Developer: Twindigo
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Is nothing sacred anymore? If there’s one thing iDevice game developers do well, it’s demonizing innocent, virtuous items/symbols, etc. from our childhood and cloning them (often en masse) into demented, polarized versions of their former selves we must obliterate or otherwise dispatch with extreme prejudice.

In this case, it’s the beloved childhood puppet who’s crossed the line from cute and cuddly to cute and cuddly but with a deadly agenda.

Puppet War:FPS (First “Puppet” Shooter) is a 3D, arena-style FPS where players assume the identity of a very unlucky custodial engineer inside the TV studio set of a puppet-themed kids show. The puppets have all gone mad and are hell-bent on world domination; if they could only get out of their studio. As the only thing standing between the puppets and a world akin to The Muppets Take Manhattan, you must use any/every tool at your disposal to eradicate wave after wave of evil puppets.

When launching this game, you’re immediately greeted with its gorgeous, detailed, colorful graphics (e.g., notice the janitor is wearing rubber gloves). The puppets come in many different colors and the contrasts between them and the stage/studio provide players with a visual Xanadu. Simply put, this is one of the most gorgeous games I’ve played on my iPhone to date.

At the start of each level, players are greeted with a flutey, stereotypical kid’s show theme. Shortly after, however, the music (thankfully) stops and the game’s primary sound track begins, providing players with a sense of danger and immediacy (DOH! During game play, the two tracks alternate). The game’s sound effects are well done also, but clearly, this game’s strongest selling point is its visual aesthetic.

The game’s control scheme consists of a virtual analog stick on the left, used for movement and a fire button on the right. To move/look left or right, players simply touch/swipe the screen. I’ve had some mundane experiences with this scheme-type, but Twindigo did a great job: the controls are very responsive and well-placed.

To aid you in your quest, the game contains two types of weapons: Melee and Firearms. Melee weapons are used for close combat, while firearms, depending on which type you select, can be used for combat near and far. There are 7 total melee weapons and 10 total firearms.

In order to purchase more weapons, players must collect gold stars, which puppets leave behind after you slaughter them. These stars don’t appear until approximately 1-3 seconds after you kill a puppet, so you’ll need to use strategy/tactics to collect them as you avoid/mow down puppets. Dead puppets also leave other power-ups behind, such as first-aid packs and ammo packs.

As you progress in the game, you’re introduced to a variety of different puppets, all of which are extraordinarily annoying, including puppets that lob objects at you and suicide puppets, who are armed with a suicide belt and will blow themselves (and you) up if they come into contact with you. Again, strategy and tactics play a huge role in this game, as eliminating those puppets throwing things at you are generally at the back of the studio or try hiding behind props. Either way, they’re all obnoxious and blowing them to smithereens is very satisfying.

While Puppet War:FPS has many great features, it’s not perfect: Having to wait for stars to increase my bank account forces me to leave myself vulnerable to the other puppets trying to eat me. Also, the studio set serves as the game’s only map. Fortunately, the intense game play more than makes up for this and Twindigo has stated it will release additional maps in the future.

My biggest complaint, however, is that in order to unlock all the weapons, you have to advance very far in the game using only the weapons you’ve acquired thus far. I’m currently on Level 22 and still have one more melee weapon and three firearms to unlock. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if the game didn’t get progressively harder, but it does and having to replay each level over and over in order to advance and unlock weaponry is a real downer. In addition, the ratio between cash earned from cleared levels and the price of each weapon is unbalanced, to say the least. The amount of cash earned from clearing a level needs to be increased (or the weapons’ price decreased) and weapons should be available to unlock much sooner. In addition, the tutorial screen teases us with a display showing three weapon slots for use during play: two firearms and one melee. Currently, you can only use one of each and this severely impacts your game play, as if you run out of ammo, you’re stuck with only your melee weapon. Sure there are ammo packs that occasionally show up but I’ve been stranded on-set with no firepower several times and the result is always the same: Instant puppet mauling.

Puppet War:FPS also apparently forgot to add a standard feature present in most FPS games: difficulty settings. The only options the game offers are the ability to toggle music and sound effects and modify the transparency level of the virtual controls.

In all, Puppet War:FPS is a beautiful, fun game, but it’s lopsided: The same effort put into making the game so beautiful should have been used when developing its other aspects. As pretty as it is to look at, its flaws hinder its full potential; and it has a lot of potential. Be that as it may, it’s still a great game and a lot of fun to play. I’m looking forward to seeing what Twindigo has in store for its future updates .

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