The phenomenon Poppy Playtime is doing well on various streaming platforms, so we've decided to review it before Chapter 2 is released.
I'll start by asking a rhetorical question; can you be scared out of your mind in a game that only lasts 30 minutes, and feels over before it's actually started? The answer is a resounding yes, with an exclamation mark. Because I've got the horror game Poppy Playtime to review, and I'll never be able to look at a puppet the same way.
Poppy Playtime was released last autumn, and quickly became a favourite on various streaming platforms, with streamers letting themselves be scared out of their minds. Now, I have a feeling that many of these "influencers" overdo it when playing such games, but after playing around with it, I can say that this game is quite disturbing. Poppy Playtime is available to play on Steam right now, and is developed by MOB Games. Oh and by the way, it costs €4.99.
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Poppy Playtime starts with a 1950s style information video, which you receive on a VHS tape. The video looks like something you've seen in the Fallout series. In this one you are shown around the colourful factory where all the magic happens, where everything is happy, bright and fun. The video is an advertisement for the red-haired doll called Poppy Playtime, however the video quickly takes a creepy turn as other video clips are spliced into it, causing the image to jump and the picture to become unstable. Clearly all is not as it seems, and this is confirmed when some ominous text is shown to you.
The game then starts with you being in the foyer of the doll factory, and having to find out where the employees of the factory are, which you do by exploring the super dark and dilapidated factory. The atmosphere is top notch in the game, and you constantly feel like there is someone behind you who wants to jump up in your face and scare the socks off the player. Yes, you spend a lot of time just walking, and soaking in the world, but it's really important that you don't immediately dismiss the game as being just another "walking simulator". Though short, Poppy Playtime is more engaging than the countless Five Nights at Freddy's games put together.
You quickly find a locked door, which I never actually figured out how to unlock correctly, as I was really just trying things out until I got the right combination. I'm not sure how the developers want you to solve this particular puzzle, or if you're supposed to just try it out, but I think it has something to do with the floor you're walking on. But when you get into the first room, you find a device that has a big blue hand that you can slide back and forth. This can grab many things lying around, and later you also get a red hand so you can grab two objects at the same time. The hands are also used to unlock various locked doors around the factory, and eventually, without spoiling anything, they save your life. This mechanic is super cool, and while the game can be completed in just 45 minutes, the mechanics are used extensively throughout the spooky adventure. Unfortunately, the game ends before it actually begins, and I was left thinking that it could have been longer. There are more episodes to come though.
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Poppy Playtime is the doll the game is named after, but you also get to meet the big blue and mega-scary Huggy Wuggy, who is something you only see in your nightmares. You meet the three-metre-tall blue plush monster after being dealt the red hand, and it stands there, peaceful and unmoving, in the middle of one of the rooms you enter. This doesn't last long though, and after solving some puzzles with the moving hands, a sequence starts where Huggy Wuggy chases you through the abandoned factory. At this point, many may be thinking: "but Huggy Wuggy is so cute, it can't be scary?" That would be true if the grotesque Slenderman-like puppet hadn't got a huge smile with more teeth than a shark. It's amazing how scary normal and cute things can be when they get twisted and the innocence is taken from them. I will never be able to look at Gonzo from The Muppets the same way. If you get caught by this blue bastard, the last thing you see is the deep maw of the beast, and the sound of an exploding string section. If you've played games like this, you know exactly what I mean.
The episode then ends with you finding Poppy Playtime, setting the stage for a second episode soon to continue the very short story. The developers have said that the upcoming episodes will be DLC, so it will be interesting to see if the playtime goes up a notch after the success of the first episode. I certainly hope so.
The game's graphics are great overall. The doll factory is dark and dingy, and you can tell it's abandoned because everything is dilapidated, but you can still tell it was once super colourful. Around the dark corners you'll find broken dolls, which frighteningly often lay close to large blood stains. The game requires you not to turn up the lights, though, as the atmosphere disappears, which has the consequence of it being almost too dark in some scenes. There's one scene in particular where you have to set a bunch of machinery in motion, and have to find four switches of different colours, here it can be quite hard to see where to find them due to everything being so dark. Sound effects work well overall in the game though, and contribute to a really scary experience.
So, all in all, Poppy Playtime is a good less than one-hour-long experience, where you get scared, but also have to solve some pretty inventive puzzles. The game costs around five euros, and I think that's an ok price for something that might lead to a bigger experience later on. I certainly hope so, because I'll be ready when episode two is released.
8 / 10
Great atmosphere, pretty solid puzzles, scary enemies, lots of potential.
A bit short even with the small price, a bit too dark to effectively orient yourself, puzzles make no sense.