The PlayStation Store could be considered overflowing with 2D puzzle platformers at this stage in its lifespan, and yet A Juggler's Tale from developer Kaleidoscube has still managed to find a teeny tiny feature to call its own. It's Punch and Judy come to life, with strings that both save protagonist Abby's life and get in the way of her freedom.
You see, she's just escaped the circus holding her captive, but the owners will stop at nothing to hunt her down and put her back in the cage she came to call home. And since they happen to be friends with nearby townsfolk, the game has the same sort of stakes as Playdead's Limbo: almost everyone and everything is your enemy. It's a surprisingly sombre tale that isn't afraid to share its negative opinion of the human race.
That may take you by surprise, but what won't is the rudimentary platforming and puzzle-solving. A Juggler's Tale does absolutely nothing you haven't already seen before. Pull this lever, correctly position that box, manipulate the environment so you can progress. It's 2D puzzle-solving 101 from something like Unravel, and the only real twist is the strings attached to Abby. You'll need to account for these, adding at least another step or dimension to movement and dictating how you navigate areas. The strings can become caught on objects or block you from using obvious paths, forcing you to think slightly harder about how to progress through the five acts. It's a fun gimmick that keeps the two to three-hour title feeling just about fresh enough.
It's the brain teasers devoid of the feature that really test your patience. A very imprecise aiming mechanic is occasionally employed to hit a target or shatter a lamp, and actually getting it to successfully make contact with the correct object can be downright infuriating. The reticule regularly skips the objective entirely, leaving you to work against the game rather than with it.
If it all proves too much, at least many of the vistas and scenes will soothe your mood with lovely visuals — especially as the sun sets. They don't quite look photo-realistic; there's a dash of flair and care that makes for a very pretty little title. It won't set the world on fire, but A Juggler's Tale has a pleasing aura that may resonate with folk who know what they're getting themselves in for.