Putty Squad is a remake of the 1994 SNES game of the same name. A lot has changed in gaming over the past 20 years since the release of the original Putty Squad, so does the puzzle platform gameplay Putty Squad has to offer stand up to the test of time?
Putty Squad mixes platforming gameplay with some very light puzzle aspects. It’s difficult to find something directly comparable in the Vita library as it fits tightly into a specific niche – the closest equivalent that came to mind when playing Putty Squad was Toki Tori. Putty Squad doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not – it forgoes trying to attempt a story at all, and instantly throws you into the gameplay, and that’s fine as not every game needs a story mode, allowing you to get straight to playing as Putty Squad focuses entirely on its strengths rather than adding superficial elements for the sake of it.
Putty Squad sees you play as an anonymous blue putty setting off on a journey to rescue his red putty pals, encountering a number of hazards, enemies and puzzles along the way. Thankfully Putty Squad gives you plenty of powers up to help you traverse the themed levels in search of your pals including the abilities to expand so you can float, fire rockets to take out enemy bunkers and fly around in a rocket allowing you to drop mini bombs on enemies.
There are two main modes in Putty Squad – marathon and challenge. The former is the main game mode in which you complete each level before moving onto the next, having you performance graded across three key areas – how many stars you collected, your total level score and whether you kept your lives in tact. The latter mode, challenge, gives you a series of challenges or objectives and the aim is to complete as many as possible on any given level against the clock.
Putty Squad scores each level based on a whole number of aspects – for example the number of enemies killed, time taken to complete the level. Scoring levels adds an extra layer to the gameplay, offering some replay value in terms of online leaderboards and trying to best your friends’ scores.
One of the mechanics I found most interesting in Putty Squad was the way in which the star system works. There are a plethora of stars to collect in each level and doing so has a number of effects. Firstly, as mentioned previously, star collection is one of the key criteria for level completion. Secondly, as you collect more stars your basic attack function upgrades from a simple punch to being able to throw bombs.
Graphically, Putty Squad doesn’t break any new ground but performs steadily and copes well even when the action begins to become frantic. There are some interesting and unique choices in terms of enemies – I can’t recall ever being chased in a game by a sunglasses-wearing, dual pistol wielding carrot! While by nature, the side scrolling graphical potential is limited, Putty Squad oozes personality and it’s abundantly obvious that the developers have spent a long time lovingly crafting every part of the game.
The levels are split into worlds, each with a specific themes varying from jungle and underwater levels, complete with snorkelling enemies, to Egyptian-esque palaces and scary science laboratories. There is enough variety in the level design to keep things interesting without detracting or distracting from the actual gameplay. The level design is, for the most part, exceptionally well done. Levels vary in challenge and verticality and they differ enough to keep you on your toes and the gameplay interesting – some of the levels are incredibly tight affairs requiring precision control while others are vertical climbs presenting a different challenge entirely.
The soundtrack for Putty Squad is somewhat underwhelming and very quickly becomes tedious after the first few play sessions and I found myself muting the game sounds in favour of listening to music on my phone – the good thing with a game like Putty Squad is that the audio isn’t essential for the gameplay experience, you lose very little playing the game either without sound or with an alternative soundtrack.
When you unlock a trophy in Putty Squad, as well as the standard PlayStation trophy notification, the game plays a short victory sound and pops up with a message congratulating you – it’s a nice touch, giving even the gamer uninterested in trophies a satisfying feeling upon gaining one. It’s the small touches like this that make Putty Squad complete, there’s an overall level of minute detail often missed in modern gaming, but it makes all the difference to suck you in to play more and giving you that “one more go” sensation – it’s the hallmark of a great game when a play session intended to last minutes keeps going past the hour.
Putty Squad is incredibly fun to play and is especially suited to portable play on the Vita as most levels can be beaten in less than 5 minutes. Use of the Vita’s touchscreen is limited and feels a little forced but the icons are well placed on the right side of the screen allowing for easy use of power-ups. With regards to controls in Putty Squad, given that you can only travel in 4 directions, you have the option of movement via the analogue stick or the D-Pad, both of which are equally effective.
Given that for the price you can download Putty Squad not only for the Vita, but also for the PS4 as part of the cross-buy scheme, the extra value is an extra bonus. There’s certainly enough replay value in terms of top scores and completion targets to keep you coming back – I’m not particularly a trophy hunter or completionist in general, but Putty Squad seemed to sub-consciously call me back. It’s a subtle approach that the game adopts – Putty Squad is fine with you doing the bare minimum to pass any given level and continue, but does just enough to leave you wanting to do more in terms of completion.