Coin: SCE Japan
Puppeteer has been getting rave reviews around the interwebs, with various outlets shouting its quirky, surreal name from the rooftops. However, you wise little owls that come to VoxelArcade should know by now that scoring reviews is a bad idea. After all, does this metascore really sum up the bug-ridden, unplayable mess that was Skyrim on PS3?
So, is Puppeteer as good as many are making out? Unfortunately not. It is a deeply average platformer dressed up with stupendous theming, a witty script and a truly interesting cast of characters.
Puppeteer puts you at the reins, or rather strings, of a boy called Kutaro who has been turned into a puppet while dreaming, and has his head cut off by a creature called the Moon Bear King. You can find various, temporary heads to replace your missing noggin, which not only look pretty cool, but allow you to perform certain actions, such as activating secret mini games, or throwing bombs. Sadly, this decent idea is poorly implemented, as the game simply throws too many heads at you to manage effectively.
The bosses are a highlight
You can only keep three heads at a time, and switch between them, but it is far too easy to lose the ones you want to keep. There are so many lying around, so you end up dodging extra heads more than you do dodging enemies. I think it is like this because the heads are linked to health, but it does make things more awkward than they need to be, and some of the ways in which you use them are too contrived.
You also control a secondary character, with the right analogue stick like a mouse pointer, to solve puzzles and uncover secrets. It is a shame that this feels like a tacked on afterthought, too slow and unintuitive to help you grab things in fast scenes, and you just end up using it to click everywhere to find items, which is both tiresome and unsatisfying.
Each scene in every level really does look like a puppet show. Think of the old creepy Punch and Judy shows at the seaside, but playable and alive, and you will get the idea. It really is a beautifully baroque world that the developers have created, and it is the need to simply see what each new place is going to look like that keeps you coming back for more, rather than the gameplay, which is unimpressive.
The feel just isn’t there, gameplay wise
It certainly isn’t bad to play, and feels a little better than LittleBigPlanet, for example. It just lacks weight in the jump and feels rather forgettable, with a lack of spark and zest to the lateral movement, which is a crying shame when held up against the impressive work elsewhere in Puppeteer. The use of items like the scissors, which allow you to cut certain enemies and use some areas as tracks to fly on, does help to add a bit of variety to the play, but then highlights the poor use of the secondary character as you try to click on things speedily going by, in vain.
The world the game finds itself in is timeless and totally captivating, but the gameplay itself is a pretty drab affair. Afer you are finished with Puppeteer, you will likely remember the fascinating characters, like the creepy witch and giant tiger, and the gorgeous worlds and lovely cutscenes, yet forget about every gameplay element, aside from the impressive bosses.
If you are looking for a journey through a wonderfully different world, then Puppeteer is worth every penny, but if you are looking for a great platform game, then look elsewhere.
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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.