This article was written by Laura Mitchell.
In computer games, anyone can be a hero; plumbers, hedgehogs… or in the case of ‘Putty’, small blobs with eyes. No, not Kirby- this guy would have him for breakfast.
Putty (or Billy Putty, according to the manual) is an aspiring local hero who takes up the call to arms when the evil wizard Dazzledaze and his henchman Dweezil the Cat arrive on Putty Moon and start capturing all of Putty’s species, packaging them as shrieking bubblegum to the citizens of Earth. Alas, when the Bots, the putties’ mechanical allies from the planet Zid, arrive to help they are captured by Dazzledaze and his cronies. It’s up to Putty to rescue the bots and put an end to Dazzledaze’s chicanery once and for all!
Made by System 3 Software, ‘Putty’ is a cartoon-style platform game with a difference; not content with having you escort your character to the end of a level, here you have to rescue a number of Bots by absorbing them and carrying them to a drop-off point within the level- the level only ends when you have rescued the prerequisite number of Bots. However, you have to be careful. If Putty sustains too much damage, the Bot will die; and there are plenty of enemies, hazards and dangerous devices in every level to thwart Putty’s mission.
Fortunately, as Putty himself is a one amorphous-blue-blob killing machine, you have a variety of methods to negotiate the terrain, destroy the enemies and rescue your allies. Putty can wriggle across the floor, evade spikes and cover greater distances by stretching into a thin string, lie flat on the floor like a puddle and escape harm or absorb certain enemies, and even form a boxing glove appendage and punch the living daylights out of his foes. Sadly, he can only carry one Bot at a time without magic items (more on this later) but he can protect them from falling by inflating himself and providing cushioning. He can also inflate himself to such a degree that he explodes and destroys all enemies in the vicinity, which means his picture is probably on a blacklist at all major airports across the globe.
The levels themselves all follow a similar pattern- a predominantly upwards scrolling level littered with brightly coloured cartoony obstacles and enemies- but each world is vastly different in aesthetic design and difficulty. The further into the game you get, the more difficult enemies are to kill. Where once you could dispatch opponents such as the Uzi-packing carrot with a swift jab and absorb the wailing baby they turn into for energy (yes, really), you will soon find increasing numbers of foes who are impervious to your fisticuffs- the Scouse Sausage, for example, will merely respond to your pugilism with the words, “Come on then, I’ll have you now, eh!” Here is where the more ingenious methods of attack come into play, such as moulding yourself into something they might eat and poisoning them from within, to jumping between them and tricking them into shooting each other. It is clever additions like this to the gameplay that can almost make you forget what you’re supposed to be doing as you try and turn into a caterpillar to electrocute some pesky light bulb assassins.
The Bots themselves also become more difficult to rescue. In earlier levels they are encased in blocks of ice, thanks to that pesky Dweezil. When you punch the ice to free them, they just stand around patiently waiting to be saved. In later levels, they appear to have evaded Dweezli’s freezing methods and are running for their robot lives. This makes them likely to run away from you, jump on and off platforms and sometimes blunder into enemies and get destroyed. You can spend frustrating amounts of time negotiating your way up and down each hazard-packed level trying to retrieve them, and if you get hit by explosives or electrics four times, the Bot inside you will die anyway. Not that I’m bitter having been stuck on the ‘Technofear’ level for ages. However, if you need them to stay still for thirty seconds, Putty can generate a serviceable blue and white striped cup and the Bot will take a coffee break (yes, really).
On the bright side, you do get power ups. Unsurprisingly these are as delightfully dotty as everything else in the game. There are false teeth which allow you to devour bigger and stronger enemies, trash cans which enable you to carry multiple Bots, as well as the usual time bonuses and invincibility. The most notable mention has to go to the ingenious take on the stock freeze-the-enemies-for-a-limited-period-of-time bonus item. Called ‘Uncle Ted’, when this power up is absorbed the erstwhile Uncle Ted appears with his mixing deck and plays thirty seconds of excruciatingly bad music, which keep all the enemies boogying on down until he stops.
‘Putty’ is a deeply silly, fun game which is likely to keep you entertained for hours. Although stylistically it’s kiddie-friendly cartoon fare complete with little gross-out moments such as enemies who pick their nose or spit at you, the gameplay is far more challenging that the look and feel would suggest. It’s easy to see why Putty was a contender for the title of Amiga’s unofficial mascot (a title that was eventually handed to the alien ninja of ‘Zool’); ‘Putty’ the game is a fun, engaging platformer with a quirky, quintessentially British sense of humour that sets it apart from your Mario and Sonic titles of the day while still putting it as worthy competition.
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