Don't be soft! If you're looking for a new platformer with a touch of strategy, a dab of cuteness, and a lot of bounce, then System 3's latest will give you morph for your money
Putty, eh? It's the sort of word which conjures up images - images of something soft, tacky, sticky, amorphous, pliable, bendable, ductile, flexible, limber, lithe, malleable, plastic, supple, cushiony, doughy, elastic, gelatinous, pulpy, quaggy, spongy, squashy, squishy, bendable, elastic, flexible, mouldable, and kind of putty-like, I'd day. (Wow, that old Thesaurus trick always comes in handy.)
So, Putty, eh? Notice the lack of 'silly' there. Putty is no longer a licensed product, and so the blue jump at the centre of the game's antics is now just a regular piee of putty, an average Joe. But - hey! - he's still pretty silly.
A quick history lesson is in order, I guess. Putty started life nearly two years ago now, destined for release on cartridge for the Amiga. Since then, the whole concept of Amiga cartridges has fallen through, the Silly Putty tie-in has disappeared, and the game has - gasp! - been completed. It's a bit of a relief after all this that Putty fulfils its potential and promise (And a lot more besides) instead of drowning in a quagmire of troubled history and overlong development time.
Bouncing Back To You
The plot is typically forgettable, all to do with Dazzledaze the cat, a tower stretching from Planet Earth up to Putty Moon, and a whole load of robots who're in need of rescuing (thus enabling the completion of the tower and so the levels to play through). The basic gist then is that Putty's journey back to Putty Moon involves travelling through six different distinct graphic environments, each with three stages. Each of those is a vertically scrolling level four screens high.
Then... on each of these levels there's a space ship or elevator of some description - the safe haven for the robots. Dotted around the level's platforms are the robots who need capturing, taking to the safe haven, then releasing. On the early levels the robots are frozen in blocks of ice, but as Putty gets closer to Putty Moon the temperature rises and the robots are free-roaming. By this time it's a regular occurrence to hear a screen, then see a robot tumble to its death. The robots aren't very good with ledges you see.
Luckily, robots are regenerated pretty quickly, and each level usually only needs between three and five robots saving to complete it, so none of this presents too much of a problem.
Time and 'pliability' (effectively your energy level) do, however. Each level has its own time limits, though extra time is gained by getting a robot to safety.
The main problems are presented by the varied nasties who roam the levels. These are all unique to the six plating areas, and just like the robots they will renegerate after a time if killed. Yep, that's right, Putty an kill the bad guys - and in a number of distinctly putty-ish ways.
Offensive move number one is the good old bounce. It won't work on all bad guys, but many of the smaller adversaries are easy prey for a bit of squishing. Attack number two is the putty punch. Here a little fist 'morphs' out from Puffy's amorphous body, smaching the enemy in the chops. Again it doesn't work on all baddies, but it'll usually get an interesting response. Some of the bigger baddies who can't be beaten with fists will actually shout back - the scouse sausage for instance cries "Come on then, I'll have you now, eh?" in an authentic Brookside manner.
Attack number three is absorption. This simply involves flattening Putty onto the floor (he's invincible in this position), and if the bad guy is absorbable, then he'll get sucked into Putty (whose pliability will increase). If Putty manages to collect a hidden set of teeth, then even the larger bad guys can be dealt with like this.
But wait, there's more. Putty can also burst himself (in glorious technicolour). It uses up 25% of Putty's pliability, but inflating him to bursting point acts as a smart bomb. It really comes into its own on the particularly hectic later levels (the early ones are busy enough, believe me). And... Putty can also transform himself into the form of some of the bad guys. The little pip-shooting clockwork oranges for instance (yeah, I know) can be absorbed, giving Putty the chance to give the bad guys a taste of their own medicine. There's even a malevolent black hole on the higher levels which can be absorbed and used as a blue hole.
And so the list of little features continues, and I haven't even mentioned the shockapillars or the evil white rabbits yet, never mind the astonishing number of moves which Putty can perform. Check out the tasty piccies dotted around the place for a more visual idea of what I mean.
Giving It Some Stick
Hidden in various bits of the game are bonus objects. These range from the teeth which I mentioned earlier, to simple point bonuses and extra time clocks, to invincibility, and dustbins (which enable Putty to carry several robots at once) and instant elevators. Best of all though is the Uncle Ted bonus. Collecting this introduces Uncle Ted and his wonderful organ (obviously a cousin to Viz's Captain Morgan) for a minute or so. Once on screen, Ted pounds away at the ivories, playing to his heart's content, sending all the nasties into a bout of involuntary dancing. They're rooted to the spot tapping their feet while Putty can make a hassle-free bid to rescue the robots. It's little elements like this in the game which elevate it to the level of near genius.
And did I mention just how funny this game was? The first thing anybody does when they see and hear it for the first time is to chuckle long and hard. There are just so many neat audio and visual gags packed in there, it's almost impossible to resist the charm.
Mega Lo Mania really set some amazing standards for interactive samples in Amiga games, and disappointingly only a handful of games have followed it example. Putty manages to equal, if not outdo Sensible's effort, with countless bits of speech, slapstick sounds and cool fx. Listening to Putty, you could almost be hearing the soundtrack to a Warner Bros cartoon. And, despite the compactness of the graphics, they too contain a real cartoon element. Animation and expression are the keys - there's just so much detail in there, with even the most insignificant bad guy possessing smooth characterful animation (and excellent sound to match).
As we mentioned in True Stories last month, System 3 have declared that they want the Putty character to become a mascot for Amiga owners, just as the much-hyped Sonic and Mario are the pride of Sega and Nintendo types. Commodore seem to agree to an extent, placing Putty in their new A600 bundle pack. Somehow I don't think this'll work - the character just isn't strong enough as a static image - let's be honest, a blue blob with eyes doesn't initially look that exciting. But that isn't any reflection on the game. On-screen Putty excels, the wealth of movements and expressions (All conveyed with the eyes) outdoing any other game character on the block. Without the endearing Putty character, the game just wouldn't be worthy of this amount of praise, and it'd be a bit stuck for a name too. But Putty it's got, and Putty it is. And most extraordinary it is too.
Putty In Your Hands
Y'know, in a recent survey, eight out ot ten magazine journalists (who work on Amiga Power) who expressed a preference came up with the word 'window' as the most obvious association for 'putty'. That's that sketch knackered then.
Instead, I'll close this enthusiastic review with the following simple question: What the hell are you waiting for?
The Bottom Line
Uppers: The putty character, the enemies, the control system, the shape-changing abilities, the fantastic sampled sound, the originality and enthusiasm behind the whole thing, the colour-filled levels - just where do I start? There are so many hidden features and subtle touches in this game, all guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
Downers: Loading between every level is a bit of a pain, and the way that Putty disappears off the top of the screen when he jumps is slightly messy. More levels would have been nice (but that's 'cos I'm greedy, and a data disk is promised for next year anyway).
One of the Amiga's most original and finest moments yet. System 3 have really pulled out all the stops with this one. The character is wonderful, the levels are superbly designed, and the abundant weird touches are matched only by the mighty Wizkid. You know the score, or if you don't by now, it's... 90%