Putty is a playful substance. It can be stretched, moulded into shapes, bounced around, or stuck to something, demonstrating a flexibility in approach that you will soon come to appreciate in Putty Pals. This colourful putty-obsessed puzzle platformer began life as a university project that was met with a positive reaction at PAX Australia, and now, some years later, Harmonious Games has chosen to port it to Nintendo Switch.
It’s a perfect fit, too, as the game has been designed from the ground up as a co-operative experience for two players. Hand a Joy-Con to a friend, and you must work together to help six bouncing putty blobs safely return home to Puttopia. They have, somewhat conveniently, become lost in pairs, meaning that both players will have to summon enough courage to brave Mount Puttuvius, Puttarctica, and Puttazon Island.
Their journeys are perilous, and I can’t really describe it any better than the developer in that it is only through teamwork, communication, and a whole lot of hilarious mistakes that will see you bounce them home to Puttopia. Teaming up with a friend, we played through Putty Pals in Handheld mode which was a memorable experience that often saw us laugh uncontrollably, groan at each other’s momentary ineptitude, and easily become distracted in our hunt for the game’s collectables.
Putty Pals is not an especially hard game, but it requires coordination. The two adorable blobs that you play as – which also make call and response sounds when they jump, much to our amusement – are different colours, and, as you soon discover, this is used for the game’s puzzle elements. The green blob, for instance, can happily sit on platforms that match its own colour but passes through those that match the blue blob’s colour.
Something so simple can still confuse, seeing your once happy blob tumble to its doom. But, the developer has been generous with their checkpoints, meaning that you are never at risk of losing much of your progress. It isn’t long before you are flattening yourself into a trampoline for your, ahem, putty pal to use to bounce from, happily leaping between bubblegum-coloured walls, holding hands to merge with one another to swing your way across treacherous gaps, or repeatedly squishing yourself to swim underwater.
Those gameplay mechanics are actually all introduced in the first level in Mount Puttuvius, leaving Harmonious Games to toy around with them as much as possible in the rest of Putty Pals. Putty pellets are placed in out of reach locations and are required to break open the path forward, while puzzles steadily become more demanding but never overly daunting nor unnecessarily meanspirited – leaning more on limiting your progression with colour-coded conundrums that you must tackle while avoiding danger.
The problem that Putty Pals has is that it’s fairly short, with limited replay value. The chance to bounce, squish and swing your way to Puttopia is an entertaining one, but there are just 28 levels of relatively short length in the main game – 10 in Mount Puttuvius, eight in Puttarctica, and 10 in Puttazon Island. Players are encouraged to hunt out collectables along the way to unlock shorter bonus levels that see you posed with more complicated puzzles to overcome, and, once unlocked, time trials push you to earn gold, silver, or bronze medals.
The world that has been moulded into shape for Putty Pals is a charmingly colourful one, even if the general presentation is a little too simplistic. The accompanying music, though, is aggravating, to the point that, even though we loved the jumping sounds, we resorted to muting the Nintendo Switch.
Putty Pals never falters as a cooperative experience, and, while there is the chance to struggle as a lone player, it is undeniable proof that games are often at their best when enjoyed with others. This squishy cooperative puzzle platformer may see you bouncing toward Puttopia, but it is clear to see that its real home is on Nintendo Switch – embodying everything that the plucky portable home console is all about.