Developed by Kaleidoscube and published by Mixtvision, A Juggler’s Tale is a lovely new take on the audiovisually-driven narrative puzzle platformer genre. Out for PCs and consoles, we played the PlayStation 5 version of the game.
A Juggler’s Tale doesn’t take long to reveal its main hook, as the intro sequence introduces us to the setting of a puppet master called Jack who has a marionette theater with which he travels around and tells epic tales. Our particular story is about a girl called Abby, who appears in the game as a puppet on strings that we can control. Jack holds the strings and will help or save Abby at times, but for the most part you can control Abby just as you would the main character in Limbo, from which games like this draw inspiration.
Abby’s story is short, and plays out over five acts that (depending on how long you get stuck at certain puzzle scenes) will take two to three hours to complete. During that time you’ll see Abby in her role as a circus performer and get trapped in a cage at night, after which the bulk of the story revolves around her escape from captivity in search of freedom.
It’s a dangerous journey as she must overcome the elements, traps and people who hunt her, but a major obstacle that’s always with you are her strings. They don’t let you underneath objects that your strings will get caught up on, and this is where many of the game’s more creative puzzles come from. The controls are simple, with jumping and the ability to pick up objects being your main mechanics – letting you focus on the puzzles and narrative.
Said narrative is delivered in a fully voiced narrative way, with Jack narrating everything that goes on on screen. This even extends to him commenting when you head back in the wrong direction, or goes “meta” when he talks about helping Abby by carrying her over a river by her strings. The delivery is done in a storytelling kind of manner – fitting with the puppet theater setting – where nearly all of the lines rhyme. It’s quite charming, though the quality of writing behind Jack’s lines has its ups and down.
Further adding to the atmosphere are the game’s fairytale-like music tracks and the visual scenes that really feel like a puppet stage that’s come to life – though some of the areas you traverse employ a more traditional visual style. Perhaps this is a sign that, beneath the surface, A Juggler’s Tale is a lot like other narrative-driven puzzler platformers, but the unique premise and delivery make it well worth the short journey.