I can’t resist a good cinematic platformer, and A Juggler’s Tale is one such game. What keeps it from greatness are its ease and cost relative to the amount of gameplay. But if you’re an enthusiast for games like this, you’ll want to wishlist this one without fail.
You play as Abby, a marionette who escapes from the circus. It’s a medieval fairy tale within a tale, as the story gets framed via a puppet booth in a tavern. The fully voiced narrator is a plus, and the plot is as much his as Abby’s.
There are more puzzles than action here, although some parts necessitate being nimble. As Abby is connected to strings, this leads to some puzzle platforming all its own. Nonetheless, A Juggler’s Tale is easy. In a way, this is beneficial as it limits the double-digit load times that follow failure. But in other ways, something is off.
I don’t mind easy, but it seems like sometimes the game seems to take over unexpectedly. I get that we are controlling a character controlled by someone else. At times, this lack of control makes sense. But there was more than one occasion I couldn’t shake the feeling the game took over to bypass a puzzle I couldn’t solve quickly enough. It’s either a subpar implementation of a good idea or a poor impression of deliberate design. Either way, I feel it’s worth noting, even if I fail to articulate my thoughts well. It’s something noticeable with a controller in hand.
The ease means I saw the credits roll in just over two leisurely hours. Had I spent $17.99 for such a short experience, I’d be bummed. I wish there was some manner of replay incentive to make the short length easier to swallow. I have some ideas how this could’ve been accomplished, but to share them would reveal the game’s ending.
Brief as it may be, A Juggler’s Tale is lots of fun to look at while it lasts. The visuals convey a strong sense of scope, with a world that seems huge, even if you’re stuck on a linear path. Colors, lighting, weather effects, and more all combine to make a pretty presentation that made me pause to take it all in on more than one occasion. An autumn release, I especially like the scenes that take place with the fall leaves. Only certain disturbing scenes (with bodies hanging from trees) make me think this game is closer to a Teen rating than an E10+ one, but that’s on the ESRB.
I also appreciate the audio, the settings in particular. These allowed me to turn the folk music (not my thing and limited anyway) lower while increasing the volume for ambient noises and narration. The narrator talking in rhyme is a cliché at this point, one that a sequel could (and should) readily eliminate. But despite these constraints, the story never bores, which is saying something.
A Juggler’s Tale is a polished title, delivering a smooth gameplay flow that’s over too quickly for its launch price. Anyone can appreciate the visual presentation and voiced story. Meanwhile, enthusiasts will enjoy the blend of puzzles (albeit easy ones) and action. It’s a unique game in many ways and one that leaves an impression. But, it also leaves you wanting more. I hope to cheer on Abby in a sequel, one whose price better matches its length.