reviews\ Nov 9, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Putt-Putt Pep's Birthday Surprise - PC - Review

One of the most popular and long-lived children's software characters is Putt-Putt, the cheerful purple car. Developed by Humongous back in 1992, Putt-Putt's first adventure was in Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon. It's been a few years since the last Putt-Putt game, Putt-Putt Joins the Circus, so parents have been looking forward to this latest release from Humongous, now owned by Atari.

Putt-Putt and Pep have just returned home after attending a birthday party. Putt-Putt enthusiastically talks about the party, but Pep (Putt-Putt's dog) is sad. Putt-Putt realizes that Pep has never had a birthday party, because no one knows his birthday. Putt-Putt decides to throw a surprise birthday party on the anniversary of when he found Pep, which is tomorrow! This is short notice, but with a little help from his friends, Putt-Putt is sure to pull it off.

As with all Humongous games, this adventure involves solving puzzles by using items found during the game to help the various characters, who will in turn either give Putt-Putt something he needs, or help him do something. For instance, one of the characters needs some string to tie together his balloons. Putt-Putt can get some string from Hank, the security guard, who has the world's largest ball of string, if he helps him collect rubber bands for his largest ball of rubber bands.

There are also several mini-games which are cute and fun to play, especially the egg sorting machine, but they all suffer slightly from a lack of clear directions on what exactly to do. Parents will probably need to help their children the first few times of play on these mini-games. Besides these games, there are other interactive areas of play, such as decorating Pep's birthday cake, choosing a color for the magician to change Putt-Putt's color with, and a flavor of ice cream which will change the color of Putt-Putt's tongue. And, of course, tons of clickables!

Parents will be glad to know that this latest excursion of Putt-Putt is mostly similar in quality to previous titles. While not quite as engaging as Saves the Zoo and Travels Through Time (my personal favorite), there is plenty here to like. Putt-Putt is as charming and polite as ever, and while the new voice takes a little getting used to, Putt-Putt's essential goodness still shines through. The clickables are plentiful and funny, and there is plenty of gentle humor throughout the game. The mini-games are a lot of fun, and kids will enjoy playing them.

However, some things could have been improved. A few more mini-games, with clearer instructions, would have been nice, plus the interactive areas could have been designed a bit better. For instance, the color changing activity with the magician is only temporary as Putt-Putt's color immediately changes back, so what's the point? Unlike the most recent title, Putt-Putt Joins the Circus, this game is randomized, but only one main story element is changed, and the rubber bands that need to be collected only have a few random spots of location.

Fans of Putt-Putt will enjoy his latest adventure, and parents will enjoy watching their children succeed at helping Putt-Putt put on a great party. Best for kids who like repetition, as the randomization doesn't change the game very much.

Gameplay: 8
As always, these games are fun to play and will tickle kids' brains while entertaining them.

Graphics: 8.5 
The animation is really well done, but sometimes Putt-Putt's mouth is out of sync with the voice.

Sound: 8
Great tunes! We especially like the chocolate songs.

Difficulty: Easy
This is an easy game, best for kids 3-6.

Concept: 7 
This is the basic format of most Humongous games. While I'm a firm believer in the adage of if it ain't broke, don't fix it, the presentation, while good, could have been better.

Overall: 8
A nice addition to the Putt-Putt stable, one which will entertain young children and please parents.


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