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Puppeteer Review

Posted by Cha Holland On Tuesday 29 October 20131 COMMENT

Available on PS3 l Published by Sony l Developed by Sony Japan Studio l Classified PG l Supports 1 player

REVIEW IN BRIEF > Puppeteer is a platforming fairy-tale adventure, and provides a pretty spectacle full of vibrant environments and creative visual character designs. Just don’t expect much depth in the story, themes or personalities. Oh, and hopefully you like puns and cheap references.

REVIEW IN FULL > Once upon a time there was a boy named Kutaro, who was turned into a puppet and became the star of a side-scrolling platformer. The wicked Moon Bear King had taken over the lunar kingdom, creating permanent darkness and stealing children’s souls. It was up to Kutaro to set things right. Armed with an enchanted pair of scissors, he set out to retrieve powerful moonstone shards from Bear’s generals and restore the Moon Goddess’ rule.

… Kutaro soon discovered the frustration of only being able to carry three heads at a time…

Kutaro’s first encounter with the Moon Bear King did not end well, with the bear biting off his wooden head and forcing him to make do with whatever replacement noggins he could find lying around, be they animal, vegetable or random objects. Heads acted as a simple health system and provided unique abilities to unlock secrets. Unfortunately, Kutaro soon discovered the frustration of only being able to carry three heads at a time and relying on luck to have the right one for the job.  This seemed unnecessary, since there was already enough incentive for completionists to replay levels once they gained new abilities.

The theatre stage was gorgeous though, showcasing a range of dreamlike environments and creatures. Kutaro moved through a world that seemed magically stitched together, and even the spookiest, most corrupted corners of the moon had a slight sparkle in the air. The enemy generals, themed after the Chinese zodiac, clawed, slithered and raced to do their master’s bidding, each with their own style and presenting different challenges.

But all was not well in this fairy-tale performance. Beneath the shine lay something hollow and lacking in real heart. Not satisfied with the potential richness of the mythologies it was drawing on, this tale skimmed the surface, and shook around uninspired mentions of current events, geek icons, and pop culture for good measure. References and dreadful puns flew through the air almost faster than Kutaro could register them. The adventure jumped frenetically between ideas and themes. Even amongst this scattered diversity there were repetitive segments, as though someone took the idea of re-using theatre props too seriously. Cut scenes outstayed their welcome and boss fights went on a bit too long.

Evil was dark, ugly and often fat. Good was white, and cute or conventionally beautiful.

The audience gasped and clapped disproportionately at every move, like a tape played in a loop. Tired tropes reared their heads, as our boy hero rescued a sassy princess. Evil was dark, ugly and often fat. Good was white, and cute or conventionally beautiful. There was a recurring focus on appearance, and what a hero or a lady should look like. Kutaro was often mocked and ignored for being too small to take seriously, but as the hero he was able to overcome these perceptions. No one else was so lucky: the old witch could only be an object of desire when it was played for laughs.

As Kutaro took his final bow and the curtain closed, he hoped that fairy-tales and dreams could be more than recycled memes and lowest common denominators. The moondust was still here, he just needed to find more substance to sprinkle it on, and scattershot inspirations and worn out clichés weren’t the way to find it.

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One Comment

  1. Alaisdair says:

    Have been uming and ahing if i should get this game or not. Great review!

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