Fluidity was a game released on WiiWare back in 2010. Curve Studios pitched the idea to Nintendo during a meeting at the Game Developers Conference in 2008, and were soon contacted by the company, giving them the green light.
What made Fluidity unique was that it was a platformer where you controlled a body of water by tilting the Wii Remote, and the game’s map design was inspired by Metroid.
Fluidity: Spin Cycle on the Nintendo eShop still has you controlling a body of water, but the Metroid-like progression has been dropped in favour of separate stages. Each stage is short, but challenging, and as you play through more and more of the game’s stages, you acquire additional abilities that help solve the new kinds of puzzles the game throws at you.
Here’s the setup: a wizard owns a book depicting fantastical worlds throughout the history of time. One day, he decides to bring them to life using the magical Rainbow Spirits he has in his study. He pours the Rainbow Spirits over the book’s pages, bringing the worlds to life inside the book, and then retires to bed for the night. While he’s gone, the bottle of Goop—a powerful dark magic potion that looks and acts like the Venom symbiote from the Spider-Man comics—knocks itself over the book and invades the worlds within, corrupting them and trapping the Rainbow Spirits inside. Upon seeing this, the Water Spirit decides to follow, weed out the Goop, and rescue his Rainbow Spirit sisters in the process.
Like the original Fluidity game, Fluidity: Spin Cycle has you controlling your water body by tilting the Nintendo 3DS. In some stages, you simply tilt the 3DS to the left and right to move in those directions, but in the game’s zero-gravity stages, you’ll find yourself turning the 3DS upside down, and often attempting to turn your own head upside down along with it, so you can keep yourself oriented.
It sounds odd, but the way Fluidity: Spin Cycle controls was my favourite part of the game. Controlling a body of water doesn’t feel like any other game I’ve ever played. You aren’t controlling a single character, you’re literally controlling a mass of water that actually acts like water. It splashes around, it breaks up into smaller droplets that can go all over the place, it flows faster or slower depending on the way you tilt your 3DS, and once you get good at it, you can do all sorts of little fun things. For example, you can tilt your 3DS to let part of the water drip off the edge of a platform, and then tilt back to prevent the rest of it from dripping off as well. Now, you’re simultaneously controlling two water bodies in separate locations.
Sometimes, I would just splash around all over the place because watching the way the water body behaves and reacts is pretty fascinating. There’s a very natural desire to experiment from the very moment you begin playing Fluidity: Spin Cycle, and the water body reacts exactly the way you would expect. You don’t just control water either. Like in the original Fluidity, you’ll come across the ability to turn into ice and cloud forms as well. These, too, behave just like you would expect. For example, the block of ice can be very slippery and it takes a bit to get used to how it handles. It’s unfortunate that Nintendo didn’t release a demo for the game to show the concept and physics system off.
The catch is that Fluidity: Spin Cycle is also really, really tough. Some of the game’s stages, even early on, can be brutal. Solutions to getting through the stages can be very complex, and one of my not-so-fond memories of the game involves spending three hours on a single stage, trying all sorts of solutions, before I finally lucked out.
To make things even more stressful, the game doesn’t allow you to skip a stage and come back to it later. The next stage isn’t unlocked until you complete the one you’re currently on, which is an odd design decision.
The decision to do away with the Metroid-like map design and break the game up into small stages was probably made to accommodate its portable format, but when the stages are as tricky as they can be in Fluidity: Spin Cycle, it feels awfully limiting. You either need to pull your socks up and figure a solution out to the stage you’re stuck on, or take a break from the game altogether, since there’s not much else to do while you take a break from the current stage.
That said, there is some amount of replay value in older stages for perfectionists. At the end of each stage, you’re given a star ranking based on how fast you completed the level, how many water droplets you collected along the way, whether or not you died during the stage, and so on. I did replay a few of the game’s early and less stressful stages while taking a break from the later ones, but if you intend to get 5-star rankings, you’ll really have to work for them.
If you’re okay with a challenge and want to try out a new kind of puzzle-platformer that you don’t see very often, I’d recommend Fluidity: Spin Cycle. The game costs $10.99 in North America, and is available on the European eShop as well, titled Hydroventure.
Food for thought:
1. Since you’re tilting your 3DS all the time, stereoscopic 3D is disabled entirely.
2. I wish I’d gotten access to the ice levels sooner. It took 15 stages before I was able to switch between water and ice forms.
3. I love the splashing sounds the water makes as it splashes all over the place.
4. You know how, in racing games, you instinctively tilt your body from side to side while taking turns? You’ll probably do the same in Fluidity: Spin Cycle (especially in zero-gravity stages).
5. There is apparently a scientific name for the Water Spirit. An archaeologist in the game calls it “Aqua Animus”.