Personality counts for a lot when it comes to a game, it can elevate a mediocre experience to an enjoyable one, Puppeteer is in no way a mediocre game, it’s a fun little title with solid mechanics, great production values, and more personality than most of the games I’ve played all year. That, above all else, is why it deserves your attention.


As the name entails, the games stages itself as a grand, elaborate puppet show, complete with red curtains, an audience, and an ever-present narrator guiding you through the game’s dark, whimsical, and oh-so cheeky story. You play as Kutaro, a young boy who was turned into a puppet by the evil Moon Bear King, and after Kutaro promises to be his friend, the king thanks him by ripping his head off and eating it, a dark prelude to be sure, but it sets up everything you need gain new powers in the form of a pair of magic scissors named Calibrus, as well as new heads to take the place of the one you lost, and press on with the story. The presentation keeps the atmosphere tight with a cast of charming and elaborately designed puppets that show incredible attention to detail. The game is vividly colorful and makes good use of wooden and papery textures, all complimented by wonderful sound design. From the clickety-clack of the characters movements, to the snippity-snip of your magic scissors, to the roar of applause that comes from the audience. In short, the game is very atmospheric.


The characters convey a great deal of charm, simply watching them move and interact with each other has a strangely delightful joy to it. Since Kutaro is a silent protagonist, all of his character has to be conveyed through his actions, and he manages to pull it off quite well, with a little help from the narrator. Other notables in the cast are the Moon Witch, a devious schemer who ends up being a nearly bottomless well of entertainment, and her flying cat Ying-Yang, who guides you through the intro levels. One character I feel most players will be divided on is Pikorina the Sun Princess, while I’m sure a lot of players will find her annoying, I actually really like her design, her voice, and her personality. Watching her interact with Kutaro, as well as fly out in an outrage is always fun to watch. The antagonists are also fun as well, from the perpetually angry Moon Bear King, to the wonderfully foppish Tiger, to the swindling underhanded Rat all help liven up an already incredibly lively performance.


Now production values can only carry a game so far, and no one would expect you to buy a game simply because of that, it has to play well too, and luckily Puppeteer has that as well. At its core, Puppeteer is a pretty traditional platformer, with a few ideas that help it stand out. Running, jumping, rolling and blocking all work wonderfully, but it’s the Calibrus that makes Puppeteer more unique, through most stages, you’re presented with numerous papery paths you’ll need to snip your way through, cutting through these textiles give you full 360 degree control, which is important for a number of treacherous obstacles that cross your path. While standard combat is mostly limited to your snipping actions, you get abilities like a grappling hook, bombs and a ground stomp attack that can keep things spicy. Boss fights on the other hand are long, involved encounters with everything from the dreaded Weavers, to monumental giants that often evoke a bit of Shadow of the Colossus as you traverse and climb across their bodies. These fights are a sight to behold, and it feels great to bring them down.



Of course no conversation about Puppeteer isn’t complete until you mention the huge numbers of heads that you’ll amass across your adventure, there are over 100 replacement heads to find, each with a unique animation that can be used at certain points in certain levels, it sounds novel at first, since these animations have no impact on any other aspect of gameplay, but it feels surprisingly good to unlock a head by using the right head at the right time, which takes more effort than you might think. If there’s any point where the game lags a little bit, is with its cutscenes. While this is a story driven game and all of the cutscenes are generally fun to watch, they can drag on for quite a while, you can skip them if you want, but the break the game’s pace far too often. Also, the games checkpoints aren’t very forgiving, if you die near the end of a stage, you’ll have to trek all the way through it again, and this also plays into the boss fights, which can get very frustrating when you’re only on hit away from victory. Still these problems are pretty trivial in the grand scheme, because when you turn the game off, you’re not going to be thinking about these minor quibbles.



In comparison to the big-budget titles that are on the horizon, Puppeteer doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It may not be a game-changer, but for a humble little platformer, it goes above and beyond. It’s wonderfully written, beautifully animated, and is practically overflowing with charm and personality. You may have noticed this game, or you may not care about it, but either way, Puppeteer has earned some time in the spotlight.