For those of you that don’t know me (and I will assume that due to us being on a no-name basis, this includes you and indeed everyone else who has read this review), I should admit that I am occasionally closed-minded about the kind of genres of flash game that I am willing to endure; I will also admit that this occasion falls on every single day of my life. However, I am also known to break free of my usual unwavering preference for games that involve purely guns, ammo, and obtaining more ammo in order to continue firing the guns. This statement holds true only for games which actually give me an adequate reason to change my mind about whichever genre they represent. Today, I would like to share my experience of ‘Liquid Measure 2: Dark Fluid Pack’ which is a physics-based puzzler that somehow managed to warm my cold gaming heart to the genre, and also to the profession of plumbing in general.
The usual thoughts which flow (much like the movement of water through a pipe; cue canned laughter) through my traditionally water-free head when I see the words ‘level pack’ nestling comfortably in a game title usually consist of extreme doubt and heavy disapproval of the whole idea of expansion-pack games in general. As a result, I tend to expect very little from add-ons and expansion packs in general, often brushing them off as an unnecessary augmentation to a game title, no matter how incredible or groundbreaking the corresponding original title is or was. Before I continue, I would also like to apologise for the mediocre (at best) H2O joke that I made in the opening to this paragraph.
However, despite falling under the category of games that exist in reality only as ‘level packs’, this game actually manages to put forward a surprisingly decent selection of levels that involve fluid-based fun, held (loosely)together with a flash interpretation of the laws of fluid mechanics. Contrary to my above predispositions, I was greeted with some gameplay that is of course heavily based on the original, but with the difficulty cranked up to the level of ‘seasoned professional’. Many of the levels feel as if they are actually taken directly from an exam which is sat at the end of an ‘Advanced Plumbing 101: Masters edition’ course, run exclusively by the most elite plumbing school in entire of the East-Anglia region of England.
The increased difficulty is almost certainly unrelated to the noticeable murkier hue of the water, but is noticeable nonetheless, and reminds me of the kind of water that wouldn’t be out of place at the beach of the town where I spent my childhood (the area is as rough as the water). In a rather unforgiving yet understandable move, the game doesn’t offer you a tutorial as you would often expect with a flash game; it essentially presumes that because you are playing the add-on pack that corresponds to an original game, you must therefore be well-versed in said original game. Why else would you have the audacity to embark upon a title such as this? Blatant sarcasm aside, the game’s assumption is likely to hold true, and if it doesn’t, then you are encouraged to play the original and familiarise yourself with the controls, which essentially consist of dragging and dropping the various mechanical parts with the mouse.
It is in getting to know the functions of these parts and using them effectively which is where the true challenge of the game truly resides. Simplicity of the controls is essential because you will likely be using most of your mathematical and logical prowess to direct and manage the flow of the questionably murky water of suspicious origin into the dedicated receptacles below. You are entirely in control of the moment that the water is released, and when you do so, your ability to direct the flows of water without wasting a drop is tested. The goal of the game is to essentially end up with the same volume of liquid you began with, only the resulting total being restricted to the denominations dictated to you by the provided containers of various sizes.
When it comes down to it, the actual gameplay comes down to a mixture of pure (yet basic) mathematics, some mild logical thinking, a sprinkle of deductive reasoning and the ability to use a computer mouse to drag and drop the moveable parts; these abilities, which most people over the age of five should possess, should result in the arranging of the moveable parts into the desired position in order to create a closed circuit of water that moves gracefully across the screen and into the destination containers.
The mathematical element of the game lies in the requirement that the final volume of liquid that remains after pressing the ‘Start’ valve (space bar) must be equal to the starting volume; the game seems to adhere to a preventative method of plumbing, since even spilling one drop leads to complete failure of the level. The game truly tests your abilities of amateur virtual plumbing to the absolute maximum, and as if you already didn’t feel silly enough for placing the pipes incorrectly, you will also begin to doubt your ability to carry out the most basic of mathematical sums. This game is nothing if it isn’t a psychological test which picks at your soul piece by piece until self-doubt creeps in and consumes you.
