With new consoles hitting shelves in what seems like mere minutes, it would be hard to fault Sony or Microsoft for taking time away from producing exclusive content to focus on the next generation. Fortunately, Sony’s Japan Studio doesn’t subscribe to this mantra, bringing us Puppeteer, only on the PlayStation 3. This exclusive is a delightful blend of theater, adventure, and imagination, capturing your attention and holding onto it with ease.
Our hero, Kutaro, has quite a predicament on his hands. While being held prisoner by Moon Bear King, the young wooden boy has lost his head, literally. This startling tipping point to the game leads to a wonderful dynamic as Kutaro must collect heads, and keep them, to continue his quest. Heads range from a hamburger to a guillotine and will fall off Kutaro’s shoulders when he is hit. The head must be retrieved before it disappears or it will be gone forever. Once Kutaro is out of heads, Kutaro perishes. While this may sound somewhat insane, it adds to the charm of the game as panic sets in when a head falls off. Each head has its own custom maneuver, generally used in special, hidden situations.
Kutaro’s main mode of defense and transportation comes in the form of a special brand of scissor, called the Calibrus. These scissors allow you to cut through enemies with ease, which in some ways hinders the challenge of the game, as you’ll go through similar enemies many times over to get to the boss battles. Those battles themselves are a great deal of fun, part puzzle and part fight, with the bosses the Moon Bear King throws at you ranging from the simple to the charmingly difficult. With that said, there does come a repetitiveness to these battles as well, as you will find yourself cutting through curtains using the Calibrus on quite a few occasions. While entertaining, the feeling of sameness keeps you questioning when a real challenge will come your way.
While that can get repetitive, the Calibrus true strength and much of Puppeteer’s charm resides in using the Calibrus to move around the world. Cutting through sheets, rope, smoke, and more, Kutaro is able to move throughout the theatrical stage in such a mystical way that the very action of simply moving in Puppeteer becomes an engaging experience. The speed with which the movements pick up as you cut across certain elements puts players back in an old school mentality, akin to Sonic the Hedgehog’s spastic quest for rings. There were quite a few times where this gamer could hear the familiar jingling in the back of his mind and almost imagine Sonic burning a hole through Puppeteer’s levels.
Another big part of Puppeteer’s charm is found in the stage surroundings. This is, quite literally, a puppet show and you will see open curtains hugging the sides of each level and listen to the reactions of the audience as you use the Calibrus and do battle against your foes. The engagement from the audience may provide a distraction for some, but the intent as I see it is to further engage the player and engross them in what they are doing. Quite often people react to the reactions around them and the audience in Puppeteer has the profound effect of making you feel as though what you’re doing is a huge accomplishment. Additionally, their reaction can further any fear of impending doom or shock you may come across. The audience reactions are done to perfection, not overblown and not something that will take away from the experience.
The blind eye may dismiss Puppeteer on the shelves, seeing it as nothing more than a 2D platformer at the end of a console generation. Those eyes would be missing out on a truly wondrous experience in which Sony Japan crafts a tale with such a whimsical heart that you can’t help but fall in love with. From the presentation to the gameplay, one feels that they could be playing through an interactive Pixar experience rather than a video game. At a price of $40, Puppeteer is a steal that will not only hold onto your attention, but will wield the Calibrus through your mind to open up different parts of your imagination you’ve never encountered before.
Follow me on Twitter and be sure to subscribe above to get emailed once the latest article is posted. Don’t forget to join me on Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest and subscribe to my YouTube channel for all the latest news.