PitterPot is a delightful, yet frustrating, 3D platformer in the vein of old-school titles such as Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie. Initially presented as a campaign on Indigogo, Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight, we’ve seen it push for a Wii U, then PC and finally a PS4 and Switch version. However, it appears the PS4 is the only version which has come to fruition and also it’s only avaliable over in North American regions for the time being (with Europe coming in a few months). Even though the above campaigns weren’t successful, I’m glad that TreeFall Studios carried on with the project regardless and managed to bring it out.
So, with the recent rise of games which give a nostalgic ‘nod’ to games of yesteryear, just how does PitterPot stack up against them and is it worth picking up? Let’s find out.
The story of PitterPot is rather light and isn’t really crucial to the gameplay if I’m being honest. Through a few still-image cutscenes, we are advised that an evil Kudzu (They are climbing, coiling, and trailing perennial vines native to much of eastern Asia, Southeast Asia, and some Pacific islands. *Thanks Wikipedia*) has taken over the plants within PitterPots garden. It’s now up to our potted protagonist to make their way through five areas and 17 levels in order to collect all of the acorns and take down this viney villain!
Outside of the introduction though, you could have just picked up the controller at any point in the game and you’ll know exactly what to do without requiring any backstory. PitterPot is basically heaven for people who like to run around and pick up collectables, and hell to those who don’t like platforming. There is a degree of charm within the game which comes across through its character design and music, but there is also a feeling of frustration and anger via its level design and platforming. It may just be me though as old-school 3D platformers also used to frustrate me a lot, let me explain…
As you can tell by the images, PitterPot is an indie title which takes strong influences from early 3D games, games which had you platforming on floating levels rather than in an open world or some kind of connected plain. Thankfully, the controls ARE modernised – so they operate as you would expect in a modern 3D game rather than replicating the tank controls of previous ones. That being said, PitterPot suffers from a few issues which made controlling our lead protagonist a bit difficult and cumbersome at times. The main issue I had was the momentum.
All great 3D games implement some kind of momentum to the character – you’ll be running for a few steps then if you let go, your character will slow down before coming to a halt. PitterPot also does this, sometimes. It leads to the game feeling a little ‘floaty’ at times as sometimes he’ll move after you let go, sometimes he doesn’t, sometimes you pull back to compensate and end up forcing yourself off an edge, or maybe you’ll walk into an evil vine? After playing the game for about two hours though, I’d become accustomed to the controls and it was a lot easier to make the precise jumps and dodge the enemies – it just takes a little getting used too initially.
If we ignore the ‘floaty’ issue though, you have a standard platformer. You can move, run, jump, attack (via your hidden ‘blades’) and utilise a few pickups. This is where we come to my second issue with the game – I don’t feel the tutorials/help tips are well done. Let’s go back a step, there are three pickups you’ll get regularly and another one which I’ll come to in a minute. The regular ones are beanstalk seeds (I think that’s what they are), explosive bomb-like seeds, and pea-shooter seeds.
When you first obtain one of these items, you’re told what button to press as you approach a certain plant pot or area. However, if you don’t go to that particular one and you goto another one, you aren’t presented with instructions on what to do. For example, I picked up the pea-shooter and I planted it with the same button I plant the beanstalks with. But then, I had no idea how to rotate it, only fire (with Triangle). It turns out you use the D-pad to rotate, but that’s only advised if you plant it in a certain pot first.
The ‘other item’ I mentioned is a key – I’ve only had to use one so far in the levels I’ve been through, so I wouldn’t class it as a common item. Upon picking it up, you proceed towards the locked gate and… nothing. It took me a while, but I worked out you press Triangle to use the key. There was no button prompt or tip, that I could see, which advised me on doing this.
So yeah, technically, all the pickups work – the beanstalks grow so you can climb them (just don’t stand under a leaf as it grows or you’re shoved into the floor), the bombs explode and don’t hurt you (which is great), the pea-shooters destroy items with physics-based peas, and the key opens the doors – Just more info on the screen regarding their use or what button to press would have been more welcome.
As previously mentioned, each level is basically a floating assortment of blocks – I have no idea how PitterPot can say it’s his garden! The game does have a central hub area which, surprisingly, is a combination of five floating islands which are all joined together via blocked off passages which you must unlock with acorns. Within this hub area is all 17 portals, in the shape of plant pots, which will teleport you instantly to each of the levels. So, I guess PitterPot is in charge of 17 magical floating gardens and that’s why they are seemingly flying in the sky and not on the ground – I really shouldn’t think about this too much as it’s a fantastical game, it’s not Farming Simulator!
Each of the levels contains a certain amount of collectables for you to seek out if you wish to both proceed and unlock the trophies. First of all, you have the acorns. These are both just sat there, waiting to be picked up and one is unlocked for collecting all of the golden plant pots on the level (5). If you’re going for the trophy though, you also need to find all of the smaller seeds in each level, this can range from 50 to 100 seeds. Now, do you see why I said people who like collecting things will love the game? You could spend a very long time in each level should you wish to seek out everything it wants you to find. I’ve tried to collect them all in each of my levels, but there have been a few where I’ve got stuck at 99 seeds.
