Puppeteer is a dark fairy-tale side-scroller set as a stage show with a few tricks up its sleeve to differentiate it from the rest of the genre. It strives to tell a deeper story than seen before in the side scrolling genre while adding gameplay features that are entirely unique to Puppeteer; unfortunately, some of these features are what set the game back.
The story begins with the hero Kutaro being spirited away to the moon and brought before the Moon Bear King as a tasty soul snack for the King’s insatiable hunger for power; all the while a Narrator gives you a play-by-play, adding in some deeper explanations along the way. To help along the story driven experience Kutaro meets with the Sun Princess (Picarina), who joins along in the adventure and is not restricted to the confines of the stage, breaking the fourth wall regularly to talk with the Narrator.
Levels come in a large variation; from deserts, to swamps, to the underwater city of Poseidon. They all look vibrant with a creative stage show feel to them. Clouds and scenery hang from sting and move with gears, adding to the charming feel of a live show.
The Puppeteer stands out from the side scrolling genre due to its heavy storytelling techniques and visuals, but once you pick up the controller it feels familiar and you will feel right at home as any other game of its type. If you have played a side scroller before you will know how to play Puppeteer.
Kutaro’s life bar is represented by the heads in his possession (you can have three altogether); taking a hit means losing a head which you can scramble for and pick back up before it disappears. Progressing through the game will give the player four permanent power ups they can use through the rest of the game and once unlocked can be used in previous levels. The most powerful tool in Kutaro’s arsenal is the magical scissors called Calibrus which can cut any material (think Lightsaber gardening shears) allowing you to cut up, down, and through anything in your way, which comes in handy during boss battles.
Each level has a description of its relevance before selection; once a stage is selected, you are treated to a cut scene with more dialog, followed by another cut scene/narration, before you finally get to play the level. This is where Puppeteer starts to become annoying. Once the level begins either the Narrator or Picarina (sometimes both) begin talking, and talking, and talking, filling most of the in-game audio with nothing but senseless chatter. It rarely feels as if there is anything useful to say during levels. Adding to the over use of storytelling the levels are then bookended with yet another cut scene, and each one can go from 60 seconds up to a five or six minutes at a time. As great as the idea of a story driven game sounds, the overuse of such tools has made this game considerably harder to enjoy.
When it comes to irritating characters, Picarina the Sun Princess has to take the cake (even over Navi), spewing teenage girl clichés like “Oh My Gosh” and “like, seriously”; she can’t even pronounce Kutaro’s name correctly (everyone else does). All she does throughout the entire adventure is complain about how long something takes, or how repetitive something is. She literally points out the repetitiveness of boss battles and levels and NEVER shuts up, sometimes her pointless dialog will even overlaps with the Narrator. Worst of all, she brings nothing to the plot of the game (She was caught, turned into a pixie, now she is ‘helping you’); Picarina is a pointless character that in all honesty is a blemish on the game. Puppeteer would be and infinitely BETTER title if she was not in it.
Puppeteer tried something different, attempting a unique dive into the side scrolling genre with an emphasis on story. Unfortunately it misses the mark, delivering a story that is completely diluted by far too many cut scenes and pointless chatter from pointless characters (here’s looking at you Picarina). The gameplay is still a lot of fun, if you are willing to mute the audio.
Final Round Review - 6/10
- Will Flynn