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Puppeteer Review

  • First Released Sep 10, 2013
  • Reviewed Sep 6, 2013
  • PS3

Wildly imaginative and brimming with style, Puppeteer is a fantastic platformer that's heaps of fun for kids and adults alike.

Puppeteer is one of those rare experiences that can lift the weight of the world from your shoulders, draw you into its world, and make you feel like a kid again--and if you're lucky enough to have kids, watch them be amazed. This is a game that fills every frame with something new, something beautiful, and something so wonderfully imaginative that you can practically hear your childhood self squealing with glee as you play.

At its heart, Puppeteer is a platformer. But it toys with genre conventions and styles in a way that makes it far more unique than the average side-scroller: think Mario meets Shadow of the Colossus by way of Monty Python, and you're on the right track. The story, for instance, is classic fairy-tale fare, full of witches and princesses, and evil villains for you to vanquish. But it's got a deliciously dark, Ghibli-esque twist to it, expertly sidestepping any slushy guff.

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It tells the tale of Kutaro, a boy whose soul is whisked away to the dark side of the moon by the maleficent Moon Bear King and placed inside the body of a puppet to serve as a slave. Even worse for poor Kutaro, in a fit of rage, the Moon Bear King tears off his head and throws his headless body into the castle dungeon. What follows is a grand adventure that takes you to the darkest depths of the ocean, to snowman-filled mountaintops, and through the dusty plains of the Old West, to name but a few settings.

But it's the way that it's told and presented that really grabs you, mixing as it does the colourful world of Japanese puppet theatre, plays, and musicals to fantastic effect. Everything is viewed as if you were in a theatre, each level preceded by the opening of a red curtain and rapturous applause from the viewing audience. Sets are deftly dropped into place, spotlights shine down on the lead characters, and there are cheers, boos, and sympathetic cries from the audience as they react to a well-timed jump or a nasty fall, all of which is set to the sounds of a majestic musical score.

It's all so charming and so vividly realised that it creates a sense of atmosphere that's hard not to fall in love with. The characters, too, are just as loveable, thanks to some stellar writing and even better voice work, with actors who deliver their lines with a delightfully over-the-top gusto. Naturally, there's plenty of comedy to go along with it.

Puppeteer's charms are more than skin deep, and it's just as inventive with its sharp platforming as it is with its presentation.

Sometimes it's just simple slapstick as the White Witch slaps Kutaro around with a magical fork. Other times it's the narrator who brings the laughs as he goes off on a tangent about the perils of dating or suddenly breaks into melodramatic announcer mode. Journey into the ocean, and you find a familiar-looking sea king, along with some mermaid daughters who are all too happy to burst into a suitably cheesy Disney-style song, much to the dismay of the feisty pixie Picarina.

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But Puppeteer's charms are more than skin deep, and it's just as inventive with its sharp platforming as it is with its presentation. Because Kutaro has lost his head, you need to find new ones pronto, each of which is imbued with a special, often completely bonkers, power. Grab the hamburger head, and you can turn a simple sandwich into a bouncy burger that lets you reach an impossibly high platform.

Put on the dinosaur head, and you can transform a single stegosaurus into a whole herd of the beasts, which creates a shortcut through the level as they trample over enemies. Better yet, slap on the spider head and watch as a giant arachnid whisks you off to a bonus stage where you bounce off abdomens to collect extra shards of gold.

You can hold only three heads at a time, though, so managing which ones to keep and which ones to discard is important, particularly if you don't want to miss out on the opportune moment to unleash their special powers. Helping you to hunt down more heads is a cheerful sidekick, initially in the form of the flying cat YinYang, whom you move independently of Kutaro using the right analogue stick to uncover secrets. You can also enlist the help of a second player, which is particularly valuable during fast-paced sections or for the less dextrous among you, although you'll both end up fighting over control of the lead character.