The main issue I have with the levels themselves is the way you ‘complete’ them. I know it sounds a bit silly, but upon collecting all of the acorns and seeds, you get a small ‘Level Complete’ message but the level doesn’t end. At that point, or any point previously, you can either hit Options and select ‘End Level’ or return to the beginning of the level and press Triangle on the ‘Exit’ plant pot. I’m not quite sure why you aren’t automatically returned to the hub-area upon completing everything. The second issue, and one which caused me to swear at my TV many times was getting used to the controls in order to perform the precise jumping required at certain points. As I said above, I actually got used to it after playing for a while. Initially, in the first few hours, I almost quit quite a few times!
Death of a plant:
Okay, so what happens when you die? First of all, how do you die? You can take up to four hits before you are turned into compost, you do get an extra hit point if you pick up a sunflower seed though as they seemingly offer you a bit of protection. But what’s going to hit you? It’s not just the Evil Kudzu that’s out for your nutrients, he’s also got a load of evil plant pots on your case as well. These are quite simplistic and are mainly spiked ones which move on a set pattern, stationary or moving ones which sit on the edge of things and hit you upon impact, small spiked ones that jump about, and the massive thorny vines.
It’s not too hard to avoid all contact with the enemies as most can be destroyed with your vine-attack but others require you to just walk around, jump over, or run under them. However, I’ve died numerous times through the floaty controls causing me to over-compensate and jump off the edge, by getting slapped by a vine, or walking into an enemy. It seems easy to avoid them, but when you’re feeling confident because nobodies hit you yet, you sometimes let your guard down and don’t realise what’s around the corner!
Back to the original question then, what happens when you die? If you fall off the edge then you’re sent back to the beginning of the level you’re on – if you hit an enemy but don’t fall, you continue on with a few seconds of invulnerability. If you lose all four petals of life, the level is restarted and everything needs to be collected again. Well, not everything. the game remembers how many acorns you picked up, but the number of seeds and golden plant pots (if you didn’t get all five) are reset to zero. Seeing as progressing in the game outside of the level is based on the number of acorns, this isn’t a big issue – trophy hunters, however, need to ensure they don’t die that often!
PitterPot is clearly an indie game and going off the previous campaigns they ran, I imagine it was developed with a rather low budget. As such, you can’t compare this kind of game to big indie titles such as Yooka Lay-lee or a Hat in Time. For what it is, I thought PitterPot looks alright graphically. I’m not sure how many of the assets are bought over created, but everything looks nice and colourful and the main character reminds me of Bill and Ben, the flowerpot men! The nighttime raining effects with the shiny, wet floor looks cool as well, it offers a nice new take on the level, rather than it being the same each time. Each area also has it’s own ‘theme’ in place with its own look and music. Speaking of the music, the tracks for each of the areas are just a short looping audio file. I would have liked it if it was longer or had more variety, but the music it uses is suitable for the level you’re in.
I went into PitterPot with an open mind as I’d taken a look at the previous campaigns but not really heard or seen much about the game before obtaining a copy from the developer. The first night I put it on I played about an hour and got about 25% of the way through it, according to the in-game counter. I then downloaded it on my parents PS4 as they like games like this, but my mother got a bit frustrated with the platforming as she couldn’t get used to the jumping and kept falling off or hitting things. I then went on it again last night and managed to get up to the final area within around two hours – again, this isn’t 100% with all the collectables, just taking a b-line towards the end and not spending too long on trying to collect everything. The game is now reading as around 60% complete – so there is a good 4-5 hours of gameplay I’d imagine if you’re playing the game blind.
I have personally been having fun with the game, once I overcome the issues I had with the controls and figured out how to use each of the items I picked up. Sure, every time I lose all four petals I become frustrated as I have to find all 100 seeds once again in order to try and complete the level for the trophy, but that’s part of the fun. If there was no risk in dying and it was really easy to just respawn and carry on, where’s the fun in that? This game leaves me with the same feeling as Epic Dumpster Bear did, I imagine some people will look at images of the game and pass on it. However, if you have young children, you want to get a fairly easy platinum, or you just want a game you can pick up and play for 10-15 minutes here or there, PitterPot is a fine candidate for a game to pick up.
PitterPot is a colourful, family-friendly nod back to the early days of 3D platforming. As such, it does come with some flaws such as controls that aren’t as tight as you would hope, an okay but repetitive soundtrack, unforgiving death mechanics, and simple graphics. However, if you look past the visual fidelity and focus on playing the game for fun, and you enjoy collect-a-thon games where the core mechanics revolve around mindlessly picking up various items, then you’ll find a cute little platformer here!
I would also like to mention that I believe this game would be perfect for younger kids as they can just jump in and play, with no complicated story to take in. Plus, I imagine they would lose hours in it just trying to collect everything!
- Very colourful and nice little touches such as snow in your pot and the wet floor when it's raining
- Easily accessible to people of all ages and skill levels
- Should last you around five+ hours if looking to platinum
- Cute theme which should appeal to everyone with it's non-violent nature
- The bonus levels and bosses offer a nice change of pace
- The music is comprised of fairly short music clips on a loop
- The controls take a while to get to grips with as they feel a little floaty
- Not all the items tell you how to use them upon collection - once you've used them once though, you don't forget
- The visuals are a little basic and may put some people off (which they shouldn't)
- You can tell the game was initially a Wii U project.