Review by Parabellum09

Reviewed: 02/18/14

Do big theatrics produce great gameplay?

Puppeteer is a quirky platformer game. It's nearest competitor would be Little Big Planet, ustilising some of the latter's tropes; such as a narrator that also communicates with the on-screen characters. Gameplay mechanics introduced via power-ups at staggered intervals. The visuals too have that layered look that Little Big Planet does, only swapping the knit palette with a wooden one.

Puppeteer plays very smoothly, the controls are quite sublime which is a big thumbs up in any platformer. The levels change up elements often and there are enough balls in the air to stop you feel like you're playing the same level over and over again. The biggest criticism here is that there simply aren't enough balls.

Gameplay mechanics are introduced gradually by the game's protagonist obtaining power-ups. Such as scissors (a core mechanic) that allows the player to snip through cloth and paper-thin objects to traverse the levels. Bombs appear as does a downward pound attack. All abilities allow the player to interact with the levels in a new way, unfortunately this does mean once a new power-up is obtained the next couple of levels often use that power-up as a main method of progression.

Aside from Power-ups the player can also traverse levels on the backs of flamingos or squids in "on-the-rail" sections that require the player to jump and duck as obstacles and chasms appear. It's fun at first, but is heavily used in the later levels. The player can also obtain three different heads at any one time. These heads can be used in context sensitive sections of the game that may alter a level somewhat, send the player to a bonus stage or bring up a roulette reel. Ultimately the heads serve as the players health as you lose a life by losing all three heads.

Generally the levels can be summarised into four categories, there is atypical platforming stages where you use the power-ups to proceed, tower stages were the player navigates an enormous spirally tower, on-the-rails sections and fast paced scissor snipping levels.

At first it's fine but once you get halfway through the game and new elements tail off the levels can leave you feeling unchallenged. It's like each level 'just' keeps you entertained. There are not a whole lot of levels, 21 in all, but the length of each can be anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes depending on it's context.

Challenge never gets more than a small section with nit-picky perfect jumps to do which is a shame as there is a lot more that could have been done to enhance that and boast a challenge/reward style of gameplay. As it is, it's easy to go auto-pilot and just do the motions.

Bosses are generally amusing side attractions and of them there are a few. Though as I said in the previous paragraph the difficulty just isn't there. In fact the last boss is by far one of the most easiest bosses in the entire game which really shouldn't be.

Story-wise, it's a sweet if very hyper-active narrative. You play the soul of a human boy stuck in a puppet; Kutaro.
Kutaro is tasked by a witch to boot the Moon Bear out of the castle, (who overthrew the moon queen and tainted the moon with his evil magic.) Kutaro happily obliges and is able to obtain a pair of magical scissors that can cut through the fibres of the world. Kutaro uses these scissors to take out the Moon Bear's generals and gather the moon shards so that he can reactivate the white castle and take the Moon Bear head on.

The story is explained through narrated sections interspersed through the levels and while at it's core it is a sweet story, it's execution is so hyper-active that it can be very overwhelming. Narrative sections can last up to five minutes and one level seems to have a cut scene every other jump and it was so hectic, noisy and jarring that I just ended up skipping each one.

While it is understandable as this game's demographic will obviously be a younger audience, that the developers would want their story filled with energy, this is a case of going over the top. It's just far too in your face and any older players will most likely find the cut scenes a turn off.

Visually, the game is outstanding. The wooden puppet look is a visual treat and you can't help but admire the sheer amount of detail the developers put in to each scene. Very little in the way of reused textures, each level is visually different from the last in some way or form.

Audio is very fitting, soft melodies accompany the levels. The sound effects are perfectly fine but it's the dialogue. There is lots of it and in various odd-ball voices and at varying volumes. The constant inane and bonkers chatters drags down the experience.

PROS
Smooth gameplay, friendly to casual gamers and younger gamers.
Beautiful visuals

CONS
Not enough challenge
Inane chatter

HIGHLIGHT
Racing Bull and Horse UP the race track. Bizarre and fun.

SUMMARY
In a world of call of duty and grand theft auto it's nice to have a game with some innocence and very young player friendly. It lacks a challenge more older/experienced gamers would want. It'd be nice to see a sequel expand on the abilities but whether will, I have no idea.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Puppeteer (EU, 09/13/13)

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