The Nintendo Switch has brought social gaming back to the couch with aplomb. With the ability to literally disconnect two controllers and hand one to a buddy, how could it not? While competitive multiplayer has been the main thrust, cooperative experiences seem to be fewer and far between. Putty Pals is your friendly reminder that playing with friends is as fun as playing against them. Rather than shoe-horn a second player into an adventure meant for one, Putty Pals is built around working your way through levels with another player.
The game has you controlling two balls of clay that must traverse a world that you can only overcome with both of them put to work. The move set is simple; you can jump, you can turn into a trampoline so your partner can jump high, and you can hold hands. The crux of Putty Pals is that you must often conquer obstacles by using each other to do so. For example, you can adhere to sticky ceilings but can’t move on unless you hold each other’s hands and alternate jumping so you can pendulum swing across. Everything from colour-specific platforms to opening gates by collecting the proper doodads is built with two players in mind.
It can’t be emphasized enough that Putty Pals should be played as a cooperative experience. You could conceivably play it as a solo experience with you using both Joy-Cons in a grip, but something is definitely lost in translation. You’ll often get frustrated with trying to maneuver your heroes by alternating tapping the shoulder buttons to jump, or save the other from peril by grasping hands - achieved by pressing the analogue sticks in. It’s very much a “pat your head and rub your tummy” scenario that just isn’t worth exploring by yourself. Grab a child, a friend or a significant other and it becomes a great game of communication, laughter and teamwork.
Putty Pal's presentation, however, is a bit of a letdown. While colorful and filled with happiness-inducing sound effects, the worlds are bereft of the type of details and life that make other games feel like a genuine place. Sure, there are jungles and beaches and ice-covered caves, but with your gelatinous protagonists being the only things that are actually animated, it can feel a little stark and dull. Perhaps the developers felt this would distract from the action, but a few googly eyes here and there wouldn’t have hurt.
The game comes equipped with 28 standard stages, which are both lengthy by design and by the fact that there are hidden doohickeys to collect in each one. There are unlockable challenge stages that tend to focus on a smaller, more complex puzzle as well as time trials for those who want to speed run the game. While not necessarily a long experience, it does a good job of not overstaying its welcome with the type of bloat that can sometimes superficially extend the lifespan of a game.
Even though there are no frills, Putty Pals is an entertaining and well thought out puzzle platformer that is a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch. The analogy of the initial teaser trailer for the Switch, showing someone handing a Joy-Con to a friend at a moment’s notice, could have very well shown gameplay from Putty Pals to drive the point home. Play it with a friend and only a friend, as solo players could become a bit frustrated from trying to move forward in a game that’s obviously built for two. Our recommendation is for the co-op experience - if you're flying solo this may not be the game for you.