Ah, yes, the lost Amiga platformer that wasn’t really lost at all, and even released on Super Nintendo in 1994 (not be confused with the SNES port of the first game, Putty, retitled “Super Putty” because Super Nintendo naming conventions), but was tauted as “reborn” for the PS4.
Yeah, this was a launch title, not that surprising, this is System 3 we’re talking about, i remember distincly them putting Super Fruit Fall on the Wii at launch, at full price, because why not?
Does it merit full MSRP? No. Doesn’t matter, since we’re putting it out when there’s bugger all to even play for the console. System 3 have been one of the cheapest UK publisher around for decades, and they’re still around, even if they mostly put out videogame pinball collections, some “HD” port for modern consoles of their old internal-developed MS DOS titles like Constructor.
And yes, they tried selling this one again on Switch, with the “Super” monicker slapped on, though, if you want a retail copy you might have to import it from the EU region.
Long story short: this PS4 version is a remake of sorts, as the Amiga version wasn’t released until December 2013, where the ROM was given away for free by System 3 themselves on their site.
System 3’s CEO, Mark Cale, also promised things for pre-ordering customers, including a Floppy disk version of the game, a Season Pass with a 1 year plan of free DLC content… none of which ever happened. But you probably already knew this, so let’s move on.
I was unsure of what i would think about this one, since i really didn’t grew up with this type of platformers like Putty, Super Frog and such, but with the early 3D strand of them, from Rayman 2 to Super Mario 64, and so on. I have no nostalgia for Putty Squad, but i want to know if this release made or makes any sense, and i do like platformers a lot, so here we are.
One thing i did not expect the game forcing you to go through the tutorial stages, i mean, this is a remake of a 1993-1994 2D platformer, how complicated could it be?
Well, the basic gist really doesn’t need much explanation: you control Putty, explore the level in search of a number of red Putties to collect-absorb, then a door appears, you enter it, level finished. Really common formula for platformer of a certain era, made first for computers and by european companies, with a common emphasis on item collection as a way to make you explore the levels.
But you need the tutorial, maybe not so much if you played the original Putty game, but you do need to be aware of the many, often random abilities Putty can perform. Not just jumping and forming “blob punches” from the sides to attack enemies, but he can also inflate like a baloon to fly, and he can absorb many things, like food, springs, even some enemies, and turn them into usable items, like, if you absord a “Groucho Marx get up” you can them use it to avoid taking damage from enemies (as you are “disguised”), if you absors the N I T R O S – as the game announces every single time you pick it up – you can launch grenades, etc.
And for some reason absorbing green cheese teleports you in some secret or otherwise inaccessible part of the levels. Is this is a british thing i don’t get?
There are a lot of items to use/consume, and they don’t always work like you would expect: absorbing food replenishes health, but there are also tin cans with a cat face on it, because. Not that you can immediately tell what enemies you can absorb or not, but then again, i don’t know why the stages are littered with springs that you can also absorb and spit back elsewhere, since you have the ability to fly/hover Kirby style, and Putty can also extend itself to lower or higher platforms.
This ability in particular, while fitting for a blob type character, seem to exist mostly to avoid fixing some odd geometry, as you can sometimes get stuck on platforms that you normally can’t get to, and with this combination of aesthetic and ancient level design, it’s not always obvious what is part of the background and what’s a proper platform. Which isn’t ideal, to be generous, and makes for quite the overwhelming first approach, to what you would assume to be an old school title that cuts to the chase, or at least doesn’t bombard you with a plethora of info right at the very beginning.
Once you adjust yourself to it…, yeah, you can tell this is a game from 1994 and it spawns from the Amiga era, from the jokey and immature (but polite immature) titles for the levels, the attitude of mashing stuff together, made flesh by the really random assortment of foes: clattering wound-up dentures, carrots with uzis and shades that yell “Achtung”, a DJ grampa, soldier cats, “rocked demons”, chickens, kaiser bees, boxing weiners, whatever, just throw it in. For the backgrounds, just choose a random theme, like “toilet world” “old but harmless ethnic stereotypes”, space, pyramids, etc. And more “cheeky” stuff like “Watchtowers Of Squirt”, my favourite Pokemon.
One of the most useful modern concessions is the ability to see the entire level map from a distance (though it would be nice it the tutorial told you how to change what item to use), but worry not, aside from redoing the graphics and having more buttons to work with, i don’t think they changed much from it’s original version, down to having a lives system and manual save only, maybe just made Putty able to resist more hits than before (the 5 hearts display it’s a bit deceiving).
And to be honest it’s still fun for what it is, even if it is frustrating to lose a life because the game decides getting hit by a moving fence kills you on the spot, while getting hit by one the many whizzing, respawing enemies or by enemy contact just consumes your life bar. It wouldn’t even be that hard if it weren’t for this and instant death upon touching the “pits/border of the screen below”, which in some levels don’t really look like chasms or “death pits”, but they are.
