The original Where’s My Water? from Disney was a terrific puzzle game which employed water physics as its driving force of gameplay. The formula was so successful, in fact, that the company duplicated it with the Phineas and Ferb-themed Where’s My Perry? and a more recent Where’s My Mickey?, based on the newest series of cartoon shorts from the House of Mouse. Each one added its own nuances, twists, and features to make them appropriately-themed to their stars, making them great iterations on a common theme.
So what, then, could we honestly expect from an actual, genuine sequel to the original Where’s My Water? game? Would it be good while still feeling iterative, just as in each of Swampy’s fellow Where’s My…? stars? Or would Disney find a way to raise the bar?
Fortunately, Where’s My Water? 2 is everything a good sequel should be, and more. Unfortunately, the “more” comes in the form of some rather unnecessary additional new features which taint the experience like so much sludge making contact with a pool of clear blue water.
Rubber Ducky, You’re the One…
The core gameplay from the original game remains unchanged: Using your finger, you’ll draw a path through the dirt and occasionally trigger mechanisms to deliver water to Swampy the bath-loving alligator and collect rubber duckies along the way. Also along for the ride are Swampy’s pals Allie, who favors using the power of rising steam to drive her organ-playing jam sessions, and Cranky, who employs the corrosive power of the water-tainting toxic sludge to eat away at the mess coating his next meal, be it a broken globe to a boot to a lost chest full of treasure.
Progression is twofold: First, you need to finish the current stage in order to access the following stage. Then, every so often, you can only break through a gate through acquiring a certain number of rubber duckies in the levels preceding that point. This is where things get interesting.
Most levels feature not only the core level, but also some sort of challenging variation as well. Some will flip the entire level upside down and change the position of the ducks, providing a simple yet potent variation to challenge you. Others place various restrictions on you, such as forbidding the collection of any ducks (though, if the option is available, you can still kill them without fear of reprisal), or changing the makeup of the rock in such a way that you can bore straight through it– while also forbidding you to use any drains or switches found in the level. One single drop, and it’s back to square one for you.
Another variation is the Melody level type. Here, a tune will play at the start as each musical note goes to a different place in the level. Your job is to not only collect them all before bringing everything home to Swampy, Allie, or Cranky, but also to hit them in a particular order. Fortunately, you aren’t required to memorize the five-note order, which would make things pretty tricky, given the notes are usually scattered in an order which one might find unnatural, at least for the ducks; the order is shown at the top of the screen, each one being checked off as you go. The result is another fun variation on the level, allowing the developers (and players) to get more mileage out of each board encountered.
Then there are the daily Mystery Duck levels. Once a day, a Mystery Duck will not only go into one of the levels, but begin digging around inside. Your goal is to figure out how he moves, and splash him with the requisite amount of water to “catch” him. Do so three times, and you’ll unlock a new outfit for your rubber duckies.
In addition to the variations on several stages, there are also special stages which give you a chance to collect six ducks in a single go. What makes these stages stand out is that you’ll have to guide the choice liquid or gas through an automatically-scrolling multi-screen level. Your objective is to keep the water on the screen until the end, dodging potential hazards and collecting ducks along the way. These levels are quick and challenging, to be sure, and can even be a tad frustrating at times, as the screen seems to move a little faster than you might be able to keep up. Fortunately, the game is often rather lenient in these stages; though they say “keep the water on the screen,” the truth is that if you can keep a good channel dug ahead of the fluid or steam, it will usually catch up on its own, even if it’s not visible to you.
Hitting the (Pay) Wall
Unfortunately, while Where’s My Water? 2 is a great sequel and does so much right, it’s not perfect, and perhaps even falls a little short of previous offerings. The ironic part is, most of this could have been avoided, but Disney instead opted for the free-to-play model.
This game introduces items and hints to help you along the way. One such item will cause the ducks to suck up any water which comes near them, and another will allow you to start a level with the ducks partially full, and so on. These can be handy, though they’re not usually required to proceed; however, there have been some instances where it seems like the only way to acquire certain ducks is to use the items. Thankfully, you can still earn a small supply of them in-game, but their necessity leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.
Leaving a worse taste still is the energy meter. New to this game is a meter which ticks down as you play, and replenishing when you’re not. Admittedly, we have yet to tap out the meter during a play session (and we played for a while), but having it present at all is just a bit disconcerting. You can win refills along the way, but more wretched is the pay option to do away with it entirely… for $16.99. It’s up to you whether you think such a price is worthwhile, but… to us, it honestly isn’t. That is, unless you’re planning to record some sort of full-game speedrun or something.
Down and Dirty
Free to Play isn’t to blame for everything, though. Sometimes the fluids or steam don’t seem to react as naturally as you might expect– sometimes it feels just plain uncooperative– and that can lead to some frustration in some instances, particularly when gathering ducks. Again, this might tie in to the item-shilling mentioned above; it’s hard to be certain.
Another problem is one which has persisted since the first game: Even on a tablet, it can be really, really difficult to move the dirt just how you want. The worst instances of this come in levels where you must avoid collecting ducks or touching drains/switches at all, and are given an extremely small amount of room to work with. This is exacerbated by trying to draw a line past one of these obstacles, only to have a huge chunk connecting where you’re digging to the opening containing said obstacle, ruining all your hard work. Again, more frustration– frustration that can usually be overcome with more work, but still frustration and more work just the same.
One last issue is sure to drive anyone nuts: The disparity of volume. For most of the game, you can have the sound at a comfortable level, but hitting a cutscene turns things up so disproportionately loud that you’ll immediately reach for the volume control– only to have to change it back once the otherwise-enjoyable animated sequence is over. Why would no one think this could be a problem? And Heaven help you if you happen to be using headphones at the time.
Water You Waiting For?
Where’s My Water? 2 has its problems, no doubt about it, and perhaps more than any installment in the Where’s My…? series before it. At the same time, we found that what the game gives by and large outweighs what it takes away. There are issues, yes, but most can largely be ignored except under very particular circumstances, while the others can be worked around. And who knows? Maybe Disney will wise up and patch most/all of these problems away in future updates.
But the core of the game and what it has to offer is great, and shouldn’t be missed by fans of the series. If the above issues do indeed turn you off enough to prevent a buy, you should at least do yourself a favor and keep an eye on it– if Disney does take care of these issues, then it becomes an indisputable must-have.