuated by clever puzzles and hidden collectables, making it one of WiiWare’s undisputed highlights. The talented guys and gals at UK-based Curve Studios are back with this portable sequel, and while it replicates a great deal of what made its predecessor so compelling, it has enough of its own charm to make it a must-have download for 3DS owners.

The biggest change in Hydroventure: Spin Cycle is the more robust storyline; this time around, there are lush 2D cutscenes which establish just why you’re controlling a puddle of water and how you’ve become trapped inside a series of dusty books. Your character also has a name (Eddy, in case you were wondering) and a face this time around, although his physical form is only manifested at the start and end of each level — for the rest of the time, your avatar is just a mass of liquid, just as was the case in the previous title. Tasked with rescuing the Rainbow Spirits entrapped through each weighty tome, Eddy must negotiate through narrow passages, solve brain-bending puzzles, deal with deadly ooze-like enemies and utilise the special abilities he learns along the way.

Hydroventure uses the 3DS’ motion controls to influence Eddy’s movements within the game world. Tip the console to the left or right and Eddy’s watery form slides in that direction. Jumping is also possible by tapping the shoulder buttons, and you can also pull together all of Eddy’s droplets into one large ball of water. In this form, an explosion can be unleashed that destroys parts of the environment, opening up passageways or triggering events to help solve the many conundrums laid in your path. These two functions — as well as the flipping of switches and other peripheral abilities — are mapped to the 3DS touchscreen, which means you’ll need to keep both thumbs free during play.

The controls throw up what is possibly the only major fault you can level at Hydroventure: Spin Cycle: the occasionally awkward nature of its multi-faceted interface. Although some levels only require you to tilt your console from side to side, others feature a full 360 degrees of rotation — considering the design of the 3DS itself, the inherent issues should be abundantly clear. Unlike a tablet device — which presents itself as a single flat piece of tech and is easy to manipulate with two hands — the 3DS is hinged in the middle and turning it rapidly isn’t as easy as you might assume. Also, the placement of the Select, Home and Start buttons on the 3DS XL can cause headaches; we lost count of the number of times we suspended the game by accidentally brushing the Home button during a rotation move. The volume slider is also prone to unintentional contact, something which isn’t game-breaking but can prove to be a distraction during play.

Of course, there’s little Curve Studios could reasonably do about this problem — the design of the 3DS was set in stone long before Hydroventure: Spin Cycle commenced development. And besides, once you’ve become accustomed to the controls you learn to avoid touching the wrong parts of the console during play. Given the interface hiccups and their relation to the shape of the 3DS itself, it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if Curve is currently preparing a version for iOS or Android, but the way in which the game uses the console's physical inputs — such as the shoulder triggers, circle pad and touchscreen — means that Hydroventure: Spin Cycle remains a title crafted with the 3DS firmly in mind, despite the niggles.

Control concerns aside, Hydroventure: Spin Cycle treads a very similar path to its forerunner. Eddy can collect blobs of water to replenish any he loses along the way, and there are hidden puzzle pieces in each stage that unlock “Playroom” mini-games, which serve as a welcome respite from the taxing main quest. The game is set across four distinct worlds (represented by novels, each with a central theme) comprised of sub-stages. As you move through the game, the complexity of these stages increases dramatically, and the tougher challenges can take several minutes of solid play to overcome. Each level is set against a time limit, with a bonus awarded at the conclusion should you manage to reach the Rainbow Sprite with time still on the clock. Complete the stage with plenty of spare water blobs and a fully-formed Eddy, and you’ll be well on your way to earning a coveted five-star rating for that particular level.

What makes Hydroventure: Spin Cycle so remarkable is the way in which the developers pull everything together to create fiendish puzzles that appear insurmountable until you unlock the solution — at which point the wonderfully simple logic behind their design never fails to raise a smile. Eddy is blessed with a surprisingly diverse range of abilities, including the power to transform into a block of ice or a cloud of steam at predetermined points. These skills allow for ever more complicated brain teasers, extending the scope of the game immeasurably. Considering the sheer number of stages, Curve has done a commendable job on maintaining the quality all the way through; even those stages that take mere seconds to finish are actually more taxing than you think, especially if you wish to find all of the puzzle pieces, beat the time limit and bag that elusive five-star ranking. To cap it all, tricky boss fights at the conclusion of each book add even more spice to proceedings, calling for fast reflexes as well as quick thinking.

