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Puppet-Man, The - Review

Review by PJ-1978

Ratings

Parser/Vocabulary
7
Atmosphere
10
Cruelty
Polite
Puzzles
8
Overall
10
Written:
26-06-2020
Last edited:
Platform:
BBC/Electron

After my first ever text adventure experience with the excellent 'Wheel of Fortune' on my BBC B at about eight years old (see separate review), I was hungry for more! I acquired 'The Puppet Man' in a large second-hand bundle of games from a car boot sale; loading it up one evening, not even sure what it was, I was immediately engrossed.




Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 7/10)

The parser in 'The Puppet-Man' is reasonable, probably on par with many other text adventures on the Beeb at the time. For the most part it is easy to get the game to interpret what you want to do (or vice versa, for you to interpret how to enter it), and whilst not perfect, I only found one or two points of frustration trying to find the correct words to enter before finding the right ones.
There were only a couple of minor points where I felt it could have been implemented better.

Atmosphere (Rating: 10/10)

The game literally drips atmosphere, in it's limbo-like, olde worlde setting and the inclusion of various Muses from Greek mythology makes the game extremely enjoyable and memorable. The strong sense of atmosphere alone always left me not wanting the game to end.

Cruelty (Rating: Polite)

There aren't many cruel puzzles or sudden deaths in 'Puppet-Man' - in fact, it is a very non-violent game, which was even used as a selling point on it's release. In fact, there are only a couple of ways to die within the entire game, and as such the cruelty level regarding the adventure is very reasonable.

Puzzles (Rating: 8/10)

The atmosphere of the game is matched by the intriguing puzzles which fit into the world perfectly. There are a few that might have you stumped for a while, but it is very much the sort of game where if you can't progress in one area, try something else or explore elsewhere, as the solution should start to become apparent eventually.

Overall (Rating: 10/10)

I completed 'The Puppet-Man' all those years ago as a boy (and in the era before internet or readily available hints), and loved every moment of it.

The actual end of the adventure does come about somewhat abruptly and one thing that I did feel, particularly in the late stages of the game, was that there seemed to be signs of a few planned puzzles that didn't make it into the final game. Certainly there are a few red herrings laying around in the game, but it did strike me that there were characters and location introduced that severely hinted of puzzles to come but in actuality there was nothing to really do with them.

Having read reviews of Geoff Larson's other games in the series, some of those also seem to have this feeling about them. Maybe it was due to memory restrictions (very likely) or publisher deadlines (maybe this cried out to be a disk-based game), but either way, what we DO get is an absolute joy and is still more than enough for me to give this classic adventure top marks.

I didn't have any other Larsoft adventures originally, only finally getting to see them many years later via emulation. They are all of good quality (Geoff Larsen was a master of the genre and it's a shame he didn't do more); I'm probably biased by nostalgia (and I haven't finished all of those other games yet) but I feel that 'The Puppet Man' is maybe the very best of his releases.

Overall, if you are a vintage text adventure fan who loves a game with both atmosphere and is a good (and non-violent) challenge, and you haven't played 'The Puppet-Man', then I would point you to it as one of the most charming and enjoyable text adventures for the Beeb.