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  • Writer's pictureJames Stephanie Sterling

Puppet Master: The Game - Full Moon, Half Ass (Review)

Puppet Master: The Game

Released: May 4th, 2024

Developer: October Games

Publisher: October Games, Full Moon Features

Systems: PC

Puppet Master: The Game is an impressively authentic representation of the movies it’s based on, because it’s complete and total shit.

I’m a fan of Full Moon Studios’ intellectual property, and it’s important I specify intellectual property, because the actual films are some of the worst schlock on Earth. Cheap, poorly shot, boring, littered with filler to pad the runtime. Some of them have so many flashbacks to previous movies that they’re literal clip shows. It’s shameless. 

Their sideline operation, producing endless toys and replicas of their diminutive monsters, seems to hold itself to standards so far above the movies. It’s as if the media exists solely to sell the merch, and let’s face it, that’s probably exactly the case. 

It sure as heck works, considering I want to start collecting Puppet Master shit again now. Maybe they'll give me some as thanks for my review!

How thoroughly fitting it is that Puppet Master gets a derivative free-to-play game, a slapdash mess more concerned with charging ridiculous prices for DLC than actually providing a quality experience. 

Despite such a merciless introduction, my fondness for all this cynical crap has been with me since I watched Puppet Master II at six years old and became thoroughly terrified when a doll with a drill on his head bored into a dude’s skull. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by the franchise’s murderous dolls. A replica of Blade is one of my prized bits of tat. 

You’ll likely have picked up on how little I’ve spoken about the actual game, save for a few snide comments. This is because talking around it is more interesting than directly going over such shallow pointlessness. 

Let’s get to it.

Puppet Master: The Game is yet another asymmetrical multiplayer experience based on an old horror movie. Pulling not just from Puppet Master, but from fellow Full Moon “classics” such as Demonic Toys and Totem, it pits factions of puppets, toys, and humans against each other. The Totems make up a fourth group, but they’re so weak and wretchedly unenjoyable to play I don’t want to talk about them.

There’s a straight deathmatch mode between factions, as well as one that sees a single human player try to collect macguffins while three puppet players hunt them. If you want to play solo, there’s a fucking dire mode in which you play one of the little dickheads and run around doing Eight Pages Bullshit(™) while a single human enemy wanders around, it’s A.I. too stupid to represent even a minor threat.

The actual gameplay this rubbish has been built on is frigging atrocious. 

Playing it, you can tell what they wanted to make: a cat-and-mouse game of sneaky chicanery as puppets use vents, ceiling beams, and hiding places to take down much bigger humans. Whatever stealth or strategy was intended, however, hasn’t survived the reality of players just circling each other and spamming attacks until someone keels over. 

Each character has a basic weapon and up to three unique abilities, though some have less, some have passive traits, and some have fuck-all going for them. The lack of consistency with each characters’ loadout makes the whole thing feel haphazard and unfinished. Even worse, there appears to have been very little consideration for balance.

Not all characters are created equal, something that becomes intensely clear during the “Puppet Wars” deathmatches. The Demonic Toys and especially the limited, ineffectual Totems pale in comparison to the puppets - they have far more characters with better defined roles, as well as more and better abilities per puppet. 

Even among puppets, the imbalance is evident. 

Despite being the defacto mascot of the series, Blade is one of the more useless fighters, his abilities being a short dodge and eyes that expose enemies through walls for a measly three seconds. Beyond that, he just has his trademark knife/hook combo, which is mechanically indistinguishable from the other brainless hack n’ slash melee weapons. 

Some of the puppets approach fun, though. Leech Lady is able to place her leeches like traps or throw them as projectiles, as well as crawl on all-fours with hilariously silly animations. She also appears to be so durable as to be downright broken if fighting her is any indication. Six Shooter’s lasso trap is his one lone ability, but between it and his powerful ranged attacks he’s very effective.

Decapitron is probably the most mechanically interesting, able to switch between three heads that either deal brutal electric blasts, provide passive healing for allies, or track enemies like Blade does - y’know, so he can be even more fucking redundant. 

Sadly, even at its most fun, it’s just not fun. Combat really is a disastrous mess, with melee attackers having no choice but to discard strategy and wildly attack - especially if their bespoke abilities are shit (likely). Some ranged attackers have borderline competent shooting mechanics, but not all of them, and nothing controls or handles in a way that feels tight or reliable.

The miniature killers can use vents and make use of an environment full of hiding places to theoretically get the jump on their prey, but once again, sneaking is worthless compared to pure aggression. Ironically, it’s human players who are best off hiding, despite the fact they have nowhere to do so. Outnumbered and outgunned, a human’s role is best played by avoiding everyone else entirely. 

Thanks to their ability to kick enemies over, as well as some generous health recovery, humans are at least better balanced than half the characters people might actually play this game for. 

Objectives, such as they are, seem to go on forever, with lengthy deathmatches and tiresome scavenger hunts making up the majority of matches. The “action” takes place across a selection of bland maps made up of repetitive rooms and corridors.

Visually, Puppet Master is pretty basic and terribly animated. The execution sequences performed on downed humans feature some funny kills - such as Six Shooter lassoing a victim’s neck before firing all six guns at point black range - but character models always clip through each other, move awkwardly, and ragdoll with little regard for physics or anatomy. 

Lacking in sound effects and featuring only occasional little noises  from the puppets and toys, it’s a quiet sounding game, with only the barest minimum sound effects backed by a very limited soundtrack.

As a freemium game, Puppet Master relies on overpriced cosmetic DLC, much of which is based on Full Moon Toys’ many variant replicas. Basically, they’re playable advertisements for that everso lucrative merchandise. 

One particular skin costs damn near eight dollars, while others are sold in “packs” starting at $2.99 apiece. Character selection menus are designed to draw one’s eye toward all the costumes, weapon aesthetics, and obligatory emotes, some of which are amusing but none of which are worth paying for.

Good luck selling that shit. Hardly anybody seems to be playing Puppet Master after only a few days, a pitifully scant few matches to be found running at any given time. Over several hours, I'd been able to join and successfully complete two games. Most servers are completely empty, and those that aren't have two or three matches running at most. It's a ghost town, unless the game is just so thoroughly busted it can't matchmake properly - neither scenario would surprise me.

Also the game is buggy as fuck, though you knew that already, right? It’s practically an obligation for this kind of rubbish.

The world doesn’t need anymore licensed horror games copying Dead by Daylight’s schtick, let alone one as awful as Puppet Master: The Game. It’s a total mess, its mechanics so poorly implemented that any intended tactical combat has instantly given way to desperate hack n’ slash button mashing. It’s nowhere near entertaining or deep enough that buying its overpriced DLC is worth investing in, not least for the fact that almost nobody wants to play it. 

Can we turn one of these 80s horror films into something with some substance now? This asymmetrical online shit has clearly reached the barrel’s bottom if this is what we’re getting.



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