Everyone knows that nature has created natural enemies and allies. These animals, no matter how unlikely a pairing, can rely on the other for safety, food, or to progress in life. Would I put; a horse, monkey and rhino in this category? No! But, this is the unlikely position you find yourself in when you play Liquid Sunshine by God As A Cucumber. What a great name for a developer and publisher. Right, that’s enough of that, let’s get back to the review. This is a casual puzzle adventure platform title. The 3 unlikely friends must work together to solve problems and get to the exit.
I played through the game with a distinct feeling of déjà vu. No matter how much I tried, I could not think of the inspiration behind this title. Then it him me, Lost Vikings a game that I had played in my youth, and wasn’t very good at. In both, you must use your team to unlock doors, activate switches, and leap gaps, all while edging closer to the exit. Liquid Sunshine asks you to complete 9 levels of increasing complexity. Each stage has a comic book cinematic scene. This helps to fill in the backstory of the characters, all whilst conveying the narrative and plot of this tale. The language and imagery used is for a mature audience, it is full of depictions of gore and violence. It wouldn’t be suitable for a younger gamer.
Part of the joy of this title is discovering why the group knows each other. Then watching the ensuing mayhem that this friendship causes. All I’ll say is that they’ve worked together in the past. An issue with drugs forces them to overcome a new problem together. The cinematic scenes show images of different landscapes as the story progresses. Yet, each level doesn’t reflect what you have seen. It didn’t bother me too much; it was a bit odd. You’ve observed a well-designed cutscene, that doesn’t match the look of the gaming world.
The 3 characters you control are; Husk, Spooner, and Tent. A monkey, horse and rhino. Nature’s most famous grouping of allies right there. These anthropomorphic characters all have their own special abilities. In the early levels tasks are completed by them working as individuals. But, as the game progresses, you will combine the talents of each of the animals. This allows you to use their secondary talents to overcome obstacles. Let me give you an example; Husk and Spooner both jump small gaps, but a wide chasm prevents them from proceeding. Spooner can hurl Husk to the other side, and the action can continue. Do you have a platform that even the tall and versatile Spooner cannot reach? The powerhouse Tent can give you a leg up. There are several secondary powers available. You will use them all during the adventure. You must use your logic skill to determine how to best use the team. If you get it wrong one or all them could end up stuck in a pit behind a locked door with no way to escape.
What I found to be odd throughout was the lack of danger. The story is laced with images and undertones of gore and violence. Yet, there isn’t an enemy in sight on any stage. There are no traps to overcome, and your only fear of failure is to drop from a high point, or if you have a lack of logic. Each cutscene promotes a feeling of rush and panic, but this doesn’t translate to the gameplay. You can rush through, or amble around a level at your leisure. I’m not sure a timer would have worked, but with no sense of urgency at all. The gameplay was at odds with the cinematic.
A film noir inspired story, with a comic book style and monochromatic colour scheme. Without a doubt, this is a beautiful game to look at. The retro cartoon design took me back to my childhood. Its striking images and use of clichéd and oversized text bubbles was a treat. The crisp lines of the silhouetted models make them stand out from the white backdrop. The animation of the animals is of a good standard. Though Spooner’s climbing movement is a little risqué and sent my mind to an immature place. Liquid Sunshine takes on a simple approach and does it well. A variety of well-designed levels keep the gameplay fresh, making you consider each move.
There is no use of spoken narrative throughout which worked with the comic book theme. It allows you as the gamer to decide how you want the characters to sound. I prefer when a developer takes this approach. I accept that this isn’t a visual novel, so some players will expect voice-over work to support the visuals. Each level has the same upbeat 80s inspired song, you may think “Using the same song, that must be repetitive!” Most of the time I focused on solving the puzzles, meaning that I paid the music no attention. Though the audio isn’t amazing, it does what it needs to. It supports the gameplay by not overpowering the action.
I look at puzzle games and wonder how easy they will be when using a controller. Will the title have lots of intricate problems to solve, or will it be so there is no challenge at all? Liquid Sunshine plays out from a 2D perspective, where moving through the map is smooth and simple. Using the trigger and buttons allows you to swap characters and complete tasks. When you need a teammates help, you stand next to them, and this allows you to use their secondary ability. It was all straightforward, allowing you to focus all your energy on the obstacles in your path.
There are 9 levels to complete, all with increasing difficulty. You find hidden collectibles in each level, they are behind secret passages, and down tunnels. The gameplay only contains a small amount of replay value. And the biggest draw to revisiting this will be to relive the story over again. It’s a brutal tale of deception and idiocy, and I loved it! A level selector allows you to play through the stages, without having to repeat the whole story. This will help anyone that’s looking for all the hidden diamonds. I’ve invested around 7 hours to get this finished, and I’ll play through the story again. Even if it’s only to experience the art from the comic book cutscenes.
The puzzles aren’t very challenging, but they help to test the logical part of your brain. I admit I had a few moments where I was stuck. And one where I muttered “You sneaky b^@_^%*s“. The theme uses violence, gore, drugs and choice language, so only an older audience should try it. Would I recommend this? Yes. I chose the game knowing nothing about it, I was inspired by the great developer’s name. I’m glad I took the plunge, as I found a fantastic title that I may have overlooked otherwise. If you are a fan of puzzles, comics, or gratuitous violence, then this will be the game for you. Not all teams look like they will work together on paper. You soon discover that a; monkey, horse and rhino are the perfect combination.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Liquid Sunshine Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
A monkey, horse and rhino make the perfect team. It’s time to experience the world of drugs and violent monochromatic puzzle adventure.
- Stunning graphics.
- The audio doesn’t overpower the gameplay.
- An excellent story.
- The retro comic book style is delightful.
- It has a simple control system.
- Spooner’s climbing animation needs adjusting.
- A lack of voice-over may disappoint some.
- The puzzles may be too simple for veteran gamers.