A reader looks back at forgotten PS3 platformer Puppeteer and argues that its always the flawed games that most deserve a sequel.
Sequels are funny things. They tend to be the preserve of well-regarded games, some with impossibly long lineages. But I have two questions: when is a sequel most needed and how can the maker of a sequel make the most difference? The answers to both questions are not found in well-regarded games with impossibly long lineages. I think the best candidates for sequels are those game with unmet potential. Those games that had a great idea, but it was executed poorly.
Basically, games which set a low bar for the sequel to leap over and during the week one such example jumped into my head. One of those, Did they ever do a follow up to? moments I googled it and apparently, they never did. So Im going to take this opportunity to talk about Puppeteer, a great game presumably most of you didnt play – otherwise wed be drowning in clones and sequels.
Released all the way back in the mists of 2013 by Sony Japan, Puppeteer was a platformer with a unique style and presentation, its central conceit being that the game was set on a theatre stage with swooshing curtains and hastily rearranged sets. The first reason the game didnt succeed was the placement in the schedule too close the release of GTA V, a gaming Jupiter I dont believe a person alive or dead has yet to play. This major holing below the waterline idea left the game with too much ground to make up and this quirky spud got trampled into mush.
What did we lose? The game used its central conceit very well. The lead character, Kutaro, is a boy turned into a puppet whose tale is that of a classic fairy tale, including wicked witches and angelic goddesses who need the gallant hero to step forward at a time of great need. It reminded me of a mix between Alice in Wonderland and a Grimm fairy tale. There is a veneer of sweetness and goodness but like all the best fairy tales there is an undercurrent of malicious glee that tempers the story, preventing it from becoming shoegazing moralising.
Alongside the visuals, which I remember as being strikingly beautiful, the sound design was also great. The crowds cheering your successes and booing the villains raucously, and orchestral stings punctuating the performance. The use of the theatre setting allowed the game to go wild, with each set getting bigger and more varied than the last – Kutaro able to lop from one side of a rotating stage to the other in a charmingly ungainly wobble.
In terms of gameplay Kutaro had removable heads, Worzel Gummidge style, which bestowed different abilities when donned and acted as lives when popped off his body by an adversary. Kutaro was armed with a set of scissors called Calibrus, which could be used for offence or as a traversal method by chopping through the scenery. Fom memory it seemed like there was always something new round every corner, but despite all the innovation Ive mentioned in style, aesthetics and gameplay Puppeteer did not sell as well as it probably deserved.
This to me is a tragedy. We cry for innovation from the gaming industry and when its presented to us it should be supported more. Now, its worth pointing out that Puppeteer was not a peerless classic, it did have flaws. It ran some of its ideas into the ground and from memory the controls were a bit floaty and inconsistent, but this just supports my earlier argument that this was a game that was and is ripe for revisiting.
The theatre setting, the style and music could be repurposed for new stories, heroes, and genres such as horror or mystery. But we wont because thats not how the world works. Realistically, money talks and Puppeteers proof of concept wasnt good enough. Still, I can lament that we dont have an entire subgenre of theatrical puppet games.
I dont know if its possible to get puppeteer on the PlayStation 4 [it isnt – GC] but if you can and havent partaken in this forgotten gem I would unequivocally recommend it. Its short, beautiful, and will leave you with a big stupid grin plastered all over your face. And as an added bonus most likely itll probably cost less these days than your third copy of GTA V.
By reader Dieflemmy (gamertag/PSN ID/NN ID)
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