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Puppeteer (PS3) Review

 
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At A Glance...
 

Formats: PS3
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
8.0
8/ 10


User Rating
2 total ratings

 

We liked?


  • Looks spectacular in every sense of the word!
  • Unique and endearing world
  • Solid and engaging voice work and genuinely amusing script

Not so much?


  • Heavy handed use of scene setting and cut-scenes can lead to much stop/start action
  • Controls can sometimes get frustrating
  • Sluggish pace at times can detract from the fun of the whole game


Final Fiendish Findings?

Puppeteer is another triumphantly unique title from Sony’s Studio Japan. It offers a unique, colourful and wonderfully inventive world for you to just relax in and play.

It has a laid-back style to it that reminds you of attending a Christmas pantomime. It has great looks, superb lighting, wonderful design work and solid voice acting.

0
Posted September 9, 2013 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

Puppeteer proves something that we’ve all know for  a few years now – Sony is willing to take risks.  Going full-bore on a high production-level platform title at even the height of a console generation is pretty ballsy – let alone doing it in a consoles twilight years.

Team Japan have managed to bring out some of the most interesting titles over these past few years.  Quirky classics like Loco Roco, Patapon & Tokyo Jungle demonstrate their diversity in recent years, as does the upcoming title Rain.  Puppeteer is no exception to this long and diverse lineage.

In Puppeteer you play the part of Kutaro.  A poor young boy who’s soul has been kidnapped by the Moon Bear King.  No sooner has Kutaro’s soul arrived on the moon when the Bear King decides to decapitate the poor sod and toss his body in to the dungeons.  Here he meets a crazy old witch and her sly talking cat who help Kutaro learn of head swapping and the magical scissors known as Calibrus.  Armed with said scissors the Moon Witch and a host of other colourful fellows aid Kutaro as he battles the army of the Moon Bear King in the hope he may finally return his soul to his own body back on earth.

Puppeteer is, at its heart, a simply and quirky platform game.  You guide the erstwhile hero through simple obstacle courses making your way from point A to B in a linear fashion.  In all honesty the platforming action is there to serve as a framework for the unique aesthetics of the game.  Normally I would decry such things and bemoan a lack of real heart or challenge – but the package works so well it seems stupid to resist.

Puppeteer 2

Adding an additional element to the platforming is the use of different puppet heads on Kutaro.  You, using the right stick or the PS Move, put your sidekick character over heads found around the levels.  These will be things like Spider, skeletons, knight etc and will act as your lives.  Take a hit and the heads rolls around for a brief few moments.  Catch it in time and you save the life, don’t and it shatters in to a few small collectable shards.

Different areas of the game will also reveal something if you have the correct head equipped.  Large ghostly outlines of the required head will be displayed on-screen.  If you equip the correct head, pressing down in the D-Pad will initiate a special move that will activate the secret.  It’s very reminiscent of the heads idea to gain access to certain areas in the Lego titles from Traveller’s Tales.

Puppeteer, as the name might lead you to believe, is constructed as an elaborate puppet theatre.  You start the game with the red velvet curtains rising and the floodlights kicking in as the narrator unfolds the story before you.

The game employs the same sort of handcrafted look that was popularised by Little Big Planet.  Each element looks rooted in a real-world material.  Levels too drop in to place like real-world background scenery in a stage production.  All elements pop in to place and are layered atop each other with a hand crafted look to each stage.  It really is an intriguing way to lay out each section.

Animation too is superbly handled and you get the feeling that every element of the games aesthetic  was lavished with real care and attention.  Perhaps the best example is that of the lighting in the game.  It seems strange to say, much as it was hard to quantify Rayman Legends having some of the best graphics this generation, just how impressive the lighting is in Puppeteer.  With a reported array of volumetric and shadow based lights spanning a total of around 140 separate lighting units it’s hard not to be impressed by the way Puppeteer looks both static and running.  Each level has a rich and deep look and feel that just makes the environments leap off the screen in a way not many games can.

Puppeteer

During your roughly eight hours of play you will take on several different worlds.  This helps change up the look and pace a little and give you the chance for some short breaks from the standard platforming action.  Although throwing in some middle-tier constant runner clone sections was a little off putting.

Using the magical golden scissors you gain not only an offensive weapon, for taking on the Moon Bear King’s minions (and freeing the trapped children’s souls when you defeat an enemy), but a means to solve puzzles and even fly!  The scissors are used to cut through certain bits of scenery, for instance to “unlock” an area covered in gloop.  They can also be used to climb and traverse levels by slicing through fabric regions and seams.   You can, if you have something to cut through like some flying cloth bats or ghosts for instance, use them to fly and follow the path of the flying material.  It’s really quite unique and offers a distinct change to most other platformers out there.

Everything is Kutaro’s world is not rosy though and Puppeteer does have a few issues that stop it reaching the heights it would aspire too.   The story, as charming and amusing as it can be, is a little bland.  It has plenty of quirky charm, yet it fails to fully deliver on that promise of being something truly special.

Puppeteer 3

The wonderful puppet theatre structure is both the game’s biggest wow factor and one of its biggest downers.  Each level will start with a curtain raise, some scene setting and roughly a 8 to 10 minute cut scene setting up the level you’re in.  It looks spectacular and the voice work is solid, it just seems to drag to the point where you start to lose interest in the actual game part of Puppeteer.  This happens also at the end and at random points throughout the levels.  It can make for a very stop/start affair that seems to overly complicate the simple good fun nature of a platform game.

Not so much of an issue really but the pacing and structure of the game also feels a little “off”.  I know that’s hardly a quantifiable measure, but Puppeteer just feels like it need a little more pace injecting in to it and a little more game too.  The scissor controls can also be a little erratic and irritating one the odd occasion.

In some ways Puppeteer is a victim of timing.  Rayman Legends has yet to leave the drive of my 360 and already another hotly anticipated platformer arrives.  Puppeteer is no Rayman Legends, but it’s one of the most endearing and imaginative titles to have some out this year on any platform.

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Final Thoughts

Puppeteer is another triumphantly unique title from Sony’s Studio Japan.  It offers a unique, colourful and wonderfully inventive world for you to just relax in and play.

It has a laid-back style to it that reminds you of attending a Christmas pantomime.  It has great looks, superb lighting, wonderful design work and solid voice acting.

It’s  a little too intrusive with the scene setting and cut scenes.  It tries a little too hard to force you to watch the game rather than play it.  The platforming sticks firmly to the family friendly, mostly low challenge side of the street as well.

That said it’s great to see Sony support such an impressively diverse title and it offers a much wanted break for all the “gritty” this and “action-fest” that which will be heading our way over the next few months.  I’ve been keeping an eye on Puppeteer for a year or more now and it’s great to see a game lost in all this new console and AAA gaming furor stand-up and say “Hey, what about me huh!”

Puppeteer is exactly the kind of game everyone can enjoy, regardless of age and it’ll bring more than the odd smile to even the sourest of faces – especially at its lower price point!


Zeth

 
Zeth is our EU ninja and Editor in Chief. He's been writing about video games since 2008 when he started on BrutalGamer. He's pretty old and has been a gamer since he played Space Invaders as a young boy in the 80's. His genre tastes lean towards platformers, point-and-click adventure, action-adventure and shooters but he'll turn his hand to anything.