Puppeteer’s hero, Kutaro, has to escape from the Moon Bear King’s dungeon to an oversized kitchen and beyond. Of course he has to replace his head first. As though getting turned from a boy into a puppet wasn’t humiliating enough, the Moon Bear King tears off Kutaro’s head and swallows it whole. You can start scratching your head right about now. Sony Japan’s new game Puppeteer merges unique visuals with an intriguing head-replacing twist.
The game is set on a puppet stage, and the concept is sold in part thanks to its slapstick comedy (think pratfalls and slide whistles) and exaggerated oohs and ahhs from an offscreen audience. Transitions between screens help to sell the idea. When players leave the single screen, the stage shakes and disappears and reforms as though set up by invisible stagehands. We saw one sequence with Kutaro climbing a corkscrew-shaped tower, so don't think that the action is limited by the puppet theater’s boundaries.
Players scour the world for new heads, which all have unique abilities. The spider head allows Kutaro to interact with a giant arachnid, while a cheeseburger head lets him summon springy burgers into the world. There's no word on how many heads will be in the finished game, though creative director Gavin Moore says to think of a large number. When enemies hit Kutaro, his head rolls off, and players have three seconds to retrieve it. Otherwise, he loses one of his three lives.
You’ll take control of two characters during your adventure. There's the main hero, Kutaro, and also a ghostly cat companion named Yin Yang. The cat doesn’t seem to be entirely enthusiastic about their relationship, which could create an interesting dynamic as the story progresses.
Puppeteer's presentation allows developer to push the ps3 in ways that wouldn't have been possible in a traditional 3D game. Moore says the game's real time lighting rig contains more than 140 individual lights, and while I couldn't count them all in the demo, the game’s impressive visuals certainly make his claim seem reasonable.
The demo ended as Kutaro retrieved a pair of magical scissors from the Moon Bear King’s secret stash. They weren't powered up, but even in their basic state they could slice apart weblike filaments, which opened up platforms for Kutaro to hop onto.
Puppeteer looks like it’s going to be another much-needed game that appeals to audiences young and old—similar to LittleBigPlanet’s accessible, yet compelling, design. Construction and level sharing didn't play into the demo, though Moore wasn't ruling out the possibility that those tools might be in the game. Regardless, what he showed in the demo was impressive enough all by itself.
Look for Puppeteer in 2013 on the PlayStation 3.