Puppeteer is a truly creative example of how a platformer can be turned into a parade of spectacle upon spectacle, will it measure up to stand out amongst other new releases?
- Worth The Time?Definitely.
- Things LovedThe eye-pleasing visuals; the absolutely amazing classical soundtrack; the fun gameplay; the way the game forces you to be adventurous while at the same time forces you to be careful; the stunning set changes; Kutaro's animations; the interesting story; creative dialogue; subtle references; the smile-providing finale and post-credits gesture.
- Things HatedHysterical and over the top characters; the game is not suitable for every gamer.
- RecommendationFor fans of platformers or gamers who enjoy games with a unique feel and premise.
- Name: Puppeteer
- Genre: Platformer
- Players: 1-2 players
- Multiplayer: Local 2 players
- Platforms: PS3
- Developer: SCE Japan Studio
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: R399
- Reviewed On: PS3
This seems to be an ideal time for unique and interesting platformers. We first had Rayman Legends and now we have Puppeteer. Platformers were once the go-to genre when gaming started and now we’re more prone to rest our chin on an assault rifle never ceasing to fire until everything in our sight have stopped moving. Nothing wrong with that, but I feel a change of pace is needed every now and then and as a result I shall pester you folks by yapping about Puppeteer.
Our tale kicks off with our lead star, Kutaro – a young boy who has been turned into a puppet by the tale’s main villainous ruffian – the Moon Bear King who also happened to rip off his puppet head and proceeded to eat it, while casting Kutaro away. The game takes place on the moon which has various different types of terrain, none of which looks like the moon we know.
It is up to Kutaro to make use of different substitute heads along his journey in search for his original noggin and overthrow the Moon Bear King from his treacherous control over the moon. Do not be fooled – his reign doesn’t necessarily end on the moon.
The whole game takes place on a fancy theater stage with curtains opening and closing as events take place with the audience regularly gasping from shock or applauding the sheer courage Kutaro portrays. The way the game presents itself is where I personally think its unique charm originates from.
The game consists of seven acts, divided into three curtains per act that will take you about 12 to 15 hours to play through.
You’ll go from creaky kitchens to Mexican landscapes to dense forests to an Alice In Wonderland inspired series of environments and even a level that could’ve been taken directly from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Come to think of it, the whole game has a rather strong Tim Burton feel to it. Maybe Gavin Moore, the game’s director, could possibly turn out to be the gaming world’s Tim Burton?
The game has a running narrator which fits well within the whole theater vibe the game has and the dialogue is over the top and as over dramatic as one would experience in a theater. I must state that a sizable amount of the dialogue come across as forced and that it could’ve been said with less hysteria. However, the dialogue tends to be very creative and there is enough humour for adults to go around – both spoken and visually. There’s even a conversation regarding Twitter with its 140 character limit. It added something interesting to that specific situation.
This game is a platformer with a couple of its own unique traits to go along with it. Such as acquiring the Moon Bear King’s scissors – Calibrus. A magical pair of scissors who has chosen Kutaro to wield him and utilise him throughout his journey (Editor’s Note: totally not in a gay way). Kutaro will use Calibrus to cut through certain obstacles in his path and quite ironically use him as a way to get around. Traversing the levels with Calibrus is a new way to get where you need to be, such as cutting though leaves, smoke, cloth and even flimsy metal. (It doesn’t make sense nor does it need to.)
It goes without saying that if you prefer your games to be grounded in realism you should best leave this one be, but you’d be missing out on a truly unique ride.
Initially you will think of this to be a simplistic platformer with everything even remotely hostile capable of letting you lose your head quite literally, but as you continue to play, new mechanics are introduced and the challenge ramps up nice and evenly.
At first you’ll have to traverse by making use of simple jumping techniques and soon thereafter you’ll have your wooden doll hands on Calibrus, which is essential throughout the rest of the game. You’ll use Calibrus to fight enemies, who once were small children and now transformed by the Moon Bear King’s dark magic. By using Calibrus you’ll be able to fend them off and if you’re careful, you may be able to free their souls in the process. You will also need to use this magic-infused pair of scissors to solve minor puzzles and use it to make your way to where you need to be. Calibrus is central to the gameplay and you’ll need to have a swift square-button reflex to make use of him at short notice.
As the tale progresses, you’ll acquire additional abilities like a shield to protect yourself or redirect projectiles back to the sender or their destructive peers, the ability to throw bombs providing you another tool solve puzzles or to watch enemies hilariously juggling the bombs until it explodes, a pirate hook on a chain, granting you the ability to progress and create make-shift pathways or even create momentum for certain pendulum-esque platforms and an upgrade for Cailbrus to propel you even further though the air while cutting your way through all sorts of materials. All of these additional abilities make for a nice amount of variety without gameplay ending up as a convoluted mess.
As soon as Kutaro takes the smallest amount of damage from anything that poses a threat, his given substitute head will be knocked from his body with only a few seconds to run and retrieve it, if retrieval is even possible. This may lead to some form of frustration or another, but it has the effect of keeping the player on his / her toes throughout Kutaro’s journey. Kurato can carry three different substitute heads – you may switch between these heads by either pressing left or right on the D-pad and use any chosen head’s action by pressing down on the D-pad. These actions can be used at certain areas provided you have the correct noggin in your possession. When making use of these actions you’ll either be transported to a bonus level or providing additional crystals or even alternate ways to fight a boss character.
The crystals I’ve mentioned above are essential to collect. For every one hundred of these crystals you collect – you are given one additional life. There are more than enough for you to find if you take the time to do so. I died a lot from running out of think-tanks and still ended up with forty lives by the end of the game. The game may be tricky, but not unforgiving.
You may find these crystals by investigating an area and making use of an ever-present side-kick character. At first, you’ll have a cat named Ying Yang and for the rest of the game a small pixie-like girl dubbed Pikarina. You use the right analog stick to move these additional characters around and investigate with them using R2 while controlling Kutaro with the left analog stick. A nice and simple way to control two characters at once while still leaving the main focus on Kutaro.
The game’s visuals and soundtrack deserves to be taken up in high regard. The visuals have an undeniably unique feel to them. Everything in the game is made up out of wood – clearly displayed with the appropriate textures and painted look on top. The Moon Bear King himself is made of material with lots of fluff within. (A truly interesting villain – that’s all I dare say). The way the sets are changed and the man-handling it goes through with characters dropping as the sets are taken and changed from underneath them adds to an interesting and truly captivating look. You may clearly see the amount of effort these set changes have gone through and how seemingly effortless it’s done. The animations of Kutaro adds so many character to him despite him never uttering a single word.
The sounds and soundtrack are something that always provided a smile. It adds to the whole adventurous feel the game has going and that alone sets it high in my books. It’s clear that this game received a decent dose of polish.