You can have as much fun hunting down heads as you can finishing a level, and since some bonus stages require heads from completely different areas, they do a great job of encouraging you to revisit older levels. Heads also act as life points for Kutaro, which can make it tricky to hang onto them for too long: get struck by an enemy or fall on a set of spikes, and your head flies off into the air, giving you just a few seconds to grab it before losing it for good.

Things get really interesting when Kutaro finds Calibrus, a magical pair of scissors that serve both as a means to kill enemies and as a mode of transportation. At first you're given simple tasks such as having to cut through a piece of cloth to access a new area, or slice across a web to free an object trapped within. Soon, though, you're using Calibrus to traverse huge chasms by chopping through floating streams of paper leaves, deftly guiding Kutaro along their squiggly path through the air to make it to safety. Miss a chop, and Kutaro falls back to earth with an almighty thud, to a round of unsympathetic boos from the audience.

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Cut through stitches in the environment and you zip along at breakneck speeds across the likes of old highways, the back of a mighty dragon, or even the constellations of outer space. There are objects to avoid along the way too, requiring some deftly timed jumps. Other powers include a knight's shield that lets you deflect enemy attacks; a luchador mask that gives you the ability to stomp and to push and pull objects, which is used to great effect in the Wild West levels as you move whole buildings to solve simple puzzles; a hook discovered on board a pirate boat that lets you undo screws and pull bolts from objects like cannons to fire them; and a ninja mask that lets you throw bombs at hapless enemies and blow up bits of scenery to uncover new areas.

Taken separately, these abilities are already a lot of fun, but combined, they're absolutely wonderful. You might have to pull the hook on a cannon to release a puff of paper smoke, which you climb using Calibrus in order to drop a bomb into the open mouth of an unsuspecting enemy. Or you might have to zip along a seam, cut along some fluffy clouds, and then perform a dizzying dive back to earth using a superpowered stomp attack to unlock a new area. It's all brilliantly put together, with the excellent level design ensuring that you're always using your abilities to their fullest, and constantly kept on your toes.

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That excellence continues into the boss battles against the Moon Bear King's deputy generals, which are some of the most enjoyable to be found in a platformer. No two bosses are the same, and while there's a certain amount of pattern learning to be done, battles are far more involved than the standard three-stomps-to-victory routine. They're also far bigger than you might be used to in platformers, with a grand sense of scale more akin to God of War than Mario.

Take the battle against General Snake, for instance. His gargantuan size means you have to traverse along his wiggly back and skim through his stomach acid on the back of a rat before chopping him apart at the seams and indulging in a ludicrously over-the-top quick-time event across the desert sands that would be worthy of any great action game. Later battles see you using the knight's shield to deflect enemy attacks, cutting through vast swaths of cloth and unleashing your luchador stomp, and using your hook to grab incoming rockets from a pair of scurvy pirates and launch them straight back. There's even an appearance from a certain giant crustacean later on that makes for a very humorous battle.

Puppeteer is a little quirky, perhaps even a little insane in places, but unashamedly so. And you know what? It works brilliantly.

And if that all sounds a little out there to you, then yes, Puppeteer is a little quirky, perhaps even a little insane in places, but unashamedly so. And you know what? It works brilliantly. There's just so much to see and do, and so much joy to be had doing it. You can see the love that has gone into making this game in the gorgeous artwork, admire the attention to detail that ensures every level offers up something new for you to explore, and marvel at the imagination that has gone into crafting such a loveable set of characters and such a delightful story. Start to finish, this is a dazzling game.

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The Good
Unique and beautiful presentation
Voice work that's delivered with passion
Charming fairy-tale story
Inventive platforming mechanics that constantly keep you on your toes
Killer boss battles
The Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Mark managed to get all 121 stars in Mario Galaxy and all 242 in Mario Galaxy 2, which he commemorates with framed laminated screenshots on his desk. Suffice to say, he's quite the platformer fan.
353 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for nadzhq

i am playing this game right now. and its awesomeeeeee

Avatar image for nTrophy

Free on PSN+

Grab it while it's hot. That's an amazing amazing amazing game!

