Hello folks! Remember the 2D side-scrolling platformer that make Super Mario, classic Sonic and Rayman awesome? Or pantomimes that schools would have arranged field trips to see? Or puppet shows? Or 3D Picture shows?…and how about a video game that takes all of these components and creates something that is not only a game but an experience? Then consider what I say in this review.
Puppeteer is a game that is also an incredibly inspired work of art. Borrowing from children’s plays, 3D movies, Puppet shows and bedtime stories, it is 1 of the most intriguing games I’ve ever come across in terms of its visual art, audio and design choices. It is loud. It is very atmospheric. It is dynamic. It is colourful. And it also has some good family-friendly humour (from the perspective that a children’s show is not the same as a family show. Family shows are for grown ups as well and features subtle adult jokes, leading to entertainment for all demographics).
Our story is designed to be simple enough for everybody, but also a big adventure. It takes place on the moon (which in this game is a world that looks like a crescent-moon-shaped easter egg shard with different lands built on both sides) where The Moon Goddess ruled. One day, 1 of her favourite children/friends, Little Bear, decided to rebel. Taking the Moon Goddesses’ Moonstone, calling himself The Moon Bear King, banishing her, and then smashing the light side of the moonstone and giving out the shards to his 12 closest buddies/Generals (all of which are animals in the Chinese Zodiac). The generals cause havoc on the moon while The Moon Bear King creates wooden puppets from children to use as slaves in his castle. One of these children happens to be Kutaro (the main character), who is helped out of the dungeon by the Moon Goddesses’ cat Ying Yang, who brings him to the Moon Witch Ezma Potts, and then he captures a pair of scissors called Calibrus. A weapon strong enough to defeat The Moon Bear King. After realising that Kutaro is incredible with the scissors, she sends him on a quest to defeat The Moon Bear King’s Generals, save Pikarina, The Princess Of The Sun (who joins and helps Kutaro for the rest of the game) and eventually liberate the moon from the big scary bear.
Puppeteer has a total of 21 levels, which are divided into 7 acts with 3 levels for each act. Each act has different scenery, ranging from the Wild West to Under The Sea to a Pirate Ship to Halloween Town to Dreamland (which looks like Wonderland mixed with Victorian London) to the Arabian desert to …This sounds a lot like Kingdom Hearts, doesn’t it?…Okay, so you have a variety of levels, and at least 1 general (sometimes 2 or 3) in each act. But nearly every level has a boss fight of some description, which occasionally doesn’t include the generals at all. The levels remind me a little bit of Little Big Planet. They themselves are detailed, fast-paced and full of secret levels, collectables and hidden secrets that might earn you some moon shards (100 shards give you an extra life) or some extra health, which comes in the form of different shaped heads that Kutaro wears, with some heads being keys to secret levels and little russian roulette levels. Despite how good the game looks and sounds, and the fact that it is quite an easy game on top of this, how it plays can be a tiring experience. The gameplay is in a style that is great when it lasts 3-10 minutes and possibly has a boss by the 2nd or 3rd level of a world/act. But Puppeteer’s levels are a good 20-30 minutes long (depending on how good, quick or relaxed you are), and with boss battles at the end of each level, it becomes clear that this game is great in short bursts (maybe 1-2 levels a day. Anymore might be excess).
The music in Puppeteer is brilliant. Bouncy, theatrical, mischievous, whimsical and child-like, with each tune suiting each scene perfectly. On top of this, Puppeteer is very wordy. I’ve mentioned before about its great humour. But the problem is that it’s very easy to miss a lot of dialogue. Sometimes it feels like the dialogue has stopped, and then when I make a jump, it starts again before cutting itself off…Which is annoying, because the dialogue and voice acting in this game is phenomenal! Stephen Greif is hilarious as the narrator and roughly as good as the narrator in The Stanley Parable, The Bard’s Tale and the Trine games. On top of this, Pikarina, the sharp-minded, sharp-tongued little fairy (voiced by Julie Rogers), reminds me of a relation, so this added to the experience for me.
Would I recommend Puppeteer? Yes! It’s 1 of the most underrated and underprivileged titles on the PS3. With the exception of being too easy 90% of the time (despite its unique controls), having an uninteresting, voiceless protagonist who is surrounded by awesome supporting characters and a great narrator, and being too easy to miss a lot of the amusing dialogue, Puppeteer is in itself a unique and fun little game that’s great for gamers who are artists and theatre lovers, as well as providing a gaming experience similar to a play or pantomime. The game is flawed, but the efforts that went into it are highly noticeable. It was made lovingly and with a lot of awesome art and imagination…and next time I play it, it shall hopefully be on a 3D TV.
Overall rating: ****1/4 out of 5