Puppeteer is a kind of a game that came out of nowhere; it has not received much marketing. A very simple but cute and enjoyable platformer, that’s kind of a shame. Especially since the game could have been a much richer experience. But maybe that’s the bigger shortcoming.
The game is about a young boy named Kutaro whose head was removed by the Moon Bear King after he revolted against the Moon Goddess and took over the moon and destroying the Moon Stone. The Moon Stone was broken into several shards, and after Kutaro gains a temporary head and the ‘Calibrus’, he sets out to recover the moonstone shards and overthrow the Bear Tyrant. The Calibrus is a magic pair of scissors that are used for the bulk of the gameplay. They can of course be used to attack enemies or to cut through objects to traverse the terrain. They also add a slight bit of height and reach to a jump. Later on, Kutaro will gain other abilities like throwing bombs or slamming powers. The Calibrus is also powered up to allow even more advanced level traversing abilities. These abilities are needed to find secret areas as well, but you will have to return back to these levels to access them as they are locked out initially. In addition, Kutaro also has many temporary heads to equip. He can have up to three heads at a time, and they are also a health bar of shorts. They allow Kutaro to take three hits before dying, but they can be recovered if you can retrieve them before they disappear. Other actions that Kutaro can perform are a reflective shield and rolling.
The heads can also perform special actions at designated locations in the levels. These reveal either extra moonshard crystals (collect 100 for an extra life) or unlock bonus levels to get even more. Other times they can unlock other heads or trophies. You can also use the right analog stick and the R2 button to click on any object in the background, which can also reveal additional secrets and heads: It kind of a shame that the characters heads don’t affect gameplay at all. The opportunity to have the heads do puzzle solving or expanding combat is not utilized, with only some boss fights letting use of a head to quickly take out the boss. The bosses themselves are finished off with rather simple but thankfully not abundant QTE’s, which are also easy to see and give the player a decent reaction time.
The game has some very well done art direction, and is presented as though you are taking part of a play, even though all of the stage actors are wooden puppets without strings. All of the terrain seems to be made up of Stage props, and while there is a strong Japanese influence, there is an equally large Western one as well. Size of the characters can sometimes make it hard to see when put up against dark backgrounds, or ones where the colors blend in with hazards. But on the whole the game is rather colorful. The voice work is very good, but some players might be put off by the amount of talking or the fact that certain pop cultural references manage to sneak in. Also the game only has an English audio track, which is disappointing. Despite the appearance of being marketed towards younger audiences, the game can be surprisingly dark. There are short stories that are unlocked that do not have happy endings. The heads similarly also have stories with a bit of dark humor as well. Overall, Puppeteer is a decent little platformer worth checking out, and the $40 price point doesn’t hurt either.