A Juggler’s Tale PS5 Review: Abby’s Road

A perilous journey for Abby the puppet, if she doesn't watch out she'll kick the bucket. With her pursuers on track maybe she'll fail, you'll just have to find out in A Juggler's Tale.

From out of nowhere, A Juggler’s Tale was announced and immediately, it was one to watch. This is a fairy tale about a young puppet girl named Abby who is forced to perform with a travelling circus. When an opportunity presents itself, she aims to escape, but how much freedom does she have?

First impressions were a little…meh, unfortunately. There was something about Abby’s movement and appearance that didn’t draw me in at all, and I was feeling somewhat disappointed. But, patience is a virtue, and by the final sequence, I loved every minute of it.

The narrator is fantastic. He’s a mixture of Christopher Lloyd in the revamped King’s Quest series and Derek Jacobi at the height of his career as the storyteller for In The Night Garden. If you don’t have kids, that one might slip past you, Maka Paka. 

 A Juggler’s Tale Review

Said narrator is both the storyteller and your handler, telling the story through his design, and some rather pleasant rhyming couplets. How long can he go? Surely it delves into playground material such as Scooby-Doo, having a poo, on the loo? Nope. The first few lines stood out a bit as ‘is he going to be doing this throughout?’, but truth be told, his verses were beautiful, and his spoken words were what pulled me in.

A Juggler's Tale Review - Bear Necessities
Bear Necessities. Source: Screen capture

Abby is expressionless, and as a puppet, she doesn’t convey any emotions or show signs of struggle through her movements other than her strings. It’s no fault of kaleidoscube as this is essentially what puppets of this ilk are, and we rely upon the raconteur to set the scene and be the spokesperson/eyewitness of the events. However, we leave the confinements of a typical Punch and Judy show and head out into the wild as we aim to escape both Abby’s captor and pursuers and experience her world for ourselves. But who is her captor?

A Juggler’s Tale is a platform puzzler, but there’s an emphasis on the puzzles and utilising a bit of stealth to evade your enemies more so than actual precision jumping. You might be getting Inside vibes, and you’d be right. The game is the opposite in palette – the scenery is stunning with layer upon layer of beautiful fairytale-like detail. As mentioned, I wasn’t keen on Abby at first as I couldn’t connect with her, despite having puppet traits, but the helping hand of the puppeteer reeled me in where I now cared about the silent protagonist.

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Using Inside as a comparison, A Juggler’s Tale is a side-scroller where you have to locate items often embedded in the settings to solve a puzzle. Sometimes it’s not immediately obvious what you need to do; other times, it’s crystal clear, but you need to attempt it a couple of times as you may have underestimated another factor. 

The difficulty is perfect, and there was never a moment of frustration in being unable to progress. Even after repeated attempts, it would be on you as there are no complaints here in terms of controls. You’ll sometimes have to avoid the lights of your pursuers, and there’s a little trial and error. You’ll never be able to outrun them. This might sound frustrating, but there’s never a feeling of defeat, and there are hints from the narrator, too.

Throughout your adventure are plenty of optional tasks that may or may not be obvious. One such choice was saving an animal, which I wanted to do, but couldn’t work out how to at the time. Rather than being penalised and starting another playthrough (not a bad thing!), you can drop into previous chapters and individual sections for revisiting, but there’s no platinum in the game, if that’s your motivation.

A Juggler's Tale Review - Festival season
Festival season. Source: Screen capture

Once Upon A Time…

There are five chapters in A Juggler’s Tale, and on the surface, they’re relatively small once you know the solutions, but that’s the same for most things. The story has a nice pace, and I was hanging on every word of the narrator, noting the change in his tone and often gawping at the backgrounds wishing I could go and explore them. That’s not a complaint; they’re just so inviting.

Occasionally you might find yourself stuck as there are no point and click type highlights in the game or manual hint system. The storyteller will give plenty of hints in the dialogue – sometimes a little bit too premature. It’s also worth noting that Abby is attached to puppeteer strings that hang vertically at all times. Aside from being unable to get past some objects, the storyteller will aid you across a jump or save you from certain death (you can’t die). 

Though it’s a linear experience, like any fairy tale, it’s a good one and an uplifting one. While it’s nice to be able to drop back into the game at any point, the lack of extra features and trophies was a little disappointing, but how many times will you pick up and read your favourite book? It’ll be a nice title to revisit every once in a while – the same as Inside, but be aware that you could complete this in one sitting, so pace yourself, Abby, otherwise, A Jugger’s Tale is not too shabby.

A Juggler's Tale Review - Sail away
Enya. Source: Screen capture
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