Big Fish Games, publishers of critically acclaimed games like Everest: Hidden Expedition and Drawn: The Painted Tower comes a similar title that employs the familiar finger tapping search for objects on screen, this time wrapped within the story of mystery and intrigue set in a 19th century town encumbered with a secret shrouded behind what appears on the surface to be sinister overtones.
The game leads players through 13 chapters along with a number of mini-games and interactive scenes (tile matching, lock picking, etc.). Along with the usual hunt and peck object tagging, one particularly unique aspect of the game compared to others of its ilk is the ability to carry an inventory of up to 18 items to solve interactive puzzles. However, these interactive puzzles are themselves white-light obvious and take little effort to decipher. The word list and object locations also don't tax too much effort on the part of skilled gamers, relegating PuppetShow to the younger and/or less experienced object hunting gamers. Graphics and sound match the eerie yet unthreatening scenes, further immersing players in the overall game environment's storyline.
The iPad's touch interface has had a profound impact on the electronic gaming market, facilitating the acceleration of the migration of games using a keyboard and mouse to the use of fingertip taps. As such, an expanding game genre has vaulted to the forefront of iPad gaming, and Big Fish's PuppetShow embodies this approach. This formula is intuitive and provides easy entertainment, but its also a genre that has been frequently explored in other settings and story arcs, making PuppetShow a game that lacks a particularly strong hook that helps make it stand out among this crowded category. One addition to the game that I actually prefer is its ability to deters players from applying what I like to call the finger drum-roll technique to quickly scour the screen for any hotspot object that can be activated. Should players repeatedly tap too quickly, the screen darkens with a momentary message that slows the player's attempts to continue this tactile tactic.
An evolving trend that Big Fish has opted for is the delivery of the full game for free for the first few screens of gameplay (in the case of PuppetShow, gamers can interact as far as the gates to the cemetery before they are asked to pay to continue the experience). Similar to an unlock code, PuppetShow incorporates an in-app purchase approach to fulfill the paid gaming requirements. While this addresses the cumbersome 'Lite' and 'Full' editions that many game publishers have released for the iOS platform in the past, I can't say with full confidence that I have yet to become a big fan of the in-app purchase model. Perhaps I'm not the target market for such things, but I rarely feel compelled to purchase add-ons and other forms of downloadable content since it somehow feels like my interests are being exploited. While this is clearly not the case with PuppetShow, it's hard to shake this uneasy vibe I have toward the in-app purchase process. I suspect this is an experiment on behalf of Big Fish to evaluate the sales effectiveness and more fluid 'rate of conversion' that this in-app purchase approach uses. However, its going to take more purchase behavior conditioning for me to feel comfortable with this growing trend.
Aside from the self-imposed friction against the in-app purchase model, the game itself is a mildly enjoyable finger-tapping romp that offers sparkly animations and sounds and an above-average story that continues to keep players engaged through the end.
Title: PuppetShow - The Mystery of Joyville HD
Developer: Big Fish Games
Rating: 3/5 stars