We have all been invited to the puppet show of a lifetime with the recent release of the PS3 exclusive, Puppeteer. The narrator sets the stage, with an introduction that prepares us for all of the epicness that is to come. The curtain draws back, the crowd cheers, and we meet our hero for the first time in a splendid display of graphical power and with such charismatic storytelling that we can feel our childhood selves quiver with excitement. Although many of us may never have thought of attending a puppet show, Puppeteer is not the performance that you want to skip out on. This game takes us on a gripping adventure that easily competes with all of the amazing games that have been released during the final months of this console generation, all with a cheaper admittance of $40.
Puppeteer follows a young boy named Kutaro, who was turned into a puppet by the horrible Moon Bear King. If that wasn’t enough, the king continued to dispense of the boy’s head, forcing him to use whatever puppet heads he could find lying around. Kutaro is later summoned by a Witch to obtain a magical pair of scissors from the king’s possession. After the Witch had sent forth a countless number of boys, both brave and cowardly, to fetch her the scissors with petty results, her faith in Kutaro was miniscule. Much to her surprise, though, there was more to the shy young puppet than met the eye. Pure of heart, Kutaro was able to equip the mythical scissors, called Calibrus, but unfortunately for Kutaro his luck ended there, as the Moon Bear King would not let his beloved scissors go without putting up quite a challenging fight. In this harrowing adventure, Kutaro must use Calibrus to defeat all of the Moon Bear King’s adversaries, along with avoiding the gold-digging Witch, in order to find his head, rid of his new puppet self, and return back home.
One of Puppeteer’s strongest suits is surely its storytelling. Every word that is said by the announcers or actors is enticing and makes us crave more. Feeling straight out of a beloved, childhood fairy tale, the story of Kutaro is enchanting. Aside from the main campaign, Puppeteer also gives us a little extra when it comes to its story by creating a section in the menu titled Picture Books. A new Picture Book is unlocked after every stage, and through these we get a chance to learn the stories of Puppeteer’s heroes through wonderfully narrated, delightful, mystical tales that we wish would never end.
Puppeteer is a side-scroller that uses the show’s stage for Kutaro to platform his way from level to level. His trusty companion, Calibrus, is used to both snip away at enemies and as a mode of transportation, cutting through bits of cloth, clouds, bubbles, and more to get from place to place. Cutting at enemies and cloth are both fun, and never before has using a pair of scissors been so satisfactory.
Puppet heads are very important while playing Puppeteer. If you get hit by an enemy, Kutaro’s head pops off, and you only have a limited number of seconds before the head disappears and is replaced by another one of the heads in your inventory. If, however, you do not have a back-up head, Kutaro will die and you will either have to restart the level or start from a checkpoint, depending on how many lives you have (collecting 100 Moonstones grants you extra lives). Generally, you will have a plethora of lives, as the Moonstones are practically everywhere.
When it comes to gameplay however, there is one thing that hinders Puppeteer, and that is the unlockable bonuses that you get through the puppet heads. As you travel through the stages, you will come across areas that have a certain head glowing in the backdrop. This is telling you to equip the required puppet head, place it on Kutaro, and perform the Head Action by pressing down on the D-Pad in the desired location. However, as Kutaro can only have three heads equipped, and there is no “head inventory” to choose between all of the heads that you have found, chances are you do not have the required head equipped to unlock the bonus level, spinwheel, or shower of Moonstones that you receive upon completing the action. This is disheartening as it is pretty much just a matter of luck whether you will be able to receive the bonuses or not, and for the most part, you will be unlucky. However, the overwhelmingly amazing qualities of Puppeteer easily distract from this slight hindrance.
Each boss battle in Puppeteer is gripping and exciting and one of the high points of the game when it comes to gameplay. Using Calibrus to snip away at the enemies, taking down the bosses is no easy feat, but never once will you feel frustrated, as they bring just the right amount of difficult to prove a struggle without being overpowered. Quick-time events keep us on our toes, but aren’t the main component of the boss battles, with just enough to add a change of pace. Yet although the boss battles are surely enticing and a strong suit to the game, platforming through levels isn’t always as exciting, proving nothing special while jumping on top of objects to easily get through each stage. However, there is still a lot of fun to be had while traversing through the beautiful world of Puppeteer, and easily brings forth a platforming experience that you are sure to not forget anytime soon.
The graphics in Puppeteer are absolutely stunning. With a wide range of colors from bright pinks, to blues and purples, the world of Puppeteer is breathtaking. Even when in dark areas, there are glimmers of hope with random pops of colors. Puppeteer uses the PS3’s graphical powers to its full advantage, and it is nothing short of impressive. The character models are done extremely well, showcasing the wooden, puppet-like qualities of the characters perfectly. Puppeteer takes us through many beautiful areas: from a dark castle, to on top of a snake, underwater, and many more, and you will never enter an area, nor see a character that doesn’t make you feel some sort of awe, and for that, Puppeteer deserves a huge standing ovation.
Adding to the fairy tale quality of Puppeteer, the music that you will hear throughout the worlds, in the main menu, and in the Picture Books section, is delightfully mystical. Although not overpowering, it creates the added effect necessary to truly bring out the happiness of our childhood selves. There is even an area with singing mermaids, and it is absolutely beautiful. Music is done very well and is the perfect inclusion to make Puppeteer as well-rounded as it is.
Sound effects are also done very well. As you finish one area, you will hear the sound of the wooden set being moved and feel the rumble of a new set build being placed down for you to platform through. The puppet-like, wooden sounds add the extra puppet show effect, making it a perfect performance.
One of the best qualities of Puppeteer is its voice acting. The actors are truly talented, with such passion in their voices that perfectly carries along the story of Puppeteer. Whether its the shrilly, over-excited voice of Pikarina, or the angry voice of the Moon Bear King, every character is wonderfully done and definitely calls for attention.
With the large amount of amazing games that have been releasing lately, it may be hard to sort through what to play, but Puppeteer surely deserves a place on all of our Must Buy lists. With beautiful worlds to explore, enchanting storytelling, and some of the best voice acting you will ever hear, Puppeteer stands up among AAA titles in stunning fashion.