Puppeteer Review: a refreshing start to what could be a great PlayStation franchise
- Posted September 10th, 2013 at 12:05 EDT by Timothy Nunes
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The fellows at Sony have created a unique experience in Puppeteer that's deserving of a franchise label. With a little work, the heroic antics of Kutaro and his Excalibur scissors Calibrus can make this cult-following title into a sequel-worthy one.
- Healthy, vast influential combinations
- Calibrus diversifies platforming
- Overzealous narrative is entertaining
- Minimal replay value
- Borderline repetitive gameplay
- Collecting heads: lost opportunity
Each Curtain lasts anywhere around 20 minutes, and, under the list of 21 Curtains, I had trouble getting bored. “Get bored,” you say? Well, platformers tend to get repetitive to me to an nth degree, but the combination of theatric, humorous cutscenes--which are ironically called Intermissions--and diversely developed gameplay design kept me from seeing the same thing too often. Every time I felt like I had seen something for too long, another aspect of side scrolling play style took the reins. It’s clear, however, that this game was made by one of Sony’s studios, because boss battles use Quick Time Events. Though they’re over relatively quickly, QTEs were the only gameplay elements that I got bored of seeing. The cinematics accompanying the events were themselves entertaining, but it’s still hard to enjoy them to their full extent after playing so many games this generation with them.
The core gameplay of Puppeteer is tightly based around Kutaro’s Calibrus, which is a legendary scissor-like weapon that he uses to defeat his enemies and navigate the paper world. Calibrus can be turned on enemies as you'd expect, but it can also be used to cut through objects floating in the air in order to progress through levels; in fact, this becomes a necessity very quickly. Calibrus initially feels straightforward, but new gameplay elements issued throughout the game make navigation more based on timing and ability to both anticipate and execute proper movement according to what the levels dish out, making this a platformer that's hard to ignore.
The main collectible in the game is that which Kutaro has lost: heads. Some of the strangest things end up useable as Kutaro's noggin, and, though they mostly only serve as life counters, they're also used as collectible benefits for unlocking new Bonus Stages. When hit, Kutaro loses the head that he has equipped, and he must retrieve it within a few seconds or its lost, reducing the potential head count from three to two, or however many you many have at the time. Littered throughout the game are hidden images of flashing heads that indicate where a head's special ability can be used in order to unlock Bonus Stages, and you can use your companion to find out specifically which head you need to use if the image is unclear, but you have to have that head first in order to unlock it. So, unless you really enjoy the narrative as much as the next person who enjoys alliteration, collecting the game's 100 different heads becomes the only major reason to replay the game. Though each head has a unique action, I spent more time saying to myself "I've lost my head" after getting hit rather than actually using each head. It's not a major negative, but having 100 potential heads at your disposal could make for a very diverse game indeed.