We’ve been quite spoilt for platformers lately, and with the excellent Rayman Origins still finding its way into our PS3 it would take something special to nudge it away and out of our thoughts for a while. With Puppeteer, Sony’s Studio Japan have tried to mix some classic platforming ideas with a truly unique and interesting presentation method, and while there are one or two grips that dent the experience a little, the overall result is something pretty impressive.
It’s a bit odd mind you – the Moon Bear King has overthrown the Moon regime and taken charge, and through the use of children’s souls has set up an army to cause plenty of chaos. Despite having his head bitten off in the opening moments, Kutaro (the little dude you’ll be spending all your time with) sets out to get rid of all the evil knocking around. A tough task without a head, you’d have thought.
Luckily he can plonk a variety of new heads on top of his springy neck, and with bananas, burgers, spiders and several more to form his new bonce there’s no shortage of options available to him. Three of these heads can be carried at a time, effectively acting as lives – get hit by a bad guy and your head falls off, making Kutaro feel around on the floor nearby trying to pick it up again. If you fail to get to the head in time (which can be tough when it bounces somewhere awkward) it’s effectively a life lost. Various heads can also unlock secret levels or pickups by matching them with ghostly shapes that appear in the background, but with no other reason to swap them round it’s a potential opportunity lost to make things even more varied.
While the platforming action starts to drift towards something resembling a generic game, it’s the presentation which pushes Puppeteer to be something more spectacular. Pretty much everything is carried out on stage, complete with an audience all too willing to chip in with an “ooooh”, “aaaaah”, round of applause or burst of laughter. It sounds like it should be cheesy and a bit crap, but it works very well indeed, and with the changes of scene flying in and out of the stage it’s very easy to enjoy the moments around the gameplay just as much as the main sections themselves. In fact the scene changes are one of the few gaming moments that have made me want to play in 3D, and while I don’t have that tech available I can imagine it being pretty mind-blowing in this context.
Also spicing up the running and jumping is the weapons of sorts that you get to use. The main thing you’ll use is the first one you’re given – a pair of magic scissors. In addition to some other weapons such as bombs and shields, the scissors effectively let you fly around the stage, just as long as you happen to be cutting something at the same time. Netting, clothing, anything you can slice and dice is open to be cut up, occasionally giving you a sequence of areas which you need to cut up to reach somewhere tricky. It definitely adds an intriguing element to how things pan out and gives boss battles a very different feel to your average encounter, although with each boss having this same different feel (if you see what I mean) the novelty wears off the further you get. But it’s further proof that this definitely isn’t a game where the developers have sat back and not thought about enjoyment.
So where does that leave Puppeteer? Well it grew on me, that’s for sure. I wasn’t convinced at first, seeing it as a basic platformer with a fancy setting, but the more I played the more I felt that was very unfair. It might not have the fluidity of Rayman Origins, but there’s enough originality here to see it as a worthwhile game for those who like their games slightly more side-on. I suspect though that sales might be dented by a certain Rockstar game that’s out this week, and that’s quite a shame when you see that it’s actually pretty good fun, but anyone who wants to see what a creative mind can do would do well to check out Puppeteer.
Reviewed on PS3