Everyone’s been to a Puppet show when they were kids, right? They’re fun, featuring stories with the aim to provide the younger audience with a good laugh or two. Never did I think I’d be invited to see another, but thanks to the Puppeteer that’s exactly where I was magically transformed. Did Sony’s Japan Studio bring back some great childhood memories, or should I declined the invite? Read on to find out.
Developer: Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
I may be in my mid-20s now, but I must say I really enjoyed the quirky yet somewhat sinister story that Puppeteer had to offer. The story focuses on a child named Kutaro who is turned into a puppet and then has his head ripped off by the angry Moon Bear King. Guided by a cat named Ying Yang (he’s a barrel of laughs), Kutaro sets off on an adventure to end his days as a Puppet and return to earth as a child by collecting Moon King Shards in order to gain powers so he can eventually defeat the Moon King Bear. It’s not going to win any awards for writing any time soon, but both children and adults (yes, adults) will absolutely fall in love with this. Sometimes it’s just nice to leave the serious space marines behind and have a bit of fun, and that’s Puppeteer’s tale has bundles of that.
Puppeteer’s visuals feature pretty much everything you could want from a game with a story like the one stated above. The puppet show style presentation from the main menu right until the end of the game is just so incredibly charming. From the announcer to the spotlight that follows you throughout the game, everything just looks great and, importantly, like it belongs. There are even curtains on the edge of the screen that open and close in line with what is happening in the game, marking the beginning and end of each act if you will. Sony Japan Studio’s attention to detail is really one of the most impressive aspects of the game. It’s right up there with the likes of Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet series.
Each act is as vibrant and unique looking as the next. The characters in particular are incredibly detailed, in terms of design and overall look. They have a certain unique handmade look about, almost like they’re the result of some amazing paper mache. Again, LittleBigPlanet is an obvious comparison, but the looks never really crossover and as a result Puppeteer’s look remains wonderfully unique. If you’ve got a capable TV, it looks gorgeous in 3D too!
Pardon the bad joke, but the audio in Puppeteer has to be applauded. Much like the visuals, I can imagine many comparing the style to LittleBigPlanet, mainly because of narrator that is an almost constant presence. I don’t feel embarrassed to say that the delivery of Puppeteer’s audio gave me plenty of actual laugh out loud moments. You can tell that some real care and attention has been paid to this aspect of the game, right from the Narration to the characters and watching audience. The latter played a huge role in making me feel like a part of a theatrical puppet show thanks to their well-timed laughs and other reactions.
Apart from the odd title here and there, classic platforming has been hard to come by this generation. However, Puppeteer somewhat breaks that mould and places its root firmly in the classic platforming garden. What a welcome return it is as well. Sony Japan Studio never over complicate things, instead it focuses on making the game pure fun. Yes, it’s not particularly challenging, and that might be a turn off for some people, but it really is all about the fun with Puppeteer. I mentioned it when talking about the visuals and audio, but LittleBigPlanet fans will get real enjoyment out of Puppeteer, regardless of age. The hero of the tale Kutaro gets more powers at every stage, reminding me personally quite a bit of the classic Crash Bandicoot titles. You’re introduced to each new power via a nice little tutorial, which really helps you get to grips with everything in your own time for before you really need to use it!
The most useful power, or tool should I say, is the Calibrus. It’s essentially just a pair of scissors. Yes, that’s right, scissors as a power or tool! As stated earlier, the Calibrus is extremely useful. You’ll it not only for “combat”, but to also get out certain tricky situations. Cutting through heaps of flags, generated clouds and bosses is a whole lot of fun, but just be careful that you don’t lose your head. No, that’s not a typo. Poor Katuro actually loses his head if he gets hit by a nasty or some sort of sharp obstacle. It works in a very similar way to LittleBigPlanet (yes, that comparison again) as you can wear different heads, with some of them being damn right hilarious. However, the difference is that whilst you can carry three heads at a time, if you lose all three then one life it lost. The heads are also used for certain “unique” situations, allowing you to enter bonus stages and gain new heads or Moonsparkles, with the latter giving you the chance to build up even more lives upon accumulating 100. That’s as deep as it gets gameplay wise in Puppeteer, but the simple things are sometimes the most fun and that’s definitely the case when it comes to this title.
As enjoyable as Puppeteer is, sadly it isn’t particularly long. There are seven acts (three stages, which are called curtains) and they’ll take you around eight hours to complete. Beyond that, there isn’t much else to do in Puppeteer unless you play throught it again with a friend via the two player functionality.
In all honesty I wasn’t expecting much at all going into Puppeteer. It was great surprise to me then that I came out at the end really enjoying it. From the moment the spotlights turned on, the curtains went back and the narrator uttered his first words, I had fun. That might sound a bit silly or childish, but it’s something that is crucially missing from platform games these days and Puppeteer has it in abundance. It literally, at times, brought out the inner child in me. Gaming can sometimes be too serious, but Puppeteer is a reminder to us all that it’s okay to have fun too. Charming, quirky and a whole lot of fun, Puppeteer is classic platforming at its best.