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The Tale of a Juggler (PS5)

The PlayStation Store could be viewed as overflowing with 2D puzzle platformers at this point, and yet, A Jongleur’s Tale by developer Kaleidoscube has managed to find a tiny feature to call its own. It is Punch and judy brought to life with strings that both save the life of protagonist Abby and stand in the way of her freedom.

She has just escaped from the circus that is holding her captive, but the owners will stop at nothing to hunt her down and put her back in the cage she called home. And since they happen to be friends with townspeople nearby, the game has the same stakes as Playdead’s Limbo: almost anyone and everyonething is your enemy. It’s a surprisingly gritty story that isn’t afraid to share its negative opinion of humanity.

You might be surprised, but what isn’t is the rudimentary platform and puzzle solving. A Juggler’s Tale does absolutely nothing that you haven’t seen before. Pull that lever, position this box properly, manipulate the environment to help you move forward. It’s 2D Puzzle Solution 101 from something like Unravel, and the only real twist is in the threads that are connected to Abby. You need to take this into account by adding at least one more step or dimension to the movement and determining how you navigate areas. The strings can get caught on objects or prevent you from using obvious paths, forcing you to think a little more carefully about how you advance through the five acts. It’s a fun gimmick that just keeps the two to three hour title feel fresh enough.

It is the brain teasers without this feature that will really test your patience. Very imprecise aiming mechanic is occasionally used to hit a target or smash a lamp, and it can be downright annoying to actually successfully contact the correct object. The crosshair regularly completely skips the target, so you’re working against the game rather than with it.

If it all turns out to be too much, at least many of the vistas and scenes will soothe your mood with beautiful pictures – especially when the sun goes down. They don’t look entirely photorealistic; there’s a pinch of flair and care that make for a very pretty little title. It won’t set the world on fire, but A Jongleur’s Tale has a pleasant aura that can resonate with people who know what they’re getting into.

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