In Mascarpone's indie adventure game Midnight Puppeteer, translated by vgperson, Mayo Michino is just your average sixteen-year-old girl with a foul-mouthed, fanged, talking teddy-bear only she can hear. One night while driving home in the pouring rain with her father, the car stalls, and when her father doesn't return after leaving to find help at a nearby mansion, Mayo decides to go looking for him. What Mayo discovers along with her bear Mister Masper, however, is that the mansion her father disappeared into is no ordinary house, and they'll need to solve piles of puzzles in order to uncover its mysteries. Use the [arrow] keys to move, [Z] or the [spacebar] to select and interact, and [X] or [ESC] to open the menu, from where you can save your game. When you find an item, before you can use it you first need to equip it from the menu, and should you find yourself scrabbling through an air vent or three, tap [spacebar] to move forward. Make sure to save often, and in different slots, since it is actually possible to die in some places.
\Midnight Puppeteer is an extremely intuitive little game, knowing just how to drop hints and nudge the player so that you don't feel lost, but without holding your hand every step of the way. The game gradually gets more elaborate as you go along, scaling up the difficulty and even throwing in some sneaky tricks to boot. There's some unexpected misdirection, so if the obvious thing doesn't seem to be working, you may need to take a closer look at your surroundings and your inventory. Despite some backtracking and a few gimmicky chase-scenes, Midnight Puppeteer manages to be both creative and clever. While some puzzles are a matter of knowing where to go and what to use something on, but never fall into cumbersome "adventure game logic", making it easy to stay immersed in the story.
Midnight Puppeteer may have some creepy moments, but it's definitely not a horror game so much as it is a mystery, with a heavy dose of both whimsy and weirdness. Things get strange in a big way, which is saying something when you're talking about a game prominently featuring a thug-like teddy-bear with a scary set of chompers as your best buddy, and the plot unfolds through journals, notes, and newspaper clippings for the most part in addition to what you glean from simply examining your surroundings. The latter half of the game breaks the flow somewhat by packing in a lot of lengthy cutscenes to explain more of the narrative, but honestly, it gets so crazy it sort of needs it. Despite its relatively simple design, Midnight Puppeteer still makes an impression with its expressive characters and bizarre situations, and has a great soundtrack to boot. Midnight Puppeteer will probably only run you a few hours, but if you love puzzles and stories with twists and turns to burn, it's more than worth settling down to enjoy.
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