Sometimes a game ends up being immediately appealing based on premise alone. Take Enviro-Bear 2010 for example. A bear driving a car through the woods coupled with MS Paint quality graphics creates an experience just absurd and hilarious enough to draw the attention of many players. Or more recently, Robot Unicorn Attack – the name alone says it all. Released last week, Puppet War FPS (first ‘puppet’ shooter) is built on a fairly awesome premise of it’s own. You’re a lone janitor, trapped on the set of the most popular kids program The Friendly Puppet Show. The puppets have decided to turn on humanity, and it’s up to you to stop ever increasing waves of these fuzzy little guys before they take over the world. The concept alone is enough to garner a few curious downloads, but thankfully Puppet War also delivers satisfying arena-style first-person shooter gameplay, with excellent presentation and an assortment of clever weaponry to literally beat the stuffing out of your enemies with.
Right away you’ll notice that this is a very attractive game. The bright, colorful studio set and sugary sweet music really make you feel like you’re inside a kids TV show. The puppets all have the same general look (think Grover from Sesame Street) but come in a variety of sizes and arsenals. Smaller puppets bounce at you wildly making for a difficult target to hit, and larger puppets keep their distance and attack you from afar. There’s even a kamikaze puppet with dynamite strapped to his chest that explodes when you get near. The puppets are all shaded nicely and look extremely authentic, and the big silly grins on their faces are just begging to get blasted as they happily trot in your direction. The janitor’s onscreen arms and weaponry are also well done and look very realistic. The game just has a crisp, colorful look to it that’s really appealing.
Speaking of weapons, the variety and inventiveness that’s gone into creating your arsenal is a high point of Puppet War. You can choose one firearm and one melee weapon while playing, and new weapons of each kind can be unlocked and purchased as you progress farther into the game. There are standards like a baseball bat, machine gun, or shotgun, but the real fun comes with some of the more unusual weaponry. One example is the plunger crossbow, which lets you shoot plungers one at a time, giving you a one shot kill if you land one right on their kisser. Even better is an industrial sized set of pliers that pinches the nose off the puppet’s face, causing their head to explode (naturally). The chainsaw and katana are also really satisfying with their sheer brutality. In short, popping caps into puppets is some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time.
As much fun as the game is, there are certainly a few downsides to Puppet Wars. The most glaring is the fact that there’s only the one map. Battling puppets in some different environments would be nice, and the app description alludes to this happening sometime in the future. But right now, the one location gets a bit old after a while. The game can also get pretty difficult around the 15th level, and the amount of money you earn as you go isn’t quite enough to be able to purchase all the unlocked weapons you’d like to. Since you can’t replay levels to earn more money, you will have to make do with the weapons you have through some of the tougher levels until you earn enough to buy some heavier firepower. The controls work pretty well, with an analog stick in the lower left corner and a fire button in the lower right, and dragging on the screen for aiming. It’s a great setup, but it’s the only one available, so if you need inverted controls or a left-handed option you’re out of luck. Also, the fire button wasn’t as responsive as it should be at times, which doesn’t happen often but can be frustrating with enemies swarming around you. The collision detection seems a bit off too, with plungers sometimes going right through a puppet.
These issues don’t really detract from the overall enjoyment of Puppet Wars though, and it has surprisingly become one of my current favorite games. It may not strike a chord as much if you’re not into the ironic humor of destroying wholesome children’s entertainment with fearsome weaponry, but for those that like that type of thing you’ll not only be laughing out loud frequently but you’ll really be testing your FPS skills as well. There’s actually a really great game under this graphical coating.