Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: Putty Squad (Nintendo 3DS)

Review by Matt S. 

Putty Squad has its heart in the right place, and it works hard to recreate the kind of retro charm that this game offered when it was first released as an obscure Super Nintendo game back in 1994.

A lot has changed to the 2D platformer genre in the years since, but while this remake (which we also recently reviewed on the PlayStation 4) has taken advantage of modern technology to up its visual presentation, the core game remains exactly the same now as it was back then. And that's the problem with the game; while it's perfectly workmanlike, Putty Squad was never of the same profile as, say, Mario or Donkey Kong back in those days. Releasing the same game now gives a moment of nostalgic rush, but once that wears off there is nothing here that will maintain interest.

Putty Squad is old-school in the sense that it never really bothers to explain just why you're playing as an (admittedly cute) blue blob and absorbing red blobs to open a door to the next level. It's the kind of abstract set up that was common for the genre at the time; don't bother to explain why players need to do things, just explain to them how to do it, and leave the narrative to their own imagination. Putty Squad's world is too alien to really be engaging on a narrative level, however, and so, as pretty as it is (and on the 3DS screen it is indeed a pretty game), the game relies entirely on the platforming to hold attention.



There's a couple of very old school quirks to the platforming. Each level has a time limit, for a start, and while it's a relatively generous time limit, the fact that the game also mandates exploration annoys me greatly. A good game where exploration is a core component hides its treasures well, and then encourages players to take their time looking for them. Nintendo is the master of this; Donkey Kong Country Returns being the greatest example, but its lesser games such as Yoshi's New Island also understands that time limits and exploration-based puzzlers don't go well together. Putty Squad doesn't hide its hidden things as well as those games, because it can't; the time limit doesn't facilitate proper exploration.

Players are welcome to travel through the environments however they like, and each level is both vertical and horizontal. The goal, as I mentioned above, is to find a number of red blobs. Once they've all been found, a door to the next level opens up. These levels are predictably filled with enemies to jump on (or pound), and contain some simple environmental puzzles and traps to work around.



These levels display pleasant, classical level design, but nothing that truly stands out as memorable. There's plenty on content in Putty Squad, but it all floats by without leaving any real impact. On the 3DS screen it doesn't help that some of the personality of characters and enemies is lost on account of their small size.

The absence of anything memorable about it unfortunately curses Putty Squad to be a B-grade game in the truest sense of the word. There's nothing overtly wrong with it, but the 2D platformer isn't exactly one that is underserviced on the 3DS, and it's hard to see value in buying this game over some of the other options out there.



- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld


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