Presented as a puppet show, this 2D platformer's original visual design and presentation makes it immediately more interesting than the majority of copycats and sequels that litter the shelves. Complete with a noisy audience, narrator, and a cast of quirky characters, the sense of being part of a production is wonderful. Sets are broken down and re-made at a speed only a fantastical video game world can offer, changing the environment via a visual spectacle.
Puppeteer is a traditional tale of good vs. evil, with a small but mighty hero fighting against the odds to come out victorious. The Moon Bear King plays the bad guy to a tee, capturing the souls of children and eating our hero Kutaro's head. Thankfully the little guy can use an assortment of bizarre heads (which act similarly to Sonic's rings) and a range of abilities (grappling hook, bombs, slamming, and shield) along with a pair of magical scissors known as the Calibrus.
These allow Kutaro to slice through various objects in the environment, essentially letting him fly - like a plane would if it had to chomp down on a petrol flightpath in order to get anywhere. This unique and clever mechanic is used to traverse dangerous platform-less areas, to take down enemies, and slice through obstacles. Sadly it's overused during boss battles, resulting in later encounters feeling rather dull - especially as they're all finished off with QTEs.
For everything Puppeteer does brilliantly, including superb voice acting, the quantity of storytelling is overkill. In small doses the spoken dialogue would have been a humorous accompaniment to the platforming, but far too often you're left wishing the characters would just shut up and let you get on with it.
Puppeteer is Sony's best pure platformer on the PS3, delivering the kind of tight mechanics and pin-point controls usually only found in games starring plumbers or apes. With presentation that sets this Sony Japan Studio effort apart from everything that's come before it, it's only some overindulgent storytelling and samey boss battles that prevent this theatrical adventure from being an instant classic.
Version Tested: PS3
Game completed in 10-12 hours