Firemen have it good. Heroes to over-adventurous kittens everywhere and respected in every community, they get to drive big trucks and use huge hoses to save people’s lives.
The only downside to being a fireman is the high risk of injury or death.
Luckily, you don’t need to develop complications from severe carbon monoxide poisoning to get your fix of firefighting heroism. Your fire-extinguishing needs can now be met with a smartphone game. Sprinkle is a simple but enchanting physics-based puzzler that, while short-lived, does almost everything right.
We didn’t start the fire
The game barely needs its cutesy sci-fi story, but here it is anyway: a bunch of inconsiderate tourists have knocked loads of meteors out of Saturn’s rings and they are crashing down on a nearby moon (a suspiciously lush Titan), setting fire to the huts belonging to the indigenous aliens.
Thankfully, the aliens have built a giant firefighting machine to pump water and it’s up to you to douse the flames before everybody’s homes are destroyed.
Each level contains its own puzzle to figure out. You might have to use the curvature of the ground to slingshot water around bends, or use water pressure to push blocks and open up new firing angles.
As the levels get trickier you have to experiment with multiple solutions to see which will pay off the fastest and leave you with the most surplus water. Having water left over after you extinguish all fires earns you ‘drops’, which you need to collect to open up the next set of levels.
They work in a similar way to the three-star system of other games in that the most efficient and impressive solution will earn you more droplets. And since the fire spreads there’s an extra impetus to get things done quickly.
Pitchers ‘n’ hose
As far the controls for your makeshift fire engine go, developer Mediocre has been thorough and thoughtful. The touchscreen version understands the importance of brevity and takes advantage of the technology at your fingertips, but the game also manages to translate to Xperia Play surprisingly well.
Up and down on the D-pad control the height of the hose’s nozzle, the L and R triggers control the direction, while holding the X button pumps the water.
It’s an arrangement that quickly allows you to co-ordinate your splashes without sacrificing too much of the precision granted by direct touchscreen control. The only disjointed moments come when you have to move an object with an on-screen swipe, since you have to take one hand off the physical controls.
The water physics are incredibly impressive. Water somehow flows both gracefully and realistically while also retaining an effervescent cartoony nature.
It’s just a pity that there are so few levels - especially when you can complete them so quickly. There's some replay value in chasing after the highest droplet rating for every set of levels, but ultimately your thirst just won’t be quenched.
Every now and then a smartphone game comes along that just works. Sprinkle is a perfect example, and it has survived the transition to physical controls with barely a singe. It might be short-lived for the price, but it’s worth every drop.