Review: Putty Squad (3DS)

Putty in your hands

Putty Squad is a platform game that was originally developed by British developer System 3 for the Amiga in the '90s, but the official release had to wait until 2013, when the Amiga version of the game was rolled out on System 3's website as a Christmas gift. However, the original was actually published in 1994 for the Super Nintendo, with versions for the Sega Genesis and MS-DOS also planned but never finished. In 2014 Putty Squad made a remarkable return as a launch title for the PlayStation 4, and soon after got a multi-platform release on the PS Vita, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC and — of course — the Nintendo 3DS.

Putty Squad is an action-platformer in which the player assumes the role of Putty, a flexible and lovable amorphous blue blob. Being a blob, Putty has the advantage of being able to morph into different shapes. He can stretch to all sides, absorb items (that can be used later), attack (the attack range differs from a simple punch to throwing cans of nitroglycerine to shooting arrows, depending on the upgrade that's used) and inflate himself (Putty fills himself with hot air to fly). Besides these abilities, Putty is also invulnerable from falls of great heights. The control is tight and makes good use of the capabilities of the 3DS — on the lower touch screen the player sees all of the collected upgrades and can activate them by touching them, making the process much faster. A level map can be viewed on the bottom screen, while the game itself is entirely controlled with the D-Pad (or Circle Pad) and physical buttons.

The goal in each level of Putty Squad is to gather multiple red 'M.I.A' putties. They are spread all over the levels, so the player can finish a stage in any way they like, whether from right to left or from bottom to top; some levels are designed in a traditional horizontal way, while others have a vertical design. When all red putties are collected, a door appears that gives access to the next level. Though the levels have standard themes — jungle, desert, snowy plains and so on — they still feel very imaginative and it's all very cute and colourful. On a few occasions the screen is so busy that it can be hard to see where the bottom of the level actually is, which can cause a few frustrating deaths when you accidentally jump into a bottomless pit. Luckily, this is not a problem that occurs too often.

Like the levels, Putty's enemies are offbeat and funny. There's a cat that can be knocked down so his belly can be used as a trampoline and there are robotic dentures that try to kill you. However, one of the best enemies is a jumping sunglass-eyed carrot which yells "Achtung!". Levels can get quite cluttered with enemies, so the player often has to have rapid reactions in order to successfully reach the goal. There's also plenty of replay value; stickers can be gathered, secret levels can be unlocked and besides the regular campaign (called Marathon) there's a challenge mode in which certain goals for certain levels can be accomplished. Furthermore, trophies can be unlocked for quite a number of accomplishments.

The graphics are colourful and bright, while the animations are fine without being too dazzling. It looks just like what it is – a enhanced remake of a pretty 16-bit game, and retro gamers will certainly appreciate that; the 3D effect isn't spectacular at all, but it's nice to see that the developers actually tried in the first place. The music is suitable for the funny mood of the game and so are the humorous and eminently weird sound effects.

A point of annoyance is that if you restart from a save game you always start on level one on the level map screen – and you have move to your latest unlocked level by yourself; it'd have been nicer if Putty were just placed at the level we last finished. Furthermore, the game crashed a few times, especially when trying to use the map at the beginning of some levels. These crashes entirely froze the hardware, so the 3DS had to be restarted — luckily it didn't happen too often, but it's still disappointing. These are relatively minor drawbacks, of course — the main problem is the pricing. Despite being a well-produced and enjoyable game with a good level of content, its status as a budget retail title — it can be found in some stores as a physical release — belies the fact it feels like a download game; it's at a high price for the 3DS eShop market.

Conclusion

Putty Squad is a slightly overpriced but well-produced, and a highly enjoyable game for fans of retro platformers; it's well suited for the Nintendo 3DS. The game is charming, imaginative and funny, and serves as a reminder as to why many Amiga platformers where so beloved in the '90s. It offers a lot of content and will be enjoyed by anyone who has a love for classic platform games, but there are rough edges which should have been dealt with before release.