There are plenty of Souls-like games vying for our attention, but only one can assert that it has given the timeless tale of Pinocchio a dark and twisted twist. The 1883 novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Italian author Carlo Collodi is loosely retold in the video game Lies of P, which was created by the Neowiz Games studio in South Korea. Lies of P’s design distinguishes itself from other Souls-likes, including From Software’s own, because of its bleak reinterpretation and stunning Belle Epoque-inspired environment. Bloodborne still clearly draws inspiration from Cosmic Horror, as evidenced by its fighting system and tonal ambiance, which occasionally makes the game feel unduly copied. Neowiz yet adds just enough innovation for Lies of P to forge its own character, even if it’s as thin as a puppet string.
You play the part of P, a lifelike puppet who awakens in the midst of a puppet-led invasion of the made-up city of Krat. You’ll probably recognize character names like the puppeteer Geppetto and the talking cricket Gemini if you’re familiar with Pinocchio. However, the parallels between them and the novel or any Disney-produced retellings usually end with their names. For starters, Gemini isn’t an anthropomorphic insect but rather a little puppet on P’s belt that serves as both a light and a guide. Characters like the Fox, Cat, and Alidoro are also transformed into thieves and regular criminals who don their own animal masks to gain not just invisibility but also notoriety.
Lies of P is such an intriguing idea because of this original spin on a well-known story; thus, it’s difficult to avoid feeling let down when the story doesn’t really get going until towards the end. Most of the time, your objective is to travel to other places and, before returning to the game’s core center, either rescue someone or kill a particular opponent. It lacks a central objective to keep you moving forward, making it feel unfocused and only gaining momentum in the last few hours after the adversary is revealed. Before this, there isn’t much to hold onto, In addition to an interest in where the story might go. It’s not like the game is purposely being vague or withholding information. There is little mystery because the tale is primarily delivered through expositional dumps. Although there are a few brief interesting moments scattered throughout, I don’t think it would be unfair to demand more given the original material.
The morality system in Lies of P also presents you with two options from time to time: tell the truth or lie. Puppets can’t lie since it’s built into their programming, but Pinocchio is unique in this regard, as we all know. You nearly never intentionally damage someone or mislead them when you lie; rather than telling someone the hard truth, you lie to make them feel better. These decisions aren’t very tough to make, as one such example allows you to allay a dying mother’s anxiety by informing her that her (dead) child is still alive and well. Your choice will largely be influenced by whatever branching scenario you are most interested in seeing unfold. I just told lies during my playthrough to see how this would affect the gameplay or the story because every time you lie, P’s springs react and he becomes more human. The mechanic didn’t feel generally well employed, but I won’t reveal the alterations I experienced. It’s difficult to determine how much of the game is affected by your decisions without playing through the entire thing again, but according to Neowiz, there are three possible endings to unlock, each of which depends on how honest you are.
However, Lies of P’s atmosphere and great sense of place help to somewhat mitigate the morality system and the story’s flaws. The game’s art style and ominous atmosphere work together to create the city of Krat an unmistakable identity. Each site you explore is peppered with intriguing backstory and visual storytelling. The thought of delving deeper into its eerie interior was all the inspiration I required to continue.
Right down to the bits of Bal-musette music that continue to linger, like echoes of the city’s former greatness, Krat’s Belle Epoque aesthetic quickly conjures up images of 19th-century France. Krat used to be a city of wonders before the game’s events. Neowiz blends its historical background with remarkable steampunk embellishments, evoking the prosperous time that followed the development of animatronic puppets. However, the city’s prosperity has been destroyed by what survivors are referring to as The Puppet Frenzy after flying too close to the sun. The hitherto submissive puppets have turned violently against the inhabitants of the city as a result of this unexplained ailment. As proof of those trying to flee the fallen metropolis, blood-stained bodies now cover the cobblestone streets, while bags of luggage are scattered next to carriages and across railway platforms.
The dark aftermath is illuminated by gaslit streetlamps and flashing theater production signs as jittery clockwork puppets emerge from the shadows brandishing broken stop signs and candelabras as makeshift weapons. Whether you’re moving through Krat’s wounded heart or navigating the eerie woodlands and junkyards on its outskirts, Lies of P exudes atmosphere at almost every step. The eye-catching graphics aren’t just for show; they’re integrated into a superb-level design that embraces the best elements of the genre. Locations like to corkscrew back on themselves, rewarding your investigation with necessary shortcuts through ladders and unlocked doors. Enemy variety and placement have obviously been given careful consideration.