Visually, Hydroventure: Spin Cycle marks a significant improvement over its WiiWare ancestor. The environments are particularly noteworthy; they’re bursting with incidental details and animation, and boast an impressive degree of depth — something made all the more remarkable when you consider that the game doesn’t utilise the 3DS’ autostereoscopic abilities. Curve has wisely kept this a 2D-only affair, no doubt because the constant rotation of the console would break the 3D effect so often it would essentially be rendered pointless. The audio is similarly effective, although its presence is more subtle than the eye-catching graphics. The music tracks that accompany each stage are lighthearted and enjoyable rather than infectious, which isn’t a bad thing — they suit the action perfectly, and don’t distract from on-screen events.

If you wanted to be particularly mean, you could point out that a lot of content in Hydroventure: Spin Cycle is lifted wholesale from its forerunner; it has similar enemies, abilities and level concepts. It feels very much like an enhancement than an entirely fresh take on the concept, which is nothing to be sniffed at — Curve has done a fantastic job of making what was already a highly appealing piece of software even more accessible, immediate and engaging. Although some of the ideas showcased here are found in the WiiWare original, the way in which they are presented and factored into the core gameplay is so effective you could also believe that Nintendo was responsible for the game’s creation — and that’s just about the highest compliment one can pay when praising game design.

Conclusion

Hydroventure: Spin Cycle’s control issues can’t be ignored — there’s little doubt that the levels which require you to rotate the 3DS console through a full 360 degrees would be better suited to a tablet-style device, and these are responsible for the only genuine moments of annoyance you’ll encounter with this game. Given the near-perfect structure, constant challenge, top-notch presentation and incredible longevity (finding all those puzzle pieces and getting five-star ratings on every level are pursuits that will take months), you’ll quickly learn to live with any lingering interface complaints.

The 3DS eShop is home to some truly amazing titles, and Hydroventure: Spin Cycle is another upstanding addition to that stellar selection. It successfully builds on the foundations laid down by its WiiWare parent and delivers a physics-based puzzle experience which challenges the very best the genre has to offer.

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User Comments (47)

Nintenzo

#2

Nintenzo said:

I loved the first Fluidity, so I'll probably be picking this up :D

hydroventure sounds like some bad movie about mermaids

AddADashOfSalt

#3

AddADashOfSalt said:

I was worried about the tilting, but it sounds like I good enough game I'll most likely get it anyway. Still need to finish the original however...

WesCash

#5

WesCash said:

Awesome review. I can't wait to download this and Crashmo once I finish up a few of my other games.

I'm wondering if tilting the 3DS might be easier than rotating it if the gyro controls respond in the way that I think they do. For example, instead of turning the 3DS upside down, couldn't you tilt it forward enough so that the gyro sensor thinks the 3DS is upside down?

cyrus_zuo

#6

cyrus_zuo said:

I wanted to love Fluidity, but I found the controls exasperating. They caused SO MUCH FRUSTRATION. I was really glad that the brilliant and somewhat similar NightSky did away with the clumsy tilt controls and went with the controller.

Honestly, if I wanted to play with imprecise controls there are tens of thousands of similar games on iOS/Android.

I REALLY wish they'd considered using the controller on the new game. That it has a controller may be the single best reason to own a home gaming console today. I honestly don't know how you can give a game a 9 while saying it has control issues. I'm skipping this with extreme prejudice, but for those who enjoyed Fluidity, keep on enjoying, I'm happy it works for you!

6ch6ris6

#9

6ch6ris6 said:

and another puzzle-platformer !!!
as if we didnt have enough already...

only a few great games on the eshop that doesnt belong to the puzzle-genre :(

FredyGarbagis

#10

FredyGarbagis said:

Dude, this very page says the game is published by Nintendo. What is this nonsense about it being released on smartphones?