Avatar image for Drkr_Zen

Been recently playing this after buying it for about $20 bucks new... I have to say, I would have paid full price and been extremely happy with it. I love it!

The presentation alone is amazing, but the gameplay, story, graphics, animation, sound and sheer fun factor are all top tier stuff. Very much reminded of LBP, of course, but that's a compliment considering how amazing those games are, as well.

At any rate, awesome game that I can't recommend it enough. Hopefully this one doesn't go too overlooked with all the high scores, and even higher quality, it has.

Avatar image for Phazevariance

Just got this game, absolutely loved it. $14 on sale on psn ($7 if you have psn+) and it feels like i stole it or something because the quality of the art and graphics and gameplay really feels like it should have been more expensive. i would buy it again if it came out on the ps4 with higher resolution and sharper textures/lighting. That's not saying that they are bad either on the ps3, its one of the best looking games i've played.

Avatar image for Securator

I played the demo and immediately ordered the game from my rent money!!'s that good. I also love the fact that the company is modest enough to release such a unique and hard worked experience at 20 $. Its a welcome change when mediocre games (im looking at you COD) are seemingly hell bent on making games 80$ dollars each.

Having said that does anyone..uh....has a spare room where i could crash..??

Avatar image for mulder_000

@Securator Err, I guess I shouldn't mention it's on sale for $7 this week.

Avatar image for GregoryBastards

Come on over to my place....just bring that game.

Avatar image for Cristero

I'm getting this one as soon as it's released for PS4.

Avatar image for meatz666

Sony, give us this game on PSN+ already!

Avatar image for kohle36

Just got this on a PSN sale, and I feel like I owe Studio Japan more money. This game is seriously good, very difficult to put down, and just plain fun. The creative directors behind this are incredibly talented - hope they keep making great stuff like this

Avatar image for EXxile

I just started playing this game yesterday. I only meant to play it for a few minutes, but before I knew it, I was still playing it a few hours later and didn't want to stop. Amazing game in every aspect, and one of my all time favorite games for the PS3.

Avatar image for rellikeggs

GOTY. Absolutely no doubt in my mind. And yes i am considering bioshock infinite, GTA 5 and the last of us. This game is incredibly fun, completely unique and easily approachable and simply beautiful to look at.

Avatar image for feared4power

@rellikeggs bioshock infinite is just a cluster **** of a story with bland gameplay. Last of us is no different than any other shooter linear as hell shoot bad guys move on .The story is nothing special and has been done many times before. GTA 5 short 0 replay value.

Avatar image for rellikeggs

@feared4power @rellikeggs so you're saying you agree with me?

Avatar image for ali_manslayer

this game is soooo good I would expect it i to get a lot more attention

Avatar image for AtariKidX

One more awesome game for the PS3.

Avatar image for SilentAssassin

This game seems cool I'm going to buy it off Ebay later in the week and post a review after I complete like I do with all my games.

Avatar image for randallsilver

My girlfriend and I just finished playing the demo, and both of thought that was a lot of fun, not to mention very original. Thanks to this review, we're buying it tomorrow, and playing it in 3D, of course.

Avatar image for bndori

Great addition to Sony's exclusives.

Avatar image for mbrac1

Some people are saying that 3d gaming is dead. This game is double the fun in 3d

Avatar image for J2fold

Is there any reason this is not sold in stores?

Avatar image for alastor529

@J2fold huh? i got mine at best buy along with Kingdom hearts 1.5

Maybe because after the praise this game got people rushed into the stores and bout copies, surley this game has flown off the shelves by now at only $40!

good thing i had mine in reserve, ive been eyeing this game months before release. Hopefully you get to play it soon cause its AWESOME!

Avatar image for Jbul

Got this game. It's quirky and pretty fun I guess, but after the 2-D masterpiece of Rayman Legends, this game just seems bizzare and a bit misguided. Not saying it's a bad game, but giving it the same score as Rayman Legends is absolutely comical.

Avatar image for EXxile

@Jbul Both are great games, but as of right now I am thoroughly enjoying the Puppeteer more than Rayman.

