In a game industry flooded with carbon copy strategy, role-play and first-person shooter games, it always comes as a breath of fresh air when some imaginative brains come up with something much more original. Although the concept of micro-manoeuvring isn’t novel (just think of the fun we had with the Micro Machines series and playing as a cockroach in Bad Mojo), this is definitely the first time that the hero has been a drop of water.
The first entirely self-financed PC title from indie label Exkee, iFluid is a 3D puzzle game where you have to travel across desks, kitchens and gardens to reach a predefined goal without falling prey to numerous fatal hazards. Even the level menu is a puzzle as you have to find the entrance to the plumbing system relevant to the next mission and then balance or jump your way in.
In total there are fifteen levels of increasing difficulty to complete and some of the problems to overcome are not too demanding, such as pushing paperclips to one side, double jumping to reach a higher surface and correcting your balance when walking up a spoon.
Much more dangerous is trying to avoid absorbent surfaces such as tea-towels, sugar and flour or evaporating next to freshly baked cakes, hot stoves and sizzling frying pans. If that wasn’t treacherous enough, you also have to beware of predatory insects with a ravenous thirst.
There are aids along the way, including the ability to regenerate and grow in size when coming into contact with droplets of moisture or pieces of fruit, and in the later levels you can climb up dry surfaces and even ‘possess’ friendly plants like strawberries and potatoes in order to reach your goal. Every time you fail in your quest you return to the last checkpoint, so you don’t have to put up with the frustration of starting again at the beginning of the mission.
Visually the 3D effects are vivid and lifelike and along the way you have a number of mini-quests to complete (such as tilting fruit to ‘release’ nuts) which add a welcome variety to the gameplay.
If you complete the main missions you can then replay them in two other modes; Petals (where you collect a number of hidden petals) and Time Attack where you’re up against the clock. Although the music becomes irritating after a while, the missions are quite compelling and because you have to deal with a range of textures, gravities and viscosity, we can see this also having added educational value.