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SummaryA good display of potential if not much else
The GoodWith Night Dive releasing all the Humongous games on Steam, which is simply too awesome for words to describe, I thought it would be fun to do another look back series on one of my favorite game companies of all time. That, of course, is none other than the beloved Humongous Entertainment. These games shaped my childhood and got me loving that wonderful contraption we call computers, and I still have the one I originally played these games on. Founded by LucasArts veteran Ron Gilbert and a coworker Shelley Day, the company was founded when Ron wanted to experience every thrill of game developing himself. Not just coding it, but marketing, publishing, everything. He decided to take on a more or less difficult target audience though -- kids. He couldn't have succeeded any more; the games have gone on to be fondly remembered by children of the 90s and even the parents caught themselves playing every once in a while. It all started with the game I'm reviewing today, Putt-Putt Joins the Parade. This will be a series covering not only the Junior Adventures, but the arcades and the little known Fun/Activity Packs, and maybe a few of the other little known series. So, what are we waiting for?
Putt-Putt Joins the Parade is the product of bedtime stories told to Shelley Day's son. A young talking purple car learns about the Cartown pet parade happening on the day this game takes place, but to join it he has to gather a few things. About as basic as a plot goes, and it definitely shows a ton of early installment weirdness, but the detail that goes into the game shows a lot of potential this still newborn company had.
Everything is point and click in this game with a basic interface. All is simple enough for kids to understand, which is vital. I'm not a fan of how you have to use the S and L keys to save and load, as I think there should at least be some user instruction about this, but some later games fixed that issue. The world is all bright and colorful with some great hand-drawn backgrounds to boot. The game runs on fairly limited animation most of the time, but the one exception is the click points. Scattered around the backgrounds are a bunch of objects that look mundane at first, but clicking on them reveals a gag of some sort. The gags get rather out of control at times. Just to name one instance, there is an apple that explodes, forms into a juice box, and squirts some juice into a trash can. It's that kind of crazed creativity that sells the game.
The gameplay, being a point-and-click adventure, is heavily focused on puzzles. It uses a very basic inventory system, with a few other tools Putt-Putt has on his dashboard that are occasionally used to solve puzzles but are mostly there for entertainment. He has a horn which is used to get him out of situations and a radio that is mostly there for fun but also comes into play once or twice. Putt-Putt himself is an optimistic character, but doesn't show a whole lot of traits otherwise making him rather flat. The other characters around the game are at least distinctive for the most part, but since a good chunk are only one-shot it's not really a big deal.
The puzzles themselves are rather basic. Most of them have obvious solutions, and never require item chains to solve. This is not necessarily a bad thing in a children's game, but I still think they could have raised the difficulty some. I can only think of two puzzles in the game that required an item far away from their location -- the nails and getting Pep. The rest are usually solved with a tool on the location, such as getting traffic to stop.
Money plays an integral part of this game, as you earn a coin for either delivering groceries or mowing lawns. Sadly, the lawn mowing sidequest is just about as enjoyable as it sounds. You basically move all over a field trying to "paint" it bright green. The only good thing I can say about it is that you don't have to mow it fully, but of course the average player doesn't know this.
One thing that was established from the very start was the inclusion of minigames. Humongous had a tradition of including little side-games in every game they ever did, and they would only rarely be incorporated with the plot. Here, they were less games and more just toys; fittingly enough, they're all found in the toy store. There is a puzzle cube game and pachinko making machine, but they're not much more than little distractions. There is also a joke telling minigame that can be fun for a while, where you get an animal to tell a joke and see what one of the other three will answer.
The other details really do accompany this game; the voice acting is pleasant to listen to and well done, the music is good, the sound is all cartoony just the way it should be, and the backgrounds are very detailed. Unfortunately, the game's biggest fault is just how short it is -- your first playthrough will take about a half hour tops, and every playthrough after will probably not be any longer than ten minutes. They attempted to add more replay factor by changing what street you mow lawns on (thus changing the puzzle you will come across to get to that street), but since there are only three streets, the replay factor is very limiting.
The Bad(Stop forcing me to format my reviews this way, MobyGames)
The Bottom LineDespite the shortcomings, it's still a decently good game. It's not something that will hold your attention forever, but you will enjoy it while you are playing it and it's still a fun game for kids to play. I can't say it has aged as well as what would follow from Humongous though. The shortness and the lack of an engaging plot have not made this a really big standout nowadays. Plus, I don't know if it deserves the seven-dollar price tag on Steam; I'd say it's almost better to just hunt down a cheap physical copy if you are intrigued by what I said. It was only a show of potential though; the best was yet to come.
(Up next: Fatty Bear's Birthday Surprise)