Zadzooks: Puppeteer review (PS3)

Heads will roll in macabre but charming video game

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A fractured fairytale takes gamers into a nightmarish realm controlled by the Moon Bear King and his minions in the side-scrolling adventure Puppeteer (Sony Computer Entertainment, rated E10+, $39.99).

Sony’s in-house Japanese studio delivers a gorgeous, visual masterpiece exclusive to the PlayStation 3. Developers use the theatrical presentation of an intricate puppet show, complete with draped red curtains and audience reactions, to reveal the woeful tale of a boy made of wood.

Now bear with me here parents, as the plot is quite bizarre and a little extreme. One could describe it as a twisted collaboration between the Brothers Grimm and Tim Burton.

Taking place on one dark moonlit night, a young human boy named Kutaro gets carried away by the Moon Bear King to Castle Grizzlestein where the lad gets transformed into a puppet.

The terrible tyrant hates Kutaro and devours the boy’s wooden head and casts away his body.

However, a greedy witch named Ezma Potts discovers this headless hero in the making. She wants to help him destroy the Moon Bear King and take his most prized riches.

With her guidance and some newfound friends, he acquires the skills and weapons to escape and survive. He must free the souls of other trapped brethren, clean up the Moonwood Kingdom of evil and accomplish his primary mission, to become a human boy again and return to his warm bed.

Kutaro fights, jumps, blocks, deflects and floats though a seven-act play, with a trio of chapters in each that will consumer at least a dozen hours of a player’s time as he solves perplexing environmental puzzles.

Much in the tradition of side-scrolling, platform-style games, Kutaro meets many a challenge while guided through locations such as the winding spiral staircase of a castle, a bamboo forest, the back of a wooden snake in ancient Egypt, a Wild West town and swamp.

During his harrowing journey, Kutaro receives a pair of magical scissors called Calibrus that he can use to defend himself against some spiky, one-eyed imps and wield as a transportation tool.

As he clips away at such items as paper waves and clouds, webbing, leaves and tapestries, it propels him in mid-air and allows him to glide into new areas to continue his adventure.

More important, the boy finds a variety of more than 100 heads to wear ranging from a panda to iron ball, banana and a guillotine shaped cranium to name a few. Some provide special powers while others simply deliver cute animations

Player who lose three of Kutaro’s temporary heads in the heat of battle will find themselves losing a life and starting over in that chapter of the action. It’s worth noting that when a head rolls away, a player can still get the boy to chase and retrieve it.

Thankfully, if noggin acquisition becomes a problem, he can constantly find a generous supply of Moonsparkles (bits of moon energy) scattered about and for every 100 he acquires, gains an extra life.

Kutaro even gets help from sidekicks, at first by a feisty floating cat named Ying-Yang, and then the sun princess Pikerina who both lend a crucial hand. A player controls them with right analog stick and trigger to activate hot spots, tap scenery and characters to get more Moonsparkles, and poke floating cauldrons to find more heads.

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