May the forceps be with you
Puppeteer is a game where players control a puppet named Kutaro. He was not always a puppet. He was once a young boy that was kidnapped by the Moon Bear King and then transformed into a puppet. Kutaro is then put to work in the infamous floating compound named Castle Grizzlestein. Not only are is he now a puppet, but he also had his head bitten off and was thrown in a cellar.
Saved by a pet named Ying Yang he is then enlisted by the pet’s owner Ezma Potts, a rude elephant that claimed she was once the beautiful Moon Princess. She sends you through the “Tower of Tribulation” where all of the children she had sent through before you died (clearly a Casey Anthony type). Upon being declared “the chosen one” by the “Moon Princess” after finding some fancy scissors, Kutaro is sent to defeat the Moon Bear King’s twelve generals and recover all of the moonstones. He is then joined by Pikarina the Sun Goddess in order to defeat the Moon Bear King at all costs.
Gimme Some Head?
Because his head is now missing, gameplay in Puppeteer is set up around finding and collecting various heads that help you solve puzzles and traverse the levels expeditiously. There are a total of one hundred heads that may be collected. Kutaro can have anything as a head; collectable heads include everything from horse heads to tea cups and are typically found when either Pikarina or Ying Yang investigates an area.
Player one can control both Kutaro and either Pikarina or Ying Yang and a second player can control the sidekick. Kutaro can have up to three heads at any time. Certain heads can trigger things like bonus stages or special events by using the “head action” (dirty, I know) if the appropriate head is equipped. If the player takes any damage Kutaro’s head falls off, and players have a limited time to retrieve the head before it becomes moon sparkles. This is not entirely bad because moon sparkles are used in this game to gain extra lives. I found it incredibly easy to maintain the maximum ninety-nine at all times during my numerous play-throughs.
Kutaro’s weapon of choice is the calibrus, a pair of giant scissors he found in the “Tower of Tribulation”. You use them to defeat Grubs which are the minions of the Moon Bear King. Grubs were created by the Moon Bear King by using the souls of the children he has captured, and once a grub is killed its soul will be released. Because of how Grubs were made one of the game’s main objectives is to release all of the souls imprisoned in grubs, mini-bosses, and the weavers.
The scissors are also used frequently when platforming to clear obstacles in order to reach the proper destination. Other weapons in Kutaro’s arsenal include bombs, a shield, body slam, and a hook claw. Those attributes come with a special set of heads known as “hero heads”. No matter which head players have applied at the time “hero head” abilities will be available. Players use their arsenal to defeat every one of the twelve generals, collect their part of the moon stone, and free all of the souls of the children that the Moon Bear King has captured. That’s quite a bit of pressure.
Ready, Set, Action!
Puppeteer is a stage-play and because of this transitions, intermissions, and bad acting are all included in the game’s presentation. Kutaro himself does not speak but his sidekick Pikarina, the narrator Gregorius T-insert-fancy-silly-last-name-that-I-forgot (narrated by Stephen Grief I believe), and a cast of over-the-top characters provide all of the dialogue that’s needed. The fourth wall is also broken with the audience a few times through the game.
Puppeteer shines through its setting and comedy. Each “act” has a different theme and is broken into three “curtains”. Every theme is different; for example, one act pays homage to Alice in Wonderland while another is Halloween themed. No two levels feel the same, and they are all gorgeous and filled with color. I found that quite refreshing to play a game with such level variety in this day and age where games feel like old like Hanna Barabara cartoons because backgrounds just seem to keep repeating on a cycle.
Unfortunately some of the levels drag on for just a tad bit too long. To complement the varied levels the game also features varied bosses. They are borrowed from the Chinese zodiac so players will fight bosses like a snake, rat, and a pig just to name a few. Expect each boss to also have different abilities whether it be breathing fire or conducting electricity. Finishing a chapter will unlock a story book that sheds a little light on some of the campaign’s main characters.
Puppeteer has a whopping sixty-three trophies. That would be great, but fifty-eight of them are bronze and most of them are not too difficult. The checkpoint system can cause frustrations here because missing one collectible at the end of a boss fight will make you replay the chapter if you really want that trophy (I have probably beaten every chapter of this game at least five times). You can quickly rack-up played hours in this game by missing items. While heads and souls are tracked by the game, players may have to manually record their progress with other collectible specific trophies.
Puppeteer is one of my favorite platforming titles of all time. The biggest problem with Puppeteer is that it is a Sony exclusive. If it were a multiplatform game it would not have been buried under other big exclusives like The Last of Us and Beyond Two Souls. This game also came out a week after Grand Theft Auto V which was a terrible move on the publisher’s end.
The game has gorgeous, varied environments, fun co-op, and tons of replayability with bonus levels that can be unlocked, souls that can be freed, and plenty of collectibles. Unfortunately, sometimes the platforming can get a bit iffy and occasionally the levels drag on for longer than I would like. Despite this it is a great game and it is a shame that the game flew under the radar of so many gamers.
Head was received.
Puppeteer gets 27,880 out of 30,000 polygons.