Some games are just designed to put a smile on your face. And despite the darker overtones found in Puppeteer, there’s no doubt that such a creepily charming presentation will appeal to anyone who appreciates the art style. The latest from SCE Japan blends unique action with an artistic platformer, kinda like what Tim Burton might’ve done with LittleBigPlanet. The result should be an engaging, extraordinarily creative adventure that’ll be another top-quality addition to the PlayStation library.
The game is set within a magical puppet theater, which is owned and operated by Professor Gregorious T. Oswald. His newest production is an odd little play called “The Perilous Journey of a Boy Named Kutaro,” but things have hit a snag: The star, Kutaro, has been stolen away by the Moon Bear King, who is holding him prisoner at his dark castle. In a cruel twist, the King changes the boy into a puppet…and in an even freakier twist, Kutaro manages to tick off his captor, who promptly eats the boy puppet’s wooden head. However, Kutaro is not dead – he’s not human anymore, after all - and he’s also not entirely helpless.
He discovers a pair of otherworldly scissors, which he can use to alter his immediate environment. The interesting part is that in addition to changing what’s around you, that environment will continue to bend and flux, moving as you progress. These ever-changing settings will require some quick thinking and adaptation, and I really like the creativity and diversity that will likely be on display. In addition to the scissors, you’re also assisted by a flying cat called Ying Yang; the “meowgnificant” feline should prove immensely helpful depending on the circumstance.
You’ll come across a wide variety of obstacles, through which you must jump and cut your way. If you’re having difficulty, make sure to grab as many of the shining golden gems as possible, as they grant you extra lives. Essentially, this will play like an old-school 2D platformer set within a vivacious 3D world. You can expect all sorts of cool mechanics (including a few quick-time events), and don’t forget that when the level inevitably changes, you may have to reassess your progress and strategy. Lastly, it’s great that no scene is ever reused; continual originality is the order of the day. And that, I definitely appreciate.
The PS3 has been home to a great many highly artistic masterpieces over the years, and Puppeteer is looking to become another triumph. It’s interesting to see what many call “old-fashioned” gameplay receive a resurrection thanks to a few determined developers. Platformers shouldn’t ever die and if you can mix in a modern-day style and format, such as the amazing 3D environments we see here, you’ll get a game that a great many should enjoy. I just hope the adventure is long enough (and deep enough), as the overall value of a game has never been more critical.
11/1/2012 Ben Dutka