Guide the string puppet Abby through a riveting tale based in a fairytale world.
At the end of September, Kaleidoscube launched its latest game, a short and visually striking narrative-driven adventure called A Juggler's Tale. The title followed a young girl as she escapes a circus and is hunted by a range of pursuers, but the interesting catch is that this girl, called Abby, is in fact a string puppet, and on this journey, you're biggest challenges will be manipulating and moving the environment so that Abby's strings will allow her to progress forward.
The game plays from the side and uses a 2.5D style of visuals that allows the player to focus on Abby and what she is doing in the game, whilst also remaining captivated by the landscape and the world that is behind her. Likewise, this choice is ideal, especially since the player's perspective is supposed to be of a spectator of the puppet show that is Abby's life, which itself helps bring to life this unique tale that the developer has created.
As for the visuals and the characters themselves, they are a highlight in A Juggler's Tale. Despite the characters being faceless, they display plenty of emotion and make you want to continue exploring Abby's journey. And the world itself expands on this by presenting several jaw-dropping scenes that never fail to express the enormity of the journey that Abby is having to tackle.
You can probably infer from this point that the narrative is also one of the more impressive parts of this game. Largely conveyed through a narrator who speaks in rhymes and riddles, the story is fairytale-esque and is expressed like a children's book. The narrator does a reasonable job of keeping the player engaged. They're no David Attenborough, but they do a solid job of ensuring the story is never a weak point when it comes to experiencing this title.
You might be wondering why I've chosen to focus on the narrative and visuals mainly to start with, and that's because I'm at an impasse when it comes to the gameplay. As I mentioned earlier, the game asks you to constantly move across a level by travelling to the right. The trick is that there will be multiple times where Abby can simply not progress because her strings above her are stuck on a piece of environment, so you'll have to find a way to move the environment to continue progressing. Other times will see Abby herself stuck, and you'll have to do similar things to keep moving forward.
A Juggler's Tale has been designed to be simplistic and straightforward all throughout, and to match that, there really isn't many control inputs to worry about. While this is largely a good thing, it does mean that the gameplay and the puzzles are quite simple in nature as well. This can be taken as a positive, as the game can be enjoyed by a wide array of ages, however the issue I've frequently found is that the gameplay is often a little rugged due to this basic design.
There are certain puzzles where what seems like the logical solution doesn't seem to work, and despite searching for alternative solutions, none are available. In the end, I've often found that the answer to these puzzles was the initial solution, and that to get it to work took a level of 'cheese' if you will, i.e. doing something that the game doesn't really allow for to make it work.
Take the wolf encounter in Chapter Two. The game requires you to pull a cart over a bridge that needs to be lowered before you can cross it, so that you can use the cart to free an old wolf from its strings. The bridge will constantly rise if Abby isn't standing on when it has been lowered, meaning you have to lower it, and then drag the cart onto it before it raises. The catch is that it takes Abby so long to start moving the cart that the bridge rises again. The frustrating solution for this was to simply keep on slowly edging the cart closer, centimetre at a time, lowering the bridge a bunch of times, until you could get the cart onto the bridge without it rising, to thus free the wolf and progress the story. Needless to say, it seems a bit silly.
And this wasn't even an uncommon occurrence. Sometimes the game specifically asks you to do something that seems irrational. There are multiple occasions where you are simply expected to leap into danger, relying on the narrator to save Abby by pulling her strings along. And if you think this surely isn't planned, there's even narrated dialogue that befits these very circumstances. It's bizarre and often frustrating.
Yet even though these situations rub me the wrong way, this game has plenty of areas that make it worthwhile playing. It isn't long, in fact you can blast through the entire story in 1-2 hours, and over that duration, you'll get an interesting and exciting story that will stay with you. If you're looking for a game to fill a weekday evening, or an easy-going weekend morning game, then A Juggler's Tale is an ideal candidate for both.
7 / 10
Storyline is a highlight. Narrator does a great job keeping the story engaging. Short and easy to consume.
Gameplay can be frustrating and clunky, and often requires a bit of 'cheese' to progress the story.