Have you ever just really wanted to like a game, but for one reason or another, simply couldn’t? That’s the situation we’ve found ourselves in with Clash of Puppets, a 3D hack’n’slash platformer follow-up of sorts to Drakkar Dev’s previous title, Monster of Puppets.
Despite the name, there isn’t much that’s very puppet-like about the game. Certainly, one could perhaps see the cartoonish characters as being puppet-like, but even then, there’s very little to indicate– be it visually or thematically– that these are indeed puppets. But no matter; at worst, it just makes the game’s name an odd one, with no real bearing on the contents.
Clash of Puppets follows Charlie, an everyman janitor who looks and dresses about like you’d expect a cherub-styled Jeff Foxworthy to, as he’s driving his pickup truck through the open countryside when he comes upon a drive-in movie theater (here’s a reference for you young ‘uns). Better still, this nigh-anachronistic oddity is holding an all-night marathon of B-movies, and the glimmer in Charlie’s eyes tells the story as he purchases a ticket and takes up a parking spot in front of the screen.
Despite Charlie’s affection for the material, however, sleep soon takes hold of him. Next thing you know, Charlie finds himself standing tall in a dream world based on the featured films, ready to take out the foes before him.
It must be said that the graphics are indeed gorgeous, and though he looks like a bit of a walking stereotype from the world of Blue Collar Comedy, Charlie is still a character who is easy to like in a friendly, almost Mario-ish sort of way. This makes the whole game easy to get into, as it definitely possesses an enjoyable charm, but that also makes the apparent flaws all the more regretful.
Throwdown in Puppettown
There are a few types of gameplay incorporated into the scheme of things in Clash: The most noteworthy is the brawling, though you’ll also find some platforming, some puzzle solving, and some trap evasion as well. It’s a modest variety that keeps things from getting old too quickly. Combat makes up the bulk of it, and Charlie has a nice variety of weapons and traps to wield along the way.
Unfortunately, the touchscreen controls and camera work are what make the entire product suffer. Movement is controlled by a floating thumbstick, and it brings that persistent problem of a feeling of “stickiness” as you try to move around. There are no other options to explore to find what works best for the individual, and it leads to some situations where you’ll need full speed to clear the many perilous jumps found throughout, only to come up short. Meanwhile, the attack buttons (represented by one fixed icon and another floating thumbstick) tend to overlap one-another and can be a bit tricky to use.
The camera remains at a fixed angle throughout, save for a few cutaways, and while this often works well, there are occasions when you’re unable to see Charlie and act as needed. Worse still, the occasionally choppy framerate along with the way the camera moves sometimes makes for an unfortunate combination to those who find they’re often prone from motion sickness in games– or, as we learned, even to those who aren’t.
There are three difficulty levels, but even Easy can prove to be a bit of a challenge, thanks to the controls and a lack of recovery time for Charlie, which allows for enemies to chip away at Charlie in short order. Throw in a bit of repetitiveness (such as levels within a particular movie theme showing little variation), and the game starts to wear on your resolve to see Charlie through to the ending credits.
No Strings Attached (Well, Maybe One)
Beyond the above, Clash of Puppets has some good things going for it. For one thing, no in-app purchases is a definite plus. And while the game’s controls are iffy, the Android version does support the MOGA controller, which may alleviate some of these issues. However, the straight-out-of-the-(proverbial)-box version you get for laying down your hard-earned coin in the Google Play store remains lacking
As much as we like Charlie (and we definitely hope to see more of him sometime), though, this is a title we have to advocate caution on. It’s a little rough around the edges, and those spots might be a turn-off for some. But, if you can get past them, there is definitely something enjoyable here.