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Putty Pals (Switch) artwork

Putty Pals (Switch) review

"Looking for an engaging experience to share with younger players? Putty Pals could be just the game for you!"

You might not have heard of Harmonious Games until now, but there's a good chance you'll see more from the promising studio in the future. Putty Pals, the team's debut effort, just recently released on the Nintendo Switch after arriving on Mac and PC earlier this year. The game places players in control of two colorful blobs of putty as they make their way across beautiful islands using a pleasing combination of teamwork and perseverance. The experience is a perfect match for the console, and an especially noteworthy option if you're looking for something fun and innocent to play with children.

The Switch version of Putty Pals features a total of three main islands. They're mostly divided by element, and the third of the available islands is new to this particular release. Additional mini-levels are also accessible when you find special orbs secreted throughout the standard stages, which encourages exploration, plus you can unlock time trials to add to the adventure's longevity. Sufficiently skilled players should be able to clear everything in a few hours, but newcomers could wind up taking considerably longer.

Putty Pals (Switch) image

Putty Pals is a basic platformer, with puzzle elements popping up periodically to keep you on your toes. The heroic blobs bounce merrily along the ledges, or stick to walls and ceilings when appropriate. They can attach themselves to objects and swing around the environment if necessary, and death is never anything more than a temporary setback. However, sporadically clever design ensures that almost nothing is ever quite as easy as it appears at a glance. Some of the puzzles are actually quite demanding.

The most common puzzles relate to smaller orbs you must gather in order to clear obstructed pathways. For instance, you might see what looks like a bridge spanning a bottomless pit that is too wide to cross without assistance. If you try to jump onto that bridge directly, you'll just fall into the abyss. Instead, each of the two heroes often must gather a few color-coded orbs which then cause the bridge to properly materialize. After that, you can cross and trigger the next checkpoint. Elsewhere, you might see a series of colored ledges. The orange slime can move along platforms of the same hue, but the yellow one will pass right through it. The two blobs must work together to ensure both are able to progress. Either that, or one of the champions can often rush to the next checkpoint, which is a cheesy tactic but at least maintains forward momentum.

Putty Pals (Switch) image

Teamwork is a critical skill you'll want to rely on as you work through the campaign, and the heroes' various abilities emphasize that point. Besides jumping, you can reach out a helping hand to pull your ally up to your level, or to swing like a pendulum and gain sufficient momentum to clear spiked pits. It's also possible to inflate yourself like a pillow, so your chum can bounce to reach new heights (this is often most useful when you need to reach the various hidden orbs). If you are playing with someone who isn't good at communication, or if you and your friend simply aren't in sync, that can get frustrating in a hurry. Working together always feels great, though.

It's technically possible to play Putty Pals all alone, but the game was clearly designed with two players in mind. No more, no less. Each player uses a Joy-Con or Pro controller, just as you might expect. If you try to adventure on your own, you're stuck controlling both blobs at once (or in alternating bursts), using the left and right analog sticks to move and the bumpers to jump. Due to the timing and coordination required at various points throughout the campaign, this process sometimes fills like an almost impossible task, plus it deprives you of the joy of playing with a friend or relative and blaming your partner for every failure.

Putty Pals (Switch) image

Deaths will likely occur frequently no matter how you choose to play, but they are rarely as frustrating as you might imagine if you've played a lot of other games of this sort. Checkpoint placement is generous enough that you never have to backtrack far, and the visuals are so vibrant and cheerful that it's hard to respond with anything other than a shrug and a grin when the game gets the best of you. A bouncy soundtrack that wouldn't feel out of place in a Rayman game keeps the mood light, as well. There are no monsters to best, with the exception of the occasional starfish or rolling boulders, so youngsters are unlikely to suffer from nightmares even after an extended session. Perhaps most importantly, it's nice to feel like you're not being punished for every mistake you make, even though the game is designed in such a way that errors are fairly common.

Putty Pals (Switch) image

The third island, which unlocks only after you complete the first two, is arguably the best of the bunch and the friendliest to newcomers. Levels start out quite easy and introduce new threats at a very manageable pace. The first two islands feel almost rough in comparison, but all three destinations should still delight most players. Taken as a group, they serve as a low-pain boot camp for tougher games you might want to play somewhere down the road.

Putty Pals isn't the sort of title that's likely to turn your head when you look at some screenshots or watch brief video segments, but it does provide a pleasant and generally engaging romp when you sit down to actually play it. The design is just about ideal for gamers of all ages because frustration is kept to a minimum and so is violence. The level design encourages creative thinking and teamwork instead of violent behavior, which parents are likely to appreciate. If you're looking for a fun new platformer to play with friends or family members, you won't find many better candidates.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 25, 2017)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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kazriko posted October 26, 2017:

Looks like it's related to the Putty and Putty Squad series. That's been around for 25 years, starting on the SNES and Amiga.
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honestgamer posted October 26, 2017:

I played (and didn't much care for) Putty Squad when they recently brought it back on PlayStation 4, and I would say the games don't much resemble one another except for "Putty" being in the title and the heroes being made of putty. I thought at first there might be a strong connection, but now I believe the naming similarities may just be a coincidence.

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