The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
With all the talk of next-gen systems and the holiday's
upcoming blockbusters, Puppeteer hasn't had a lot of time in the spotlight.
Thankfully, Japan Studio's quirky platformer doesn't need long to draw its
audience in; while the unique gameplay mechanics wear thin in the last few
hours, Puppeteer's superb presentation and production values are enough to keep
you engrossed until the final curtain call.
Puppeteer's theatrical motif permeates very aspect of the
game, and is used to great effect. Entire levels slide and drop into place like
stage scenery, a narrator moves the story along from scene to scene, and an
unseen crowd gasps, laughs, and applauds throughout Kutaro's lengthy quest to
thwart the evil Moon Bear King and save the stolen souls of his adolescent puppet
Ultimately, Puppeteer's goofy story is less important than
its cast of oddball characters. Armed with the legendary Calibrus (read: magic
scissors), Kutaro snips his way through a zoo's worth of memorable boss animals
on his way to confronting the Moon Bear King. Each of the evil ruler's dozen
generals is complemented by its own set of creative levels that culminate in a multistage
boss battle. Don't be fooled by the wooden-doll character models, either;
Puppeteer is a gorgeous game thanks to Japan Studio's exceptional animation
work and a diverse collection of environments that are packed with interactive
objects. The boss fights are especially impressive, even if they rely on
quicktime events too much.
As beautiful as the visuals are, Puppeteer would fall flat
without quality voice acting. The voice cast is more than up to the task,
offering up humorous soliloquies, character impressions, and even a surprise
musical number without missing a beat. Stephen Greif steals the show as Puppeteer's
off-screen narrator, providing a level of enthusiasm and gravitas rarely seen
(or heard) in video games. Some characters can be a bit hammy and annoying at
times, but their performances mesh with the bombastic onstage theatrics.
In addition to its unique presentation, Puppeteer introduces
a number of fresh gameplay ideas. After the Moon Bear King steals his wooden
noggin, Kutaro must find and collect replacement puppet heads to stay alive.
Kutaro can juggle up to three heads at a time and switch between them on the
fly. Each head has a custom animation that can trigger helpful environmental
changes, rewards, or bonus levels when performed in the right place. A few hero
heads also imbue Kutaro with permanent abilities, such as a hook that can latch
onto enemies and objects in the environment and a projectile-deflecting shield.
Kutaro's fairy companion, Pikarina, adds another layer of complexity; you
control her with the right analog stick (or Move controller), and can use her
to interact with certain objects and uncover secret gems. A second player can
also take over Pikarina, which provides a simpler gaming experience for casual
Kutaro's magic scissors fuel Puppeteer's most unique
gameplay mechanics by allowing you to snip through all manner of fabric,
webbing, foliage, and pretty much anything else gets in your way. You can
control the direction of your scissors, and cutting an object mid-jump causes
you to float for a second and propels you forward. This allows you to snip your
way through the air with ease provided you have a trail of floating paper
clouds, falling feathers, or other sliceable objects to sustain your momentum.
As neat as Puppeteer's snipping mechanics are, they do get
repetitive. Japan Studio does a good job of introducing new abilities
throughout most of the game, but you'll use each one a hundred times before the
adventure ends. While the numerous boss fights each have their own unique
twists, combat against the basic grub enemies is one-dimensional and dull. I
also ran into a few unforgiving checkpoints, which made some already difficult
sections of the game all the more frustrating. Even seasoned gamers will become
intimately familiar with the continue screen.
Despite a few setbacks, Puppeteer features all the entertainment
and creativity I've come to expect from Japan Studio. Sony has another
exclusive title it can be proud of, and while Puppeteer may not take center
stage in the company's holiday lineup, fans of family-friendly adventures won't
want to miss it.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.