A Juggler’s Tale will feel instantly familiar if you’re a fan of PlayDead’s Inside and Limbo. A narrative-driven 2.5D adventure game, A Juggler’s Tale share’s much of the same DNA as its critically acclaimed siblings (it even feels a bit too familiar at times). Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all, but this title can’t quite reach the same dizzying heights, making this a good game but not a great one.
A Juggler’s Tale focuses on the life of Abby, a marionette who escapes from a life of exploitation and abuse. Helping her along the way, of course, is the puppet master – our narrator – who saves Abby at multiple points during the story when she finds herself in a bind.
For the most part, A Juggler’s Tale plays very much like your typical cinematic adventure game. You’ll stroll through various environments – including marshes and villages – where you’ll need to overcome numerous puzzles, obstacles, and enemies that happen to block your way. The key difference here, however, is that Abby is constantly held up by strings, which proves to be both a blessing and a burden.
Early in the game you’ll come across the first of many puzzles that essentially requires you to move an object out of the way so that the strings holding Abby up don’t get caught. It’s an interesting mechanic because it effectively does away with the whole ‘this character can’t jump over a tiny obstacle’ limitation normally seen in games by focusing on what’s above you, instead. Great in theory, of course, but unfortunately there’s ultimately very little deviation from the puzzle structure throughout the game; once you’ve figured out one, you’ve pretty much figured them all out.
Aside from the puzzles utilised, much of A Juggler’s Tale focuses on tone and environmental storytelling; you’ll come across a range of creatures and locales, like giant spiders (hello, Limbo) and grumpy farmers. The narrator gives good context to the situations Abby finds herself in, and the rhyming structure of his dialogue adds a nice touch to the overall presentation.
Visually, the game often looks gorgeous, with stunning backgrounds complete with beautiful sunsets and weather effects. The problem, as with many multi-platform titles, is that this is objectively a lesser visual experience on Switch than you’d perhaps find on other platforms. Characters and objects look unpleasantly out-of-focus, and it’s often difficult to make out vital items hidden on the ground, which can grind your progress to a frustrating halt. On the flip side, however, although the screenshots we’ve captured don’t particularly articulate this very well, the game has a motion blur effect that looks pretty great while you’re playing, adding a touch of realism to the game.
At just two – three hours in length, A Juggler’s Tale is a lean experience with little fat on the bones (though may still be a tad on the short side for some). Nevertheless, it’s a shame that the developer leant on the same type of puzzle for much of the game, as it makes certain areas feel repetitive as a result. If you’re a fan of games like Limbo and Inside, this is a nice alternative; just don’t go expecting a game of the same calibre or quality.