On the matter of the game, it looks good and content full, but I'm really bummed about the rather generic characters they felt the need to introduce. Also, I'm too excited about the control method. Wish there was an alternative for circle pad input.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#13

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Pretty much "urinates" on the top iOS water physics games (thou they're decemt as well, juts not as good :) )

chewytapeworm

#15

chewytapeworm said:

At first, I was very downbeat that this sequel has levels where you have to get from A to B, rather than the sizeable "chapters" you get to explore in the original. But after a few stages you realise that doesn't even matter as Spin Cycle oozes class in the design of every puzzle and every, er, puddle. Heck, even turning the 3DS upside-down doesn't spoil my enjoyment of the game in the slightest. A triumph!

edcomics

#16

edcomics said:

Pleased to hear it's a good game. I look forward to the North American release. I would imagine keeping the system entirely open (thus flat) might make the 360 turn a bit easier.

DashDG

#17

DashDG said:

Not my kind of game, perhaps next year if I have some credit left, ill give it a try. Nice review.

brandonbwii

#18

brandonbwii said:

I have a feeling this will b the only positve review. No one else is going to let the control issues slide so much which is ashame cause this game sounds great.

Retro_on_theGo

#26

Retro_on_theGo said:

Wow, wasn't expecting the controls to be so put up with. How many levels are there that make you move the 3DS 360? I want this, because I loved Fluidity, but if there's too many of those 360 levels there's other games I want.

accc

#27

accc said:

@reviewer - The game is published by Nintendo, there's no way it's coming out for Ios or Android.
I'm looking forward to trying this out. I love the concept behind the 360 degree motion controls. I can rotate my 3DS around in a circle without much difficulty, so I'm sure I won't have as much trouble with the controls as the reviewer had.

sundin0013

#29

sundin0013 said:

All this talk about being perfect for a tablet-like device and no mention of a possible wii u port? I would love to see this on Wii U. It would be perfect

As an aside, it'd be interesting to see Wii U minis that play exclusively on the gamepad...

Jeremyx7

#30

Jeremyx7 said:

Most anticipated eShop game of 2012 on my radar. I have the first Fluidity on my wii and loved everything about it. I'll be getting this most likely when I get payed this Friday. Anyone here know if there is going to be a Wii U version from Nintendo? I would personally prefer it on the Wii U tablet but can't complain having it on a motion controlled handheld either.

Henmii

#31

Henmii said:

Nice review! I will download it someday! The hero reminds me of Dewy, lol!

"To cap it all, tricky boss fights at the conclusion of each book"

Cool! The game has bosses (unlike the original)!

"we lost count of the number of times we suspended the game by accidentally brushing the Home button during a rotation move"

Very hard to believe, because you have to push the Select/Home/Start button pretty firmly. Much more then the other buttons!

"it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if Curve is currently preparing a version for iOS or Android"

First: Hydroventure is a second-party title, not a third-party title! So it will stay exclusive!
Second: Mentioning tablets and ios or Android (wich makes no sense whatsoever) makes me PUKE!!

Ducutzu

#32

Ducutzu said:

Thank you for the useful review, Damien!

NintendoLife, give us more stuff like this and leave tabloid reporting to Kotaku!

Lobster

#33

Lobster said:

Please, please, please bring to WiiU! Sounds like the control issues will be completely fixed that way. Plus the original was on Wii so it only makes sense - in fact I thought this was coming to WiiU eShop until just last week.

Nibelilt

#34

Nibelilt said:

Can't handle gyro on the 3DS as it is for anything but the AR games and Mario Kart. And Ocarina of Time... And heck... Okay that point is invalid. But the controls seem like they are bound to spoil the game for me, because I do not like the idea of moving my system around too much due to how annoying that would get if I weren't just dedicating a session to it, and it's even worse since my preferred console is an XL. :(

jgibson75

#35

jgibson75 said:

So excited for this. Fluidity was one of my very favorite Wii Ware games and I've been hoping for a sequel. I like the new directions they are going with the focus on character while keeping the core gameplay elements and evolving them. They can take my money as soon as they release this brilliant looking 3DS game.

jgibson75

#36

jgibson75 said:

@Lobster Agreed. I'd love to see the game hit Wii U. But since I don't have a Wii U yet, I'm also glad it is coming to 3DS :)

Zhanglot

#37

Zhanglot said:

Yes! I've been waiting for this since september! I never got to play the Wii version but it looked so intriguing. Now that it's one 3DS I can't wait!

armoredghor

#46

armoredghor said:

It was good except for the boss battles. Same ones 4 times in a row with a little extra hit points

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