The oldest of jokes start with a trio of protagonists doing something or arriving somewhere, usually involving an Englishman, Scotsman, and Irishman, before seeing the punchline drop some horrid statement. In Liquid Sunshine we are introduced to another strange threesome: a monkey, a horse, and a rhino. It seems like they are in trouble too, and whilst the experience plays out bereft of any jokes, you can be sure of being treated to a smattering of adult content and a lot of puzzle-solving.
Liquid Sunshine has a very unique style, and a stunning visual tone. It’s a casual puzzle adventure title in which you are placed in control of three characters – Husk, Spooner, and Tent. From there it is up to you to utilise their individual skills and talents, to progress through numerous levels for advancement of the story.
The narrative begins with a monkey – Husk – wandering the jungle, looking to steal some honey. He is quickly joined by his friends Spooner the horse and Tent the rhino as the story shifts to a modern-day setting and the characters are seemingly transformed into human counterparts. It is here where the tone shifts, from what you think is a family, almost Disney type, game into a modern, violent adult crime saga. This switch is brilliantly done. The game’s narrative is told visually through the puzzle levels, with the main thrust of the story played out via comic book cutscenes which tell a tale of drugs, violence, and a caper gone wrong. It’s a very good story even though it does come across as a little bit rushed by the end. I so much wanted to spend more time with these characters.
The gameplay takes place over a 2D world and consists of the three characters finding a way through a series of apartments, jungles, and cave-like structures, mostly moving from left to right. Each character has a different set of attributes to conquer these environments: the monkey can jump across smaller gaps or rooftops, climb up drain pipes or ropes, crawl under small obstacles and go underground. Oh, and as he’s a monkey he can also walk across thin tightropes upon high. The horse is different though and it is he who can jump the highest and climb up to harder to reach areas. He can traverse across obstacles further than the monkey, he can push over objects to create bridges and can fall further down to the ground without killing himself. And then we have the rhino, a guy who is all about strength and resilience. He can’t jump and if he falls just a small way he is dead rhino meat. What he can do though is open doors with sheer force, push huge blocks to clear pathways or to fill gaps so others can walk through certain areas. Later on, he is the only character who can withstand going near some radioactive barrels left lying around.
The entire premise of Liquid Sunshine is that you have to get all three characters safely across the map to the checkpoint at the other side; it’s how you work with these three together that is the key to success. For example, the monkey can crawl to areas that the others can’t and operate a switch that will open a door that the others can walk through. The horse may then be needed to jump across the rooftops, getting to an area where he can push over a girder to cross a gap that the others can pass over. Sometimes you will have to use the characters’ skills as one, together to perform a special move; the horse may throw the monkey over a large gap or all three characters can help each other to clamber through a level.
The game is very good in the way that it has been designed and this ensures that rarely will puzzles frustrate. But then it’s also not simple enough to see the player get bored. Towards the latter levels it does get trickier, and you will certainly need to hold tight, take stock and have a bit of thinking time in order to work stuff out. It is here where my first negative point comes to mind – the checkpoints which are at the start and end of the level. It is well possible to spend 15 minutes working something out, and then finding that one of the characters falls off a building, leaving you to restart the process again. Or occasionally you may find yourself getting to a point when you just can’t move any further without restarting the checkpoint. I found this very frustrating at times. It’s not helped by the fact that there have been moments where the horse has just frozen in mid-air, needing a full restart of the stage.
Visually is where Liquid Sunshine shines, mainly in the beautiful monochrome designed levels with brilliant attention to detail throughout. The cutscenes are gorgeous too, and the whole thing delivers a brilliant style that works well. It’s complemented nicely by the sound design too – there may be no voice-over but the audio effects satisfy throughout.
Liquid Sunshine on Xbox One is a very enjoyable game; one that delivers some decent head-scratching puzzles that should last you a good few hours. The adult-themed story is good but finishes a bit abruptly for me, and the gameplay is truly well-designed. But personally I want more – more save points and more variation in the backdrops, whilst seeing fewer glitches. Overall though this is well worth taking a look at, especially if you’re a fan of the puzzle genre.