Killer Carrots and Crazy Cats
Back in the nineties, the eventually unreleased Amiga version of Putty Squad was praised by the press for its varied level shapes, consistent game logic, and “masterful” animation. Jump forward 15 years, and we no longer get excited by shapes (unless they’re naughty shapes and you’re a member of Reddit), or game logic. It’s surprising, then, that this revamped PlayStation 4 version does little to stretch above and beyond its retro roots.
The gameplay is simple: as a little blue blob of putty, you must collect all of the red splodges of goo and hurry to the green door that appears. You’ll occasionally be blocked by enemies that move both left andright (and sometimes even upwards), but for the most part there’s nothing too challenging outside of the act of actually exploring everything.
The title’s most annoying moments will come from the disparity between what you want your putty to do and what he’ll actually do. It’s endlessly annoying to have to time a leap just right, and then to fall two or three levels downwards because you hit the jump button when you were too close to the edge of a ledge. Platformer fans will tell you that there’s a natural feeling to the best entries in the genre, a ‘tightness’ that gives you control over your character, but that just doesn’t appear to be present here.
In all fairness, this isn’t a speed-based game, and that’s how the levels can afford to be so open and vertical. If you fall, you can try again and again. There’s a timer that’ll eventually run out, but it never feels like it’s a threat. As such, the failings of the control system don’t always feel like major problems because you’re rarely placed in life or death scenarios where you’ll need to be at your best. You’ll still feel it, though, and it’ll eat away at your enjoyment over time.
What enemies lack in danger, they make up for in numbers. Hitting the L1 and R1 buttons attacks left and right, and there are a few special moves to pull off as well. Unless you’re particularly poor, you probably won’t have any problems with any one opponent. When you’re surrounded, though, and there are missile flying everywhere, you may be forgiven for panicking. Thankfully, our little blue blob can take more than a little damage.
The design is such that you won’t often be able to dodge these sections, but that shouldn’t prove too much of a problem, as it’s the levels themselves that are against you. Exploring is made all the harder thanks to the odd layers in each stage that sometimes make you doubt what you can actually stand on. It would be impossible to play this game without the brightness set just right, and even then you’ll probably still stumble upon a problem or two.
This is often nullified by the stretch move, which lets you reach up and down to other platforms that’d usually be out of your grasp – but only if there’s a podium directly underneath the one that you’re trying to grab onto. Otherwise, you’ll have to just jump and hope for the best. Sometimes, this will pay off – and other times you’ll fall and will need to make your way back up again. This shouldn’t be a problem that’s occurring in a modern game on the PS4.
It doesn’t help that the levels are a bit of a mess in the first place. There’s no real structure to any of them. Each area is built around the various locations of the red putties, not around any real theme. Even the collectibles and enemies are completely random. You’ll come across cats in army boots, frogs, carrots with pistols, wizards, missile-toting knights, and more. It’s interesting, but it serves as a sign of the game’s age, and while older players may get a kick out of the wackiness, looked upon from a modern context it’s not nearly as crazy or as fun as you may remember.
Other than these general design issues, though, the visuals themselves are quite nice. The animations are fairly smooth, and each stage is colourful and bright. Obviously, it’s not going to test your next generation console, but it looks far better than the Amiga version. The score is very retro, with buzzes and beeps that’ll be stuck in your head all week – and even if these infectious tunes don’t lure you back to the game, they’ll almost certainly haunt your darkest nightmares. That’s a good thing, right?
Assuming that you can look past the old-school action and glaring issues, there’s an awful lot to keep you busy. In addition to a Platinum Trophy, there are dozens of levels to work through, and many of them are also available in Challenge Mode. The “story” largely involves you just playing through all of the stages and collecting red putties, but you also get the chance to gather up stars and stickers. The former are found everywhere, but the decals definitely are a lot rarer, and are required if you want all of the Trophies.
If you’re not much of a collector, the abovementioned Challenge Mode will test your speed and skills. Each level available has several medals to win, and you’ll earn these by completing certain conditions. It adds a new life to previously completed stages, and hardcore platform fans will enjoy testing themselves in different ways.
Putty Squad isn’t a good game by modern standards. It’s repetitive, confusing, dull, and a reminder that the medium has evolved. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a niche that may still enjoy this, and if you happen to squeeze into that cross-section then there’s plenty to sink your teeth into here. Everyone else looking to relive the past may be better off tackling one of the Blue Blur’s adventures, though – and letting this blue blob fester in the pipes beneath the sink.