A short and sweet story about breaking away from the strings of deception and learning what it truly means to be free.
A Juggler’s Tale follows the story of Abby, a quick-witted and equally loyal circus performer who wows crowds with her bear, Urs, just to return to her cage at night, confined to a life of never knowing freedom and only being allowed to do that of which the Ringleader allows. After a rather successful day of entertaining the villagers, Abby decides that she wants more and thus sets out to escape the circus life and return to her home. What follows is an adventure of thrills, deception, and a rhyming narrator that helps guide you along your way.
The concept of using puppet strings attached to the characters is what initially drew me into checking this game out. Are they really attached to anything? Will they get in the way? Are they just for aesthetic? Yes, yes, and no. They do actually serve a purpose and they’re there to keep Abby from experiencing the freedoms she desires. You can’t go under objects or the strings will get caught and you end up running into a variety of puzzles that require you to move objects out of your way so you can progress forward. It’s certainly a different take on a new puzzle concept and as a huge puzzle fan, I can say with confidence that it was done really well. The puzzles weren’t too difficult to figure out and usually only took a few tries to figure out what I was doing, so if you’re not big on brain twisters, you don’t have to worry too much about feeling less than adequate in the solving department. I quite enjoyed that it wasn’t just Abby that was attached to strings, but everyone around her as well, so you could use the environment around you to stop others from progressing or possibly get them stuck in a rut, forcing the narrator to give them a hand.
While Abby is of course the main character in the game, you soon learn that the Narrator has just as big of a part to play in it all. It could just be that I’ve played far too many games over the past 30 years, but even without obvious foreshadowing, you could kind of tell what was going to happen before it did. My guess as to the importance of the Narrator ended up being true based on his early dialogue and small moments of him losing his temper, giving you a glimpse that not everything is all rhymey-dimey-lovey-dovey. The feeling that, hey, I think he might end up a bad guy became all too true as soon as Abby started getting closer and closer to her freedom. Learning that the one that is supposed to be helping you is the one that is pulling your strings was disappointing, but more so in the emotional sense versus any gameplay sense. It fit that he would be the one to do it. What I didn’t expect was to end up liking the characters that we were meant to hate. Sure, you’re being chased by a big burly bandit (with a fantastic theme song, btw), but once you figure out that it’s not technically him chasing you, but your stubborn Narrator forcing him to do it, you entire view on the game changes. Even being locked in a cage by the Ringleader back at the circus wasn’t what it seemed. Everything that had happened to Abby was done by the Narrator forcing others to do it. It’s a sneaky little deception trap that I quite enjoyed experiencing.
As soon as Abby breaks free, there’s a clean shift in the atmosphere of the game. Now that he’s no longer able to control her every move, the Narrator becomes a lost and far less witty talker that has to just accept whatever it is Abby does from this point forward. Where he could just yank her back before, now all he can do is whimper and cry at how unfair it is. It’s not unlike a child throwing their toys out the pram because they didn’t get the candy they asked for. The more upset he got, the intriguing the game became since in order for her to find her ending, she has to remove everyone’s strings, rendering the Narrator pretty much useless. The story ends up doing a full circle and where she once wanted nothing more than to escape the Circus life, she learns that not only is it her home, but the circus-folk are her family. It’s the happy ending that Abby deserved after going through everything in the game and it just made me smile to watch her ride off into the… well… back to the stage. But at least this time it was her choice, so it just makes your heart happy.
The game is a lot shorter than I was expecting, but I still feel like it had pretty good pacing. For those looking for the trophies and achievements, you can rest assured that the list is easy to complete and the game itself has an incredibly forgiving chapter select feature, so if you happen to miss anything, you don’t have to stress about going back or replaying any section for long periods of time. While it doesn’t have a Platinum, personally I don’t mind. I’m glad they didn’t clutter the game with random achievements just to fill it up. They all make sense and are all easily achievable, great for a Saturday morning or a night’s play after work. All ages can except to get a fun adventure from this gem.
- An easy to follow story that will make you smile throughout the game
- The art style is just wonderful and very clean
- While the story can be predictable at points, it still surprises you most of the time
- The soundtrack and overall sound design was really well done
- And easy trophy/achievement list that won’t stress you out
- It was a bit on the short side, I would’ve loved to see a few more chapters in it
Overall, this game is meant to just be enjoyed like a warm cup of tea. The puzzles and combat sections are far from stressful which helps push the story along at a really good pace. Kids and adults alike will enjoy this one, even if it is only a few hours worth of play time.
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Game & Developer Information
Developer Website: Kaleidoscube
Developer Socials: Twitter
Publisher Website: Mixtvision
Publisher Socials: Twitter
PSN Store Links: £11.99/€14.99 Europe / $17.99 North America
Trophy Information: 18. 3 / 15
Images – https://ajugglerstale.com/press/