Ironically, some of the stuff that seem like it would hurt you, like side spikes on castles/huts… don’t in some stages, despite having the same “graphical density” as the stuff that either hurts you or blocks you. The controls are fine, the game runs without issues….it’s just that this one belonged in 1994 and should have been kept there, or actually remade instead of this glorified re-release/port.
Today you will reasonably get annoyed because despite the ability to “extend yourself”, this is limited only to reach lower or higher platformer, not to pass through walls, but then again, many times in later levels you’ll be wondering why that looks like something that i would just walk through or be able to use as a platform, but isn’t.
While the game starts out alright… it never fully evolves or properly escalate, as each level is more a puzzle to figure out where the putties are and where the items useful for blowing up fences holding the putty from your grasp. It isn’t bad, but it’s very simplicistic, there’s no curveball or variation thrown in to the formula of “get items, then get to goal/door”, which was fine for the time… not so much 2013, when this version surfaced, and then there’s the very fact the level designs themselves have that quality of somehow coming together despite not really being carefully constructed and more slapped together from random mixage of the assets, so even the stages that aren’t sloppy or are well designed enough… feel more like a product of chance than choice.
The same goes for their difficulty, some are harder than others, often because some randomly make scarce OR overabudant the items you need to beat the level, forcing you to die to make the items respawn…. if you have an extra life to spare (thankfully the starts and collected putties don’t reset over losing a life), you probably won’t.
Bad design, left unfixed by System 3 in over 20 years.
There’s just no crescendo, so later levels in a world (with just one “boss” at the very end of the last world, and even so, he barely qualifies as such) might be easier than the ones before, because the levels do end up feeling made in same way sangria was originally conceived. There’s no real sense that this is a later game stage aside from the level number and the fact it might be longer.
The only istances where the game add something significant in terms of variety is the stage with minecarts coming to run you over, and the stage where you control the POD spaceship and avoid air mines at the very end of the final world… while collecting all the stars, and it’s easily the hardest part of the game, because they specifically wanted to piss off the player and catch him off guard, with – all of a sudden – a flying stage where you use a repurposed power-up item to fly and pull off very minute, precise manouvers… with a ship that controls incredibly loose and free.
You have to pull a perfect run with precision you’re not given by the game controls for the POD item, and still don’t know exactly how i managed to pull it off. It’s frustrating and one of those “ambush variety level designs” piece of assholery developers loved to pull off back then, and still do in some cases.
Not surprised by the final level that’s technically a standard one… but also has an extra objective of destroying a green monk robed dude, i guess, because i’ve collected all putties, the door doesn’t show up (despite the Map Mode signposting where it should appear). That isn’t hard in itself, it’s more about avoid that he spawns a cloud that transports you to a secret level, beat that and then go back to stage, it’s more about killing him quickly so he doesn’t have time to spawn that cloud and force you into looping that sequence like he’s Doctor Strange and i’m Dormammu.
Not that i have any clue who this guys is (maybe he is Scatterflash, since the level is titled as such), the game has no fuckin cutscenes, story or any intro to explain why anything happens. Maybe it’s SO old school the story and lorre are explained all in the manual… but my used copy didn’t have it, so i wouldn’t know.
So at times Putty Squad it’s dull, very dull and dated, at times good, and only fans of retro styled platformers will get some enjoyement out of it, but not that much.. It’s average, overall, but the fact this was proposed with so little work done on it in 2013.. it’s no wonder it got the reception it got.
Tthere’s a good amount of content, there’s like 100 levels in total, 9 worlds, there’s extra secret levels, stickers to collect, trophies, there are a set of challenges with specific objectives to clear in the levels after you’ve done the campaign mode…. for some reason called “Marathone Mode”, one that sure as shit doesn’t take 11 hours to finish, since many levels from mid-game onward have to be accessed from secret doors, or have to be unlocked, so it not that long.
Doesn’t excuse the fact System 3 charged 30 bucks as MSRP for this one at launch… yeesh. Maybe about 10 bucks, and even so, just for platformer buffs and nostalgic players. Not really anybody else.
The best part is the music, i honestly thinks is the best part of the package and still “bops” today, even if you can tell how old are the compositions by the usual stereotypical middle-eastern or “asia” loops. I mean, when you enter the 4th world, the first level is called Dr Sushi Lab Of Terror, and of course the music has the obvious, stereotypical bytonal chinese tunes. Yeah, that old and that british.
I do also love the era’s infatuation with the half-reverbered announcer, so you hear NITROS and NEW STICKER in excited but lo-fi composed filtered voice, like they’re the best thing ever and cool as fuck! XD i genuinely love that. Some of the quips from enemies (i think they’re saying that, it’s not clear) are cute as well, random enough to be cute and not annoying.
Still, even knowing why this exists, it was and it’s still absurd to propose this on PS4, System 3 literally could have released this exact game on PS1 without changing much.
My impression is that it was easy to find it littering in bargain bins in the UK and US, i never saw a copy of this one in the wild in my country, and it’s becoming a bit more pricey to find nowadays. Maybe PAL copies a bit less, but still, i doubt it’s gonna ever get uber-cheap to find again.