Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Puppeteer E10+ for everyone over the age of ten. They site alcohol references, fantasy violence, mild language, and suggestive themes as the reasoning for the rating. While it’s true the game does indeed contain all of these things, it’s no more harmful than a Pixar movie. What the developers have been able to do here is nothing short of incredible. This game will appeal to absolutely everyone that picks up the controller and plays it. It has slight references that only adults will pick up on, but is colorful and imaginative enough that kids will be delighted. Truly, this is a game for everyone except the very youngest kids in the house, which might be a little frightened by some of the darker stages and boss fights.
Plays Like: At its core Puppeteer is an action platformer. You jump from one platform to the next, occasionally throwing bombs at enemies, or using your magical scissors to cut down baddies, or as a platforming mechanic which allows you to continuously stay afloat so long as there’s something to cut in front of you. There are seven distinct acts, with three chapters per act. Overall you can expect around ten hours of gameplay for your first play-through and many more if you’re planning on getting everything.
Review Basis: Sony sent us a review copy, and I continuously played until I finished it. I only put the game down to eat. That doesn’t happen to me very often.
Presentation is perhaps the best I have ever seen in any videogame. The entire game is setup as the ultimate puppet theater. Stages begin with the curtains opening, and they close with the dimming of the lights as the curtains are drawn. As stages shift from one scene to another, the stage is ripped apart and put together as if some invisible crew were there quickly working behind the scenes. Spotlights follow characters as they move throw dimly lit stages, and the crowd delivers thunderous applause whenever a boss is defeated. The entire thing comes together to make one of the best experiences you can have on the PlayStation 3. This is no exaggeration, it is that impressive.
+ The story is an absolute hoot. You play as Kutaro, a boy whose soul has been whisked away to the moon and placed inside a puppet. To make matters worse the evil Moon Bear King eats Kutaro’s wooden head, and throws his body in the castle dungeon. Now Kutaro must make his away around the moon locating several key artifacts and putting an end to the evil King once and for all. It’s not just the narrative itself that’s so much fun, it’s the way it’s told. There are so many interesting characters introduced, and the whimsical banter between each is sensational. Even the narrator gets in on the fun from time to time, arguing with the supporting cast. It’s hilarious and made me laugh out loud on several occasions.
+ The graphics and audio are ultimately what bring the presentation together. The puppets all looks as you’d imagine, stages are perfectly detailed as if someone has meticulously put them together, and the voice acting and soundtrack are incredible.
+ Thanks to Kutaro’s head loss, he’s in search of a new one. Heads are a key gameplay element that adds to the overall game’s charm. Each new head you find, of which there are dozens upon dozens, feature a unique power. These powers are often completely absurd, but are required in order to find all the hidden bonus stages and other goodies. Sometimes a head will bring forth a giant spider, other times it will light a path that wasn’t there before, or just about anything else you could imagine.
+ Wonderfully well balanced. The game starts off easy, but gradually increases in difficulty as players progresses. Kutaro can only carry three heads at once, and each time he’s hit he loses one head. Lose all your heads and you lose a life. Thankfully getting extra lives is extremely easy in the earlier levels. By the time I hit the third act I had already amassed 37 lives, and trust me I started to go through those very quickly by the time the fifth act rolled around.
+ Power-ups are awesome and add a wealth of originality to the platforming genre. It all begins when Kutaro finds a pair of magic scissors. These allow him to cut any paper objects. Where things get interesting is when platforms start including areas that he can cut, while he’s in the air. Imagine a forest stage where leaves are blowing in the breeze. The only way to pass a giant gap is to continuously cut the leaves and follow where they lead. It’s an excellent gameplay mechanic that open up so many possibilities.
+ The magic scissors are only one aspect, eventually Kutaro learns to use bombs, a magic shield, and many others. Each new ability he learns opens up more creative platforming levels, but once they’re all used in tandem things get really interesting. The level design is the best I’ve seen in a platformer in years.
+ Kutaro isn’t alone in his journey, he’s accompanied by another character, which changes throughout the game. The first helper is a flying cat named YinYang, and players control him with the right analog stick. He’s useful for finding additional heads, and locating tons of hidden secrets.
+ A second player can control the helper character with the Move controller if they so desire, or just a regular controller. The Move support is nice because it allows for additional secrets to easily be picked up while in some of the faster-paced levels.
+ Boss fights will rock your world. Virtually every boss battle is memorable, and completely unique. Boss fights have more in common with God of War than what you’d expect from a platformer. Most bosses are massive, and require some minor pattern memorization, and QTE events, but they feel so much more involved than you first expect
+ Featuring a MSRP of only $39.99, Puppeteer features far more content than it should given the asking price.
+/- Some of the quick time events can pop up without you realizing it, causing you to die and have to start over. It’s never too frustrating because you’ll only make the mistake once, but it is noticeable.
+/- While I adore the story, there is a lot of it and if you’re looking to just jump in and play it can be a little grating at times. Thankfully you can skip it if you so desire.
Puppeteer honestly came out of nowhere. I remember hearing about it at E3, but outside that it was just another filler game to me. Now I have to eat my words. This game is absolutely brilliant. It’s one of the very best platformers released on the PlayStation 3, and I’m sure many of you will agree that it’s one of the best platformers of the generation. If you own a PlayStation 3, have $40 burning a hole in your pocket, Puppeteer is the perfect way to save your pocket and give your PlayStation 3 the love and attention is so desperately deserves.
Final Score: 9/10