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SummaryA decent kid-friendly version of Q*Bert
The GoodPrevious review: Putt-Putt and Pep's Balloon-o-Rama
Info and discussion: http://www.mobygames.com/forums/dga,2/dgb,5/dgm,197698/
Now for the other Putt-Putt Junior Arcade. This one seems to be the far lesser known of the two. To be fair, though, there's probably a really good reason for that -- Balloon-o-Rama was packaged with Putt-Putt Travels Through Time on two separate occasions, once in the Putt-Putt Deluxe Pack (which I just so happened to own as a kid...why did I get rid of that watch...) and once in the 2002 reissue. Dog on a Stick never got that special treatment. Does that mean the game is bad, though? Well...let's take a look.
The plot is slightly more existant than it was in Balloon-o-Rama, but it's still a stretch to say it has one. Putt-Putt and Pep are going to recycle some old bottles and cans, when Pep miraculously makes a pogo stick out of them. Somehow this prompts him to hop across trash cans, mountains, castles, and other things...because safety? Yeah, I'm following it just about as much as you are. At least it had some buildup.
This time the game takes inspiration from Q*Bert. You control Pep on a pogo stick on an isometric viewpoint and can hop in four diagonal directions to another space. There are bones scattered across all of these spaces, and the goal is to get as many as you can before you finish the level. Of course, there is nothing stopping you from ignoring them, but your score won't be so high if you do.
It starts off pretty basic just like Balloon-o-Rama, but crazy things start getting thrown into the mix. They start adding double-jump pads, bonus items, portals, disappearing and reappearing platforms, and several enemies. By enemies I mean cuddly bears and pigs with jetpacks. Many of the enemies have different traits to keep it interesting -- some can teleport, some can't, some can't get stuck by goo or slip off oil, some have better AI than others, it all keeps it interesting.
Most of the game mechanics work really well, and there are actually enough they keep throwing in to keep the game interesting for most of the time. Many of them have to be strategically used to make it safely to the finish and/or get all the points. Some of them work well, such as the trampolines and the oil, but others are a bit annoying. The portals are the worst -- you would think it would just be as simple as one taking you to the other, but they're randomized. Well, sort of. If you jump to it from one angle it will take you to the same portal every time, but there are never two that are just tied together, which adds fake difficulty.
There are 100 levels total. It follows the same rule of Balloon-o-Rama by changing the theme every ten levels. You start out in a junkyard, and then head to a desert just as an example. I prefer not to spoil the themes because they are actually part of the reason to keep playing -- you want to know what theme is going to come up next. The levels are fairly short, generally taking a few seconds each if you don't go for the items. Every five levels there will be a special space that is usually marked in one way or another, such as having a different look from the rest. It will trigger a bonus level appearance, where you have to catch all the presents you can. They're actually a little difficult, even if you're a kid.
Speaking of difficulty, this is actually one of the harder Junior Arcades if you attempt a high score without the Junior Helper. Nearly all of the enemies qualify as Demonic Spiders for one reason or another, especially the hedgehogs who are annoyingly fast and unpredictable. Unlike the other Junior Arcades, you will NEED those extra lives. The only option for the younger ones this time around is infinite lives, so even if you do turn it on, the enemies are still a nuisance. If you simply skim over everything instead of trying to go for the most points, you probably will get bored really quickly. It's tedious in the first few levels, yes, but when you start getting to ones that plop five skunks and a bunch of platform appearances and disappearances that are triggered by buttons that THEY can also press...oh geez.
There is also a custom level editor packed with this game just like last time, and unfortunately it still suffers the same issue of being more limited than what the levels in the actual game can provide. They don't even offer all of the enemies. Still, it does offer quite a bit and lengthens the replayability of the game.
This time we get treated for the very first time in a Humongous game the musical talent of Jeremy Soule and...OH GOSH YES...sorry, just some fanboying there. Point is, Jeremy Soule is easily my favorite HE game music composer. He always gets the mood right and, above all else, provides some of the most memorable music. This game is no exception. Even the first level theme provides a little section I always hum. The arctic and factory themes are probably some of my favorites though. I don't know how many times I've caught myself listening to this game's music while I work on something else.
The Bad(heck no)
The Bottom LineSo, it sounded like a gush fest, but would I recommend this game? Ehh...I dunno. I haven't heard a whole lot of people gushing about how much they loved this game when they were little, but is that caused by its lack of publicity? Maybe. Whatever the case, I'd only recommend it if you don't think you'll be tempted to rush through it or use the Junior Helper. It starts off pretty unmemorable, but patience is a virtue, and you'll probably be surprised how into it you get by the end. For what it's worth, it's a fun little distraction, and if you think the five dollars is a good deal, go on ahead and see for yourself.
Next time, we'll see what Freddi Fish had to offer arcade wise. Ironically enough, they're contendors for the best and worst in the series.
(Up next: Freddi Fish and Luther's Maze Madness)