It’s not all that bad, actually: If you fail the level you are able to try again and I have found that the trial and error approach is also very effective if you aren’t too devastated about your previous mathematical/logical failures. The logical thinking side of the game is really just a case of observing the pipe system as it stands and deciding the best location to slot the moveable parts into in order to create an unbroken flow of what looks to be the tap water from an abandoned industrial estate in the heart of Chernobyl, or an area that is equally as polluted.
By combining the two above properties of mathematics and logic, it usually best to first determine the total starting volume of liquid; this is as easy as directing your eyes towards the number that is written plainly across the container/s at the top. A prime example to convey the essence of the gameplay would be level three, in which there are two containers at the top that are labelled ‘4’. For the purpose of the review I will refer to the units as litres, but there are in actual fact no dedicated units used in the game; I doubt this will result in an overwhelming number of written complaints however.
The receptacle container at the bottom of the screen in level 3 is labelled with a ‘6’. Immediately, through the power of the most simple of mathematical calculations, it is obvious that between the starting location and destination, you must lose a total of two ‘litres’ (the alleged units of measurement here) along the way. This is where the logic bomb should detonate with violent urgency in your head (in my case, it was more like a pathetic fizzle followed by an anti-climactic hissing noise), encouraging you to peruse the various moveable pieces that are provided to see if you can finagle a solution to this very, very easy problem.
The summary of the movable variables throughout the game will be brief because firstly, there really isn’t that many to speak of and secondly, I wish to get on with my praise of the actual game itself. Various pipe pieces are seen regularly and consist of corner-bend and straight pieces. It is up to you where to place them but it is usually pretty obvious and should, after a Beautiful Mind-style calculating montage with the pieces arranging themselves in front of you, become apparent. Numbered containers or ‘destination pots’ as it saddens me to say I have described them, are self-explanatory and must be placed strategically as to fit properly among the fixed pieces and collect all of the fluids without spilling.
The more advanced (relatively speaking;, since literally and figuratively speaking, fluid mechanics isn’t exactly rocket science) parts to play with are the diverter valves, which separate the flow of liquid running into them into individual, bite (or gulp) sized portions, with the first instance of the constantly-alternating direction of flow being determined by the direction of the arrow written upon it. Finally, we have the overflow pots, which hold the amount of generic undesignated flash-game units that is indicated on the front of the pot. If for instance you send four units of liquid flowing into a pot that is designated to hold two units, it will accommodate two units and the remaining two (this is a definite win for basic maths) will spill out of the side in the same manner as any other moveable pipe.
There are a total of thirty one levels of pure, contaminated-water entertainment to get your mouse and keyboard around, so you won’t be short of a challenge if you decide to give this game a try. I was impressed at the smooth, flowing (never a pun intended) nature of the gameplay and the physics themselves; the game feels professionally made and simply feels like a lot of care went into making it. It’s a shame that the water couldn’t have been filtered a little, though I am fully aware that the colour choice acts as a factor which differentiates this game from the original, and provides a little cohesion to the title of the game as well.
I would really like to be able to say that my initial doubting disposition was justified on this occasion, as it has been fairly consistently in previous instances of review. This addition to Smart Codes original Liquid Measures 2 however impressed me to a degree that both left me surprised and also called my ability to judge a game by its genre into question. I was adequately challenged by the gameplay, felt compelled to continue playing even after some outrageously frustrating episodes, and most of all, I actually wanted to broadcast my enjoyment of it in review form. LM2: Dark Fluid Pack for anyone who is looking for a satisfying puzzler, or simply a little bit of virtual plumbing experience. Play with caution however, since completion of an online pseudo-plumbing flash game is not a qualification recognised by any professional body in existence, and really isn’t even a qualification in the first place.