January 8, 2013 3:00 AM | John Polson
Curve has shown its platformer breadth and expertise once again, having previously mixed physics and blasts in Explodemon and stealth and speed in Stealth Bastard. The dev's latest, Fluidity: Spin Cycle (or Hydroventure: Spin Cycle in the EU), is so slick with its water-based physics and puzzle platforming that it easily becomes one of the best games on the 3DS, retail or digital.
Fluidity: Spin Cycle retains most of what made the WiiWare original wonderful, with fluid, believable movement and curious exploration while taking the forms of water, ice, and cloud. These three phases of matter introduce a wide variety of puzzle and platforming techniques.
The water flows along anything solid, jumps, bursts, and breaks down walls. The ice form sticks to walls (for vertical scaling) and to pendulums. The ice also acts as an item carrier, freezing in its solid body what would otherwise slip through its liquid state. Finally the cloud can float practically anywhere and pass through certain walls, along with new abilities such as electricity and static electricity for rubber/latex, magnetic, and robotic puzzles.
Thankfully the shake motion used in the original to jump is gone, but the amount of stages that require 360-degree spinning in the 3DS version introduce a different kind of hand-fatigue.These 360-degree stages also look rather similar, with mostly purple and black visuals that are reminiscent of the first game's boss stages.
Speaking of bosses, there is one to fight at the end of each of the four chapters. The boss is always fought in a 360-degree stage, and it gets slightly more challenging every time. Unfortunately, the boss feels a little like a missed opportunity in that players never use the ice or cloud abilities to fight it in different ways.
The variety and joy in the game for me came from solving its solid/liquid/gas puzzles, racing against the clock to get disappearing bubbles, finding hidden items, and soaking in the otherwise colorful visuals. Even those visually less appealing 360 stages had fierce challenges and brain scratching moments that kept me pleasantly distracted.
Those who somehow missed Fluidity (Hydroventure) on WiiWare must play the original and this 3DS version. The large, Metroid-meets-comic-book style layouts of the first feel appropriate for TVs. While I miss those layouts, the more compact stages of Spin Cycle make sense for the portable. Maybe the third game will come on a big tablet or GamePad, with a compromise between the two layouts...
In the end, I know $10.99 sounds like a steep entry for an eShop download. However, Spin Cycle is filled with 60 stages and four unlockable mini-games that amount to 7-10 hours of gameplay (depending on skill level and desire to find all the secrets), well earning its price tag