While fanboys and conferences would like us to believe that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are at war with one another, I’d like to believe that emissaries from the big three get together each month for a tea party, where they discuss the state of the biz away from the prying eyes of the press.
It would probably go a lot like this:
Nintendo guy: “So what do you guys have planned for this year?”
Microsoft guy: “Halo! For Windows Phone 8. And Fable! An HD remake for the Xbox 360. Oh and the Xbox One! For 13 countries only. You?”
Nintendo guy: “We got our usual first party line-up for the Wii U and 3DS. Hopefully our cheque to Ubisoft should clear and maybe we’ll get some semblance of 3rd party support.”
Sony guy: “Yawn.”
Microsoft guy: “What do you have that’s so special that you’re yawning about?”
Sony guy: “Well you know about Beyond: Two Souls, played The Last of Us, so now we’re doing an old-school platformer called Puppeteer, wherein the entire game looks like a puppet show.”
Microsoft guy: “Sweet. Wish my boss would let me make a platformer.”
Nintendo guy: “Same here. That wasn’t called Mario. Or Kirby. Or Donkey Kong. That would be refreshing.”
Sony guy: “Wait, what?”
Playstation faithful who have drowned hours into LittleBigPlanet or its many sequels will feel right at home with the aesthetic touches.
As you can see, it’s nice that Sony is backing up their internal studios to allow for games that aren’t exactly run of the mill so late in the console generation. The end result is Puppeteer. Playstation faithful who have drowned hours into LittleBigPlanet or its many sequels will feel right at home with the aesthetic touches. It has a handcrafted look similar to MediaMolecule’s platformer, but is endearing in its own right, in no small part thanks to the distinctive art direction that makes each scene seem similar to a well-funded theatrical production or musical, lights, changing scenes et al.
Compelling visuals aside, the reason you find yourself delving through the whimsical world of Puppeteer is because of the Moon Bear King. Aside from being the most literal villain ever, (he lives on the moon and wears a crown), he kidnaps children’s souls each night (cue pedobear meme here) and has them placed in puppets for cannon fodder. You are one such soul (now a puppet), Kutaro, and you find yourself decapitated. Thus begins your quest to defeat the Moon Bear King and his posse and get off this rock.
While pacing is a lot more deliberate than Rayman Legends, there’s no reason for the controls to cause any kind of grief.
Along the way, you’ll find new heads to place on your shoulders. From skulls to spiders, there is a variety of noggins for when you come a knockin’. Each of them has their own unique animations. When used at the right time, you could unlock bonus levels and items. They’re quite well hidden and there are a ton to find. However, having the required head at a given juncture is always a hit or a miss. More often than not, you’ll wish you did, sulk and move on. Obviously, being limited to just three heads in your inventory doesn’t help. Lose all three and you lose a life.
All this would be for naught if it lacked the controls deemed necessary for a platformer. Seeing how it looked during previews made me think that LittleBigPlanet’s visuals weren’t the only thing Sony Japan borrowed. Thankfully, I was mistaken. Kutaro controls nothing like Sackboy. Jumps are precise and while the pacing is a lot more deliberate than say, Rayman Legends, there’s no reason for the controls to cause any kind of grief whatsoever. It sits smack dab in the middle of SCEE’s and Ubisoft’s platforming efforts and is inoffensive at best.
Even in it’s more frantic moments, not once did I get the feeling of exhilaration that other platformers manage to deliver.
But it simply isn’t just jumping from one scene to the next. No. As you progress, you’ll get access to the Calibrus, a pair of scissors that lets you find new pathways in levels and exploit bosses’ weak points. It’s a slick addition to the gameplay that opens up more possibilities than you’d expect. I mentioned above that the pacing is deliberate, and rightly so, after all you are controlling a puppet. Nonetheless, even in it’s more frantic moments, not once did I get the feeling of exhilaration that other platformers manage to deliver. You’ll be indulging in endless runner segments and riding atop a variety of animals or vehicles, but not once do you feel excited by the prospect. Instead, you’ll be waiting to see what you can do with the heads in your possession or tear up levels with the Calibrus.
Puppeteer is a novel addition to Sony’s ever-growing line-up of quirky titles. Considering that other first-party publishers are phoning it in and playing it safe, it’s nice to see a charming platformer with a more than ample amount of ingenuity to boot. Worth looking into if you own a PS3.