Puppeteer PS3 Review

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe  Developer: Sony Japan Studio 

Genre: Platformer  Players: 1-2  Age Rating: 12+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

When it comes to game mechanics, it’s certainly nice to see something different from time to time. Sony’s Puppeteer is a game that fits into the ancient platforming genre, although, despite all the usual jumping that makes up such a game, it does something a little bit different to raise its changeable puppet heads above the crowd.

When it comes to the plot, Puppeteer has a surprising amount of dialogue, with constant chattering being heard throughout the duration of the game. The protagonist is a boy named Kutaro who has been transformed into a wooden puppet and is on a journey to return to Earth, while the main antagonist is the menacing Moon Bear King who captures the souls of children to give life to his guards. The voice acting is over the top and delivered with dramatic passion, particularly from the above mentioned Moon Bear King, as well as the Moon Witch. There’s also a number of memorable characters, and much of the dialogue is amusing, with the narrator also proving to be one of the highlights.

At first, Puppeteer comes across as a very serviceable but generic platforming game. The changeable puppet heads are something relatively fresh, and Kutaro is able to carry up to three at once; wearing one and being able to cycle through the others. If you lose a head you are given the opportunity to retrieve it if you are quick enough to grab it as it rolls around the place like a ball, although if you fail to do so, the next head that you are carrying will be placed on Kutaro’s wooden shoulders. If you have no heads remaining, then you’ll lose a life.

The heads serve more purpose than being Kutaro’s lifelines, as each one has a unique special power. When the powers are used in certain sections of a level, they’ll unlock secrets as well as whisk you away to bonus stages. If you don’t have the required head when you see it flash up in the background, then none of this is possible. It could be argued that more could have been done with the heads in a manner that was a lot less linear and more similar to Treasure’s Dynamite Headdy, but there’s enough here to make them more than worthwhile.

The heads certainly aren’t Puppeteer’s most unique feature though; no, this falls to Calibrus, a giant pair of scissors. When Calibrus is snatched from the Moon Bear King, you are able to make use of them in weird and wonderful ways, which certainly suits what is a weird and wonderful game. As opposed to jumping, Calibrus is often used to cut through objects in the environment in order to help you scale heights, and there’s even some gigantic and memorable bosses which have you cutting through cloth to reach their weak spots. The cutting mechanic is certainly a fun one, and it’s also an innovative one for a platformer.

Kutaro also receives a number of abilities throughout the story, which includes a shield that is able to deflect enemy attacks, bombs for blowing up enemies as well as certain portions of the environment, a hook that is able to pull enemies and objects towards you, and a Luchador mask which allows you to use a stomp move from the air as well as to push and pull heavier objects. The game is designed in a way that sometimes you’ll have to combine all of these abilities, which makes things feel all the more satisfying, not forgetting to mention more varied.

There’s a good 10 hours or so of gameplay here, and finding all the heads and releasing all the souls of the children are reasons to return to the game. Saying that, the game’s story mode does feel as if it slightly outstays its welcome, and feels a bit bloated and busy with dialogue at times in a manner which will be difficult to digest for some brains.

Visually, with its dark fairytale style, Puppeteer is gorgeous and magical, and the overall presentation is also wonderful. Seeing the stage swiftly changed to another as well as hearing the crowd cheer, laugh and boo adds to the atmosphere and belief that this is an energetic and entertaining puppet show.

With the next generation of consoles just around the corner, Puppeteer is a marvellous, charming and uniquely flavoured PS3 exclusive in days when such a thing is dwindling. True, it’s not perfect, but what it is is a charming and fun platformer, and I just hope it earns enough money for Sony to eventually give the nod for the development of a sequel to go ahead.