Additionally, Neowiz incorporates just enough uniqueness to allow Lies of P to forge its own identity.
The fundamental structure of Lies of P is likewise well known, clinging to several established tropes from the genre. The leveling system is stat-based, which has an additional impact on weapon buffs, Stargazers serve as bonfires, Ergo is an upgraded resource you acquire by defeating enemies, and you lose Ergo when you die unless you can go back to the location of your demise and reclaim it, and Neowiz even has a tendency to bombard you with enormous rolling balls, turning any incline into a potential threat.
While combat has many similarities to Bloodborne, there are several differences as well. Fast-paced encounters place a strong emphasis on being proactive and pushing one’s advantage. Attacks can be blocked, which depletes both your stamina and health bar, but swift retaliation allows you to recoup lost health. This clearly shows that being aggressive pays off, even if you first present a defensive front. Though it is more difficult to accomplish consistently, parrying incoming attacks is more effective because it negates all incoming damage. When facing one of the game’s terrifying bosses, in particular, the time window is stringent and requires that you memorize an enemy’s attack patterns and cadence. However, perfect parries also deal break damage, putting opponents into a staggered state where they are vulnerable to a lethal critical blow, therefore it is worthwhile to develop some level of expertise.
The key to surviving is timing, not positioning, yet this strategy turns most encounters—but particularly boss fights—into lessons in pattern learning. The opponents you encounter take pleasure in disrupting your rhythm, pausing for what seems like an excessively long time on overhand swings, or launching an unexpected strike at the conclusion of a combo. This is a good challenge, but it does feel a little stiff. However, mastering a precisely timed parry is very rewarding, as each successful block results in a shower of dazzling sparks. Combat is exciting throughout in general. P is completely covered in oil as a result of the substantial sensation and satisfying thud of colliding weapons. Even the smallest foes might bring you to an early grave if you are not focused because it is punitive. The difficulty curve, however, never slips into the impression of being unjust. Although a couple of bosses left me perplexed for extended periods of time, the task progressively increased, and I can’t say I ever experienced any instances where it felt either too easy or too difficult. From a gameplay standpoint, Lies of P is a perfect example of a Souls-like game and a very good one at that.
P is flexible and can be modified, unlike the other puppets in the city, which are usually made with particular roles in mind (think of maids, police officers, and miners). In contrast to Sekiro’s prosthetic limb, his left arm is equipped with a number of secondary weapons, such as a grappling hook like Scorpion, a mine launcher, and a flamethrower. Since you can only switch between your different arms while at a checkpoint, this system is somewhat restrictive. However, while it doesn’t offer as many build options as a From Software game, each one does bring a tiny amount of game customization.
Despite this, you are still allowed a sensible amount of latitude when choosing a weapon. Except for those obtained from defeated bosses, every weapon in the game has two different parts: the head and the handle. The head determines the weapon’s assault and guard characteristics and can be anything from an exploding pickaxe to a saber blade. The move set and stat scaling of the weapon are impacted by the handle. You can combine and match these two parts utilizing the weapon assembly feature to produce a wide variety of distinctive killing implements.
You might change a halberd from a thrusting to a slicing weapon or change a strength-based weapon to a dexterity-based weapon. Each weapon’s head and handle also house a unique Fable Art, which you may use to launch powerful attacks once you’ve amassed enough Fable energy through defeating adversaries. Fable Arts can be used to deliver a single deadly move, a barrage of quick strikes, or even temporarily improve your defense. The near-limitless variation of the weapon-building system gains another level of flexibility with the ability to combine various Fable Arts.
There are a few extra unique touches here and there. For example, if you lose your Ergo and die, the quantity you have left decreases every time you get hurt trying to get it back. This isn’t a significant change, but it raises the stakes a bit when you have to carefully retrace your steps.
But for the most part, Lies of P is satisfied to add its own narrative and style to pre-existing concepts and mechanics. This strategy may be a ripoff, but it succeeds in capturing the essence of the Souls-like experience, with all of its many features working together to provide an exhilarating action game that is difficult, varied, and oozing with atmosphere. When a game wears its influences as blatantly as Lies of P does, it’s simple to be dismissive, but many other games have attempted to capture the same enchantment without success. It’s not a simple task, but Lies of P is still one of the genre’s most polished and fun entries—and that’s the truth. It doesn’t break the mold or invent anything new.