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Certain consoles seem to cater to particular groups of people. Nintendo for example seems to have more consideration for a younger audience, and all their consoles have played host to large numbers of games that have delighted both young and old alike. Microsoft on the other hand is clearly focused on the older gamer, with it’s emphasis on mature genres as well as leading the way in on-line gaming. It’s consoles have skewed older. The question in all of this though is what group was 3DO aiming for?
The obvious answer might seem to be older. Looking at 3DO’s game library its easy to see why that argument could be made. 1st person shooters for instance were not lacking on the 3DO, and proved to be quite popular. Than you have the number of “depth” titles that the console entertained, games that required a good deal of time and patience to get the most out. If you factor in the number of pc ports (the only gaming choice for many adults), and the slew of skin titles from Vivid (not to mention the over-seas selections) and it seems that 3DO might not have been the best console for the young crowd.
However, the subject of this review raises the validity of that argument. In a dark sea of grown-up 3DO games, there is a beam of light for kids. It's Putt-Putt, the cute little talking car (and star of three different 3DO games)
Backed by Fatty bear, the cast of Sesame Street, the kids from Station Invasion, and some birds that I forget the name of (has anyone played the Shelly Duvall game? ) this group shows that in spite of popular perception (which in all honesty has a great deal of truth to it) 3DO never ignored the younger gamers. They were after all part of their original formula, to become an entertainment box for the whole family.
‘Putt-Putt joins the parade’ is targeting the quite young (3-7 years of age according to the box) but I have to be honest an admit that I rather enjoyed playing this game. It is not the type that I would normally pop into my player obviously, but I’m quite glad to be able to present this review.
The goals in this Putt-Putt adventure are naturally simple. Wash the car, obtain a balloon, and get a pet, the end result being that Putt-Putt will get to join in the town parade with the rest of his friends. The player is reminded of these goals during the game, so near fear of younger ones forgetting what they are supposed to do. The simple point n click interface (it uses the SCUMM engine seen in the LucasArts classics) makes it easy to navigate Putt-Putt around the screen. The game is forgiving as well, so as to not punish un-experienced gamers. If Putt-Putt doesn’t hit every patch of grass while mowing the lawn, no big deal … his neighbors will still say it’s never looked better! If he accidentally runs over some nails and pops all of his tires the friendly town tow truck will save the day (and at no charge) with just mild prodding from Putt Putt. (hint – honk the horn ) Young ones can play this game with little to no assistance from mom & dad.
The game does a good job of encouraging exploration too. With the click of a button, nearly all items can be interacted with. Everything is very nicely animated also …the bouncing red apples falling off a tree, the colred fish leaping out of the pond, and all manner of variety that adorns the front of the townsfolk homes (oops, I mean garages) Kids should have a blast pointing and clicking at everything in sight. And there are more than enough objects to hold a younger ones attention. Add in the number of places and peoples (vehicles) to visit, the games, the jokes (check out the toy store for some good natured corniness ) and it adds up to a nice amount of variety. The end result is you have a game that is not just good for one play through. Your kids will want to spend time with Putt Putt again and again. Much like that Disney movie that you’ve heard so many times you can say it by heart, Putt-Putt and his cute expressions will soon find there way etched into your brain.
Kids games are in the minority, and those that do make it to market are so often rushed, sloppy, or just simply half baked. It is insulting to younger gamers. So it is a real tribute to the designers that Putt-Putt is as well made as it is. Thought clearly went into this game, and its genuineness makes it heartwarming, and surprisingly entertaining (even for those of us that are kids only at heart)
A sincere thanks to Humongous Entertainment for giving young ones such an entertaining choice, and for porting it to my favorite platform, 3DO.