Puppeteer Review

By Darryl Kaye on September 30, 2013

It's been a little while since we've had a new PS3 game exclusively from SCE Japan Studio. They've been involved with many different projects ranging from Gravity Rush to Patapon 3, but you have to go all the way back to Echochrome II before you find a game that's been solely under their supervision. And with Puppeteer, they've created a game that yet again sticks to their quirky, yet traditional roots.

The game's story focusses on Kutaro, an unfortunate boy who was turned into a puppet and had his head torn off. You see, a few years prior to the story, the Moon Bear King overthrew the Moon Goddess and to make his rule permanent, he started stealing the souls of children to serve as puppet guards.

Kutaro was meant to be one such child, but he was saved by Ying-Yang. With the help of the Moon Witch Ezma Potts, Kutaro then succeeds in stealing the Moon Goddess' magical scissors called Calibrus from under the Moon Bear King's nose, and while Potts wanted to try and claim these for herself, Calibrus wants to stay under Kutaro's ownership.

This sets up the main gameplay element for Puppeteer, as you will have Calibrus as an offensive weapon throughout the majority of the game. However, as the story expands you will also gain additional tools that you can use to help you defeat enemies, and get through the different platforming sections.

The story is much more extensive than many other games of a similar ilk, as you travel through many different acts all in the style of a stage play. In some ways, this is also to the game's detriment. There's an extensive focus on cutscenes to explain the story and while this is sometimes welcome, at other times it can become a bit tiresome. Still, there's no denying that there was clearly a lot of attention paid to the different characters, whether they be allies or foes, as they all have very unique personalities.

Puppeteer's gameplay style is quite traditional, but the inclusion of Calibrus does add an extra dimension to proceedings. By using the magical scissors, you're able to traverse through the air by cutting away at numerous types of objects. These could be leaves on plants, steam from an explosion or simply just magical webbing. You will also use Calibrus to defeat the majority of bosses and also to jump between huge gaps.

In almost every act you play through, you'll gain new items that add to the depth of the platforming experience, but also that of general gameplay. For example, you will start off by acquiring the power of one of the Moon Goddess' former champions "“ the Knight's Shield. This allows you to deflect incoming projectiles and it also shields you from generic attacks. Following on from this, you'll gain access to a bomb, grappling hook and more.One other important thing to pay attention to is that your health is denoted by the amount of spare heads you have available. As mentioned earlier, the Moon Bear King ate your head, so you're left to try and scavenge around for other heads. You can carry three at a time and you're able to switch between them at your leisure. In a generic sense this doesn't many any difference to gameplay, but there are special events that can occur if you have the right head equipped at the right time.

Lives are gained by collecting small shards throughout levels, but these are rather plentiful. You only lose a life if you managed to lose all of your heads and this can actually take quite some doing. The game's different elements do propose a challenge, but there's a difference between that and being difficult.

Perhaps the only real criticism with the gameplay is with its pacing. The game has quite a slow pace and while gameplay does change, it does get a little tedious over time. Bosses suffer from the same tedium too, as while they are all unique in some way, they are pattern-based to the extreme. If you fail a QTE, you'll have to go through the same canned motion again, and then once you beat that "stage" of a boss, you'll have to go through something similar all over again.

The game is split into different acts, each of which has three stages. Within these stages there are also lots of sub-stages as the game loads in new parts of the stage. However, an overall stage (including cutscenes) can take anywhere between 10-30 minutes, which for a platformer is pretty lengthy.

Presentation is one of the game's strengths. While some of the cutscenes are a bit over the top, others are spot on and it's helped by some fantastic voice acting. Julie Rogers deserves special mention for her role as Pikarina, the daughter of the Sun who's always full of zip and sass. The music, composed by Patrick Doyle, also helps to support the action with suitable zest.

Puppeteer is quite a lengthy experience just on its standard campaign, although it does drag on a little bit. However, once you've unlocked all of the heads and taken part in their special events, you do have a lot of bonus games to play. It's also possible to play the game with a friend and that adds an extra dimension to proceedings.

Final Thoughts

Puppeteer is a fun, quirky little platformer that pulls together many different gameplay elements to create a cohesive experience. There is some tedium that creeps in during some of the boss fights and with the length of levels, but this is outweighed by the game's sheer creativity and charm.

Voice acting.
Personalities of each of the characters.
Calibrus adds an interesting dimension to the gameplay.
Levels can get a tad boring.
While each boss fight is different, each one does get a little bit repetitive.
Cutscenes are sometimes a bit too over the top.
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