Avatar image for TheKrustaceox

@Jbul i think this is better than any stupid rayman game in my modest opinion

Avatar image for Divisionbell

Easily. Rayman is painfully overrated.

Avatar image for Divisionbell

Of course it is. I just though Rayman was overrated.

Avatar image for Cyberxion_101

@Divisionbell You guys don't have to crap on one game just because you like another in the same genre. It is perfectly okay to like them both.

Avatar image for alastor529

@TheKrustaceox @Jbul

THe quality and detail in this game is breathtaking.

but Rayman has better gameplay

Both great games for different reasons

Avatar image for QtrArt

wow 9\10,good work

Avatar image for RobDev

Reminds me of kid chameleon. Probably showing my age there

Avatar image for Ayato_Kamina_1

@RobDev more like Dynamite Heddy!

Avatar image for porsche_game

This game reallly looks beautiful, good job sony !! It just shows you that sony will deliver many jewels in a content pace.

Screw the line up on the console release date, cause i know there will be more upcoming games threw the course of the PS4 lifetime.

Avatar image for alastor529

So i bought ths game with Kingdom hearts 1.5

Guys..this game is AMAZING!

if you are a fan of platformers or really liked little big planet this game will take you places beyond what youve experienced

If you have the $40 dollars to spare youd do yourself a favor to pick this game up (or wait til it goes down in price)

Games like this NEED to be SUPPORTED!

THe industry needs to take note that games like this NEED to keep being made.

Awesome game and havnt even beat it, great game for a great value

Avatar image for Cyberxion_101

@alastor529 Wow. I hope the comparison to LBP is limited to aesthetics, because if the game plays anything like LBP then I'm out. I loved the concept, but the floaty, imprecise gameplay just soured the whole thing for me.

Avatar image for xOmniCloudx

@alastor529 As did I and agreed.

Avatar image for AzulSoul

@alastor529 That's what i want, a drop price, i was going to preorder in the ps store but it was dissapointed that it didn't include the theatrical pack :(

Avatar image for StarsiderSajun

@AzulSoul @alastor529 $40 is stupidly cheap for how unique and fantastically well-made this game is.

Avatar image for alastor529

@AzulSoul @alastor529 dude it's $40 aha it's $20 cheaper than any new game on the shelf and its alot better than any new game on the shelf aha

I actually got it for $25 cause reward points i saved up with Best Buy.

but i still think $40 is a good value for what it is

Avatar image for JAHBU

This game is GREAT check out this three part preview!

Puppeteer - PINOCCHIO GONE WILD! - Part 1 of 3

Avatar image for Reddevil66666

That skull boy reminded me of grim fandango. Great game..

Avatar image for popeyfolger

definitely looking to buy this game in the near future !!!!

Avatar image for GnugnaGnagna

This has a video review and Rome II hasn't? Why?

Avatar image for Xx_Kares_xX

@GnugnaGnagna I'd assume the reason for that is that Rome II has a much smaller market.

Avatar image for Dantes0007

This is the kind of fantastic and unique games that PSvita needs to sky rocket sales, not the PS3, making and release this games for PS3 not help the PSvita in sales just do the opposite.

Avatar image for alastor529

@Dantes0007 ^^^ THIS!

Avatar image for geosurface

So, these days is a UK or Australian accent a mandatory requirement for employment at GameSpot?

Avatar image for blaqphantom

@geosurface the reviewer was from gamespot uk so it makes sense. Depends what region of gamespot reviews it.

Avatar image for 3D3

Sony always wins baby!

Avatar image for heartindarkness

been awhile since i saw a game with so many emblems :D

Puppeteer More Info

  • First Released Sep 10, 2013
    • PlayStation 3
    Puppeteer introduces players to a strange and fantastic world, where the environment is constantly changing.
    Average Rating114 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Puppeteer
    Developed by:
    SCE Japan Studio
    Published by:
    SCEI, SCE Australia, SCEA, SCEE
    Platformer, Action, 2D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes