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SummaryThe first truly good Junior Adventure
The GoodPrevious review: Fatty Bear's Birthday Surprise
Info and discussion: http://www.mobygames.com/forums/dga,2/dgb,5/dgm,197698/
Now, we get to the turning point. The last two games seemed to mostly exist for experimentation. Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon, however, was the first one that truly got it right. This was the one that shaped the Humongous we would know and love.
The plot does not pull any punches this time around. On a normal day when Putt-Putt is invited for a visit to a fireworks factory run by his friend Mr. Firebird, things go haywire. Pep accidentally pulls a "Do not touch" lever, which releases a "big secret experiment" that just so happens to be a huge rocket. Putt-Putt is sent to the moon from it, and with the help of his new friend Rover, he has to find a way back home.
A whole lot more exciting than joining a parade, huh? The crazy, out-of-control storylines like this usually led to the better games by HE. It's only the beginning though.
Putt-Putt has the same dashboard system from the last game, and this time it's taken a step further. Rather than just having the radio play a bunch of irrelevant advertisements, it actually plays things related to the plot. You can listen to several newscasts about the current status of Putt-Putt's whereabouts according to the people back on Earth. The rest of the inventory system remains the same though.
As far as puzzles are concerned, they have also improved. This game actually gives you a list of things you need to launch a rocket that you can check back on at any time. Also, unlike Fatty Bear which encourages you to poke around for fun, this game actually rewards you for poking around. Several of the puzzles require you to check your surroundings in order to solve. In order to get into a building, for example, you have to discover a set of buttons at the door are a Simon game that open it. They're never out of the obvious here; if you just click around, you'll find the solution. If you are absolutely stumped on a puzzle, the characters will give you a hint. There are still no item chains the be found here, but the puzzles have come a long way from having overly obvious solutions. Yet, it never gets too hard for kids to figure out. This game found the perfect balance. Finally, one huge improvement over the last two games is that every puzzle is finally required to finish the game. In the last two games, several of them could easily be skipped; this game made sure not to repeat that.
The graphics have, again, slowly gotten better. The animation is starting to show more hints of hand-drawn aspects and perspective has gotten better. The environments are all well detailed and very creative. The city they managed to put on the moon is colorful, cartoony, and pleasant to look at.
One detail that deserves a kudos is the music. The last two games had okay music, and you may hum a tune or two, but this game is the first one that got a fantastic score. It was composed by video game music legend George "The Fat Man" Sanger, and it will get stuck in your head. It all contributes to the atmosphere quite well and has a theme of feeling lost. It would start Humongous' track record of having great music no matter what the age of their target audience was. The Windows and 3DO ports synthesized it on the Roland GS sound set, and believe me, it's a whole lot better than when it's done on a Sound Blaster through DOS. The OPL3 soundtrack does NOT do this game justice -- if you have an option, play the Windows port instead. Yes, it suffers from audio compression, but the GS soundtrack is just too good.
There are three minigames this time around. Two of them are fairly uninteresting. There is a maze game you may play once or twice before forgetting about it and Alien Tag, which is actually required for a puzzle, though it's nothing too interesting either. The third one though...oh boy, the third one. This might be the first time I ever experienced a sidetrack by the golden saucer. It is in the diner, and it is called Bear Stormin'. You pilot Fatty Bear in a bi-plane and have to make sure your fuel doesn't run out by collecting balloons while avoiding obstacles. It might sound easy, but what makes it so memorable is that it gets BRUTAL later on. I don't even mean that in the sense that only kids would find it hard, it's actually difficult even as at the age of eighteen all these years later. Since the levels are actually done by hand instead of randomly generated, it's a trial-and-error type of experience. The controls on it are a bit annoying, but man is it ever awesome.
The characters are more memorable this time around, having more distinct designs (not too hard when most of them are aliens, but still) and some even getting a personality. The voice acting is all done great, with a large variety and well-done delivery. The attention to detail has still shined in the click points, with great gags and, although downplayed compared to the last game, some encouragement to poke around. There are even a few areas that otherwise have no bearing on the gameplay and are just for fun. There is a diner which houses the aforementioned Bear Stormin' game and a way to change Putt-Putt's color, a beauty shop with a mix-and-match activity, and an observatory to check out constellations and learn about the (then-)nine planets of the solar system. It can lead to about an hour-long first playthrough just for curiosity's sake.
Now, the game isn't quite perfect. There are a few puzzles I'm not a fan of, particularly the "good-deed" puzzle that requires you to backtrack to an area you wouldn't think to bother with. Also, to change Putt-Putt's color, you have to drink the same soda three times in the diner. Not only is this tedious, but the first time you drink it, Putt-Putt will only temporarily change color, which led to many players thinking it didn't work. I never knew you could do this myself until I checked the Internet. I have no clue why they thought that was a good idea; if they were smart they would have just left it at one soda. Finally, the game has no changing puzzles on repeated playthroughs. Two of the puzzles will have a slightly different solution, but to put it in perspective, it's like having a different combination for a locker on each playthrough. It doesn't drastically affect the gameplay in any way and it limits a lot of replayability.
The Bad(I actually could have used this section, but screw it)
The Bottom LineIt's no question, this is easily my favorite "classic" Humongous game. The attention to detail and wacky plot easily make this a recommendation, even at seven dollars on Steam. If you haven't played this game before or just haven't in a while, you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it. It wasn't quite where Humongous would grow their beard, but it was the first one I played all the time as a kid.
This was the last Junior Adventurer to use half pixel art and half hand-drawn artwork, before the jump to truly hand-drawn graphics. However, it wasn't quite the last game to do so; in fact, the next game will be the second and last time we ever see Fatty Bear in a lead role.
(Up next: Putt-Putt & Fatty Bear's Activity Pack)