- Sep 03, 2023
Poppy’s Playtime is an episodic, solo horror game made available for both PC and mobile platforms. Developed and published by indie powerhouse Mob Entertainment, the game is available as two distinct chapters. The free offering is Chapter 1: “A Tight Squeeze,” followed by the purchasable Chapter 2: “Fly in a Web.” This structure in itself is interesting since it provides players with a substantial, no-cost introduction to an intriguing universe filled with captivating characters, effectively luring players to buy upcoming chapters. The subsequent chapters are reasonably priced based on the platform.
While the value proposition is seemingly appealing, it begs the question, what about the game itself? My first impressions are not very positive. The game failed to start correctly, more than likely due to my tinkering with the graphic settings. I faced a situation where the sound didn't match the video during the intro, followed by a perpetual loading screen that masked the gameplay. This wasn’t an auspicious beginning; nevertheless, a swift restart resolved these technical glitches.
Once the game got underway, I was left with conflicting feelings. The initial environment appeared rather bland and generic, causing me to be skeptical of the upcoming gaming hours.
However, as the game progresses and the player is transported to the lobby of a deserted toy factory under investigation for the vanishing of its staff, things vastly improve. The area is simply a mess of ripped toy boxes and shattered glass, but remember that the game is also meant for mobile devices. The game truly comes into its own when you get the GrabPack.
And that's when the magic begins.
Equipped with what can be compared to the Omni-Directional Movement Gear from Attack on Titan, players can use the GrabPack to interact with distant items, operate doors, and even direct electricity to solve puzzles. It’s an interesting game mechanic, and its execution took me by surprise, reminding me of the time I was engrossed in figuring out the puzzles in Half-Life 2.
Contrary to Half-Life 2, however, Poppy’s Playtime elevates the scare quotient in an understated yet gripping manner. Chapter 1, with its playtime of around three hours, is replete with instances where you get a glimpse of the terrifying “Huggy Wuggy”, often at the most unexpected places. This is carried out deftly without the usual loud audio cues associated with jumpscares. The developers rather let the eerie image linger in your vision and consciousness, an approach that's absolutely brilliant and highly effective.
After a series of such tasteful scares, the game descends into frenetic chases, with the nightmarish blue creature pursuing you through the labyrinthine warehouse and enclosed service areas. The addition of Huggy Wuggy in these already claustrophobic spaces heightens the fear factor exponentially.
By the time I reached the end of Chapter 1, I was left in awe by the unexpected brilliance of the game. Poppy’s Playtime seamlessly blended creativity and intrigue, never once making me feel like I was trapped within a mindless merchandiser targeting naive kids – a label I had unjustly attached to the game after its 2021 release. Despite encountering a technical glitch, I can confidently vouch that Mob Entertainment has a gem in its catalog with Poppy’s Playtime, a game that could potentially attain the same cult status as Five Nights at Freddy's. Adding weight to this possibility is the impending release of a Poppy feature film.
Given the generous free content provided in Chapter 1, the relatively affordable Chapter 2, and the exciting promise of Chapter 3, Poppy’s Playtime is certainly worth a try. While the "indie horror/survival" genre is notoriously fast-paced, the longevity and future promise of the game are commendable despite it being only a few years old. It's evident that Poppy’s Playtime has a lot more in store for its players.