As big of a proponent I am of Virtual Reality - and as much as I think it certainly defines the future of the potential of gaming - I absolutely put my foot down at the sheer existence of VR horror games. They fundamentally should not exist. They are the point at which I believe we, as a society, have gone "too far”. For a long time now, I’ve maintained that anyone that tries to encourage me to even try out Resident Evil 7 in VR is surely a servant of Satan himself, and that the experience is an actual, simulated reminder of what awaits me in the afterlife. In short - I feel that for the average gamer, VR horror games often transcend any kind of entertainment value, and simply become too scary to enjoy in a lot of cases. I can’t pop the hallway light on to distract from the tension of the screen when the screen is suspended mere centimeters away from my face. I often find myself too paralyzed by fear that I actually stop having fun a lot of the time.
Thankfully, that’s not the case with Otherworld Interactive’s Hello Puppets!, a dark comedy horror title that thankfully anesthetises its tension and jumpscares by providing a charming and endearing anthropomorphic puppet companion that makes navigating the dark corridors of an abandoned TV studio a much more enjoyable experience - one that saw me cowering, laughing, and bonding with a new friend.
A Heartfelt, Felt Heart
The just-under-2-hour long narrative of Hello Puppets! takes place inside the abandoned production studios of the children's show “Motimers Handeemen”, a puppet-starring Sesame Street knock-off that was canceled after a studio fire killed several of its staff and the shows creator, under suspicious circumstances. Players take on the role of an investigative journalist who quickly discovers that the former studio has been transformed into a human-possessing puppet factory by the shows former felt stars and must evade the various Frankenstein puppet monsters that lurk the studio’s winding corridors if they’re going to escape with their life.
Dark corridors, stalking enemies, creepy environments, and the constant feeling of being watched - these are typically ingredients that lead to me asking a friend round to provide commentary from the sofa and to take the controller at the corridor that's just too dark for me to explore. Hello Puppets! actually provides that friend in the form of Scout, a fully conscious puppet attached to your hand who’s struggled to fit in among her domineering puppet overlords.
While Scout’s appearance can be chosen from multiple styles, her sarcastic, quick-witted and oddly charming personality remains the same and is clearly the single defining quality that makes Hello Puppets! stand out from other horror titles. I often found myself struggling to find the courage to rush past a stalking puppet predator, only to be jokingly mocked by Scout for my cowardice. At one point she even accused me of farting in a smelly room. Watching Scout’s transformation from a black-sheep evildoer into a rebel fighting to bring her masters down is a rewarding and engaging story and one that even pulls at the heartstrings a few times.
Stitched Together Patches
Scout steals the spotlight so shamelessly that it’s perhaps an intentional move to distract from the rather shallow core narrative. Despite its interesting aesthetic and premise, Hello Puppets! doesn’t really dive into its own concept as much as it probably should, the end result feeling more like an early proof of concept, similar to the original Accounting experience that set the tone for the final product of Accounting+. The final encounter with Mortimer and Riley, who have been ominously taunting you throughout your adventure, is over before it really begins, and the mysterious plot thread of the show's deceased creator doesn’t really go anywhere. While the relationship with Scout almost makes up for this, it doesn't quite fit the £20 price tag, which I feel requires the game to explore its potential with a bit more depth.
Though a surface-level look at the rather simple mechanics might suggest gameplay to be similarly shallow, it's the way in which Otherworld Interactive utilizes these mechanics within its puzzles that keep it afloat. I regularly found myself stumped at several points of the story, only to find that I needed to approach the situation from the perspective of Scout, which I could do at the click of a button. All puzzles felt appropriately challenging without feeling unfairly vague, and escaping any stalking enemies was still an absolutely thrilling adrenaline rush without feeling like I was unfairly matched.
I was also impressed at how well Hello Puppets! maintains its creepiness without overly relying on jumpscares. Yes, there are certainly one or two times when I was spooked out of nowhere, but it never really felt unfair, and they were spaced out distantly enough that they weren’t annoying. Instead, Hello Puppets! creeped me out by a strong sense of atmosphere and personality, constantly making me feel like I was being watched, as well as terrified of eventually crossing paths with ever-present antagonists, who felt like genuinely intimidating threats. In this regard, it shares a lot of its tone with the similarly titled Hello Neighbour series, juxtaposing its tense and eerie atmosphere with a bright, friendly aesthetic.
Hello Puppets offers a refreshingly fun, engaging and heartfelt approach to the VR Horror genre, and provides one of the most genuinely charming character bonds that I’ve found in gaming. While it’s current price tag doesn’t quite line-up with the 2-hour experience, it’s absolutely one that earns your attention.
TechRaptor reviewed Hello Puppets! on PC using a code provided by the developer.
- Scout Steals the Show With a Genuine Friendship
- Intriguing Puzzles and Tense Chases
- Good Balance of Fun and Horror
- Wasted Narrative Potential
- Unfair Price Point