Sunday, October 22, 2017

Review: Putty Pals


While the Switch has sort of introduced a revolution for easy 2-player experiences that can be brought and shared anywhere, to date it hasn’t had anything quite like Putty Pals. Using a claymation art style that tips considerably into Cutesville, it pairs that with relatively simple controls to craft an experience that could be appropriate for people of any age. Don’t be deceived though, this is hardly a game relegated to being “for the kids” in terms of its depth of challenge. Putty Pals delivers a full feast of progressively challenging co-op platforming married with clever ideas.


In general your actions in the game include jump, flattening yourself so your partner can springboard off of you, and reaching out to grab, whether your partner’s hand or objects. While this may seem a bit limited the number of situations and ways these moves are put to the test is actually quite impressive and also challenging. You’ll, at times, need to jump, flatten, and let your partner spring off of you while in the air as a for-instance, or on platforms that only one of you can move over one player will need to grab and pull the other to safety. Credit to the developers for playing with these concepts in quite a number of ways, you can see and appreciate the effort to try to keep things fresh through the game’s many standard (and hidden) stages.

It should be noted that you can play the game in single-player mode but even though there have been a number of left/right brain games already on Switch, or ones where you could pull things off solo reasonably well, the combination of actions you’ll need in this don’t make it well-suited to you being successful, at least not for long. Playing with a friend is very obviously the intention and overall far more manageable. That’s not to say the game is easy though, if anything the candy-coated visuals cover many demanding sections that gamers with too little experience may get aggravated by. At a minimum I’d say you either want to have the game played by two moderately-able gamers or one very strong one with an inexperienced one since there’s a degree of planning and precision in many areas where some wisdom will come in handy.Thankfully the game’s plentiful checkpoints will act as a safety net so that you won’t finally clear a challenging section to then additionally need to survive something else before you’re set for good. Additional good news, if you and your partner think of yourselves as more hardcore gamers there’s plenty for you to work with as well! Secret putty swirls hidden on each stage will unlock additional challenges if you find each one in the level, and within those you’ll then be able to unlock time trials so you can test how efficiently you’re able to work as a team while on the clock. The scalability of what’s available in the game, as long as you buy into the core experience, is actually pretty impressive.


Getting to some criticisms aside from the major “area” distinctions levels within the same region are pretty well impossible to discern from one another. While the specifics with the order and types of challenges you’ll face in each stage will vary this creates occasional “Didn’t we play this before?” situations. Another thought, that would be easily patched, would be in the area of making the game as accessible as possible to everyone. While the default buttons for control make reasonable sense the lack of an opportunity to remap them to better suit each individual player is an oversight, especially if you may be trying to play with much younger, or perhaps older, gamers. Finally, while my skill level appreciates how quickly the game gets rolling with more challenging situations, it seems to fly in the face of the theming to a degree as well. While it looks like it is a game very much for kids it probably skews a bit higher than you may assume. While, no doubt, kids can be challenged and work through things (and the checkpoint system helps with this greatly) I could see where they could hit a wall relatively early and that may put them off to continuing. That’s where pairing less experienced gamers with stronger ones may be necessary so their skills can help pull the newbie through. One notable trick in this regard is that even if your partner has fallen into the lava (or killed in some other fashion) if you’re able to get to the next checkpoint you’ll pull them forward. It is things like this that may save the game for the less experienced players but I’m not sure if that wouldn’t eventually make them unhappy nonetheless.

In the end Putty Pals is a refreshingly-clever platforming game that is best played with a friend. Ideally you’ll both have at least some moderate gaming chops, and if you do there’s a wonderful variety of content within that you’ll be able to overcome and enjoy together. If you’re wanting to play with someone less experienced things can still work out but you’ll both have to be patient as they come up to speed and work out their coordination. Solo play is possible but once you get in several levels it would get to be quite aggravating trying to coordinate your various button-presses for both characters by yourself. While it isn’t perfect, Putty Pals is an excellent cooperative-play-focused platformer, and that’s not something you’ll likely see often.


Score: 7.5

Pros:

  • Platforming fun for a pair of friends or family members
  • Hidden objects will unlock secret levels which can unlock time trials so if you love the concepts there’s plenty of content to enjoy
  • Makes clever use of the relatively modest move
    set with a variety of scenarios and action puzzles


Cons:

  • Despite its very cute appearance it would be challenging for a pair of less experienced gamers
  • Single-player, while possible, is not viable long-term
  • Level-to-level visual “sameness” in places


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