The Puppet of Tersa: A Curious Place is the first episode in a stylistic point-and-click adventure game by developer Madorium. The game harkens back to an era when smartphones weren’t around (or the internet, for the matter) and problems needed to be solved by experimenting. You play as Cynthia, a creative and courageous young girl who discovers exactly where things go when you lose them under the bed. By solving puzzles and speaking to the denizens of the forest, you discover the secrets and mysteries of Tersa, the realm beneath the mattress.
The Puppet of Tersa is 100% digitally hand drawn which lets the artists’ talent shine and the watercolors give the world of the game a charming storybook likeness. The artists tread a careful line and the world of Tersa is weird and eerie without ever becoming off-putting or overly creepy. Each scene has its own personality, some just a little spooky and others oddly relaxing. The character designs at first seem a little childish but as you immerse yourself into the storybook world they become a delight.
The music is wonderfully done. Composer Scott Andrews does an amazing job of fitting the music with the vibe of the game. The opening theme on the menu screen features whimsical woodwinds and spooky strings blended together to compliment the overall feel of the game. The sound design also adds to the mysterious atmosphere. From the heavy breathing of a sleeping creature warning you of danger in the area to the crying of a many-eyed tree making you feel bad about what you did to make it cry in the first place.
The in-game soundtrack suffers just ever so slightly as sometimes the track will repeat itself before it finishes, giving a skip which can be slightly jarring. Also, be cautious when wearing headphones because a whistling character might be a bit much when you first encounter him.
As for gameplay, The Puppet of Tersa uses a classic point-and-click style with a simple interface. It doesn’t bog the player down with a huge action menu and instead, the player just selects an item to use from the inventory and moves by clicking on the screen. The puzzles are varied, yet few. The solutions are logical but at first, the player might find themselves doing the adventure game strategy of clicking on everything until they find something to pick up and then using it on everything until something works.
Objectives are mentioned once and sometimes require a lot of steps so it would be helpful if Tippo, a companion Cynthia meets early on, was better at reminding you what you need to find. Speaking of needing to speak to characters, the player often needs to interact with NPCs to trigger certain puzzle solutions, meaning you need to meet the other characters in order to progress. The simple gameplay is nice for a casual thinker of a game but The Puppet of Tersa doesn’t bring anything all that innovative to the genre.
For as stylish as the game looks, the story so far doesn’t do the storybook visuals justice. Until a certain event halfway through the episode, Cynthia doesn’t have any motivation beyond she needs to get home. Puzzles are given to the player with standard adventure game logic: you can’t do X until Y happens, so go get Z things. There’s a mystery in Tersa, certainly, and the NPCs will bring it up before becoming surprisingly tight-lipped about the whole thing. Shadows and Swirls and the rarity of humans in Tersa are mentioned but the episode ends with a “To Be Continued” without closing up any loose ends at all. However, this is the first episode and surely the mysteries will be solved by the conclusion but a little closure would be nice.
The dialogue is a strong point. There are no voice overs in the game but every character is unique and their personalities shine through the dialogue boxes, letting the player easily imagine how their voices would sound.
There is little reason to play through the episode a second time. The puzzle solutions remain the same and there’s no difficulty setting for a bigger challenge. The only reason to play it again is to pick up an achievement you missed or to enjoy the music and scenery again.
Overall, The Puppet of Tersa: A Curious Place is a solid and stylish adventure game with a brilliant score, delightful aesthetics and charming characters. A few faults may vex a keen observer but most players will have an enjoyable time picking away at the mystery of Tersa as new episodes release.
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