Developer: SCE Japan Studio / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment / Platforms: PlayStation 3 / Release Date: September 10, 2013 / Price: $39.99 / ESRB: Rating Pending
Any story can be turned into a videogame; after all, a game about an octopus posing as a human father (Octodad) is proof that no matter how odd it may sound on paper, an interesting premise is enough to bring in an audience. So although a story about a boy who loses his soul, and then his head, sounds like a gruesome tale, Puppeteer is endearing enough to ensure a crowd of its own.
You play as Kutaro, a boy who finds his head torn off and body devoured by the Moon Bear King, a creature that captures children’s souls and turns them into his personal guards. Now stuck in an unusual situation, Kutaro must reach the Moon Bear King and reclaim his head. The fate of the moon, Earth, and entire galaxy eventually rests on his shoulders.
A sidescroller in practice, Puppeteer also uses some twin-stick mechanics: you control Kutaro with the left analog stick and a companion cat named Ying-Yang with the right analog stick. Together, you jump over obstacles and enemies, and occasionally Ying-Yang, using his investigation skills, breaks apart pots and other items to find objects of interest. Some of those objects include heads, which Kutaro can collect and use to bypass obstacles in his way. For example, should Kutaro wear the pirate’s head, he has a hook that grabs onto enemies and objects alike to bring them towards him. He can have a certain number of heads at one time, giving him the option to switch when the dilemma calls for different skills.
Throughout his journey, Kutaro always has the potential of getting hit, thus losing his head. If he loses his head, he has a few seconds to recover it, otherwise that particular head is lost from his stock, and he can also die. On the onslaught the game seems simple enough, but as the play continues, Kutaro collects more heads and gets his hands on Calibrus, the Moon Bear King’s pair of magical scissors. With these scissors, he can climb vertically by cutting through shrubbery and clouds, allowing for greater exploration and variety to the gameplay.
Its format, a play in motion, is delightful; I loved seeing each scene shuffle into place. The audience’s reaction is also a nice tough; it’s motivating when you hear a crowd cheer when you defeat a foe or gasp at a near-death jump.
Puppeteer is a charming play of a boy trying to reclaim his soul, and the gameplay seems to have enough depth to stay entertaining throughout. Puppeteer is slated for September 10, so be sure to reserve your seats soon.