Clash of Puppets is a 3D platformer with an unabashed love for B-level horror movies. As we enter the dreams of an average Joe named Charlie, a veritable monster mash appears before our eyes. Vampires, Frankenstein, and even mummies try to snuff out our hero, but with a little guidance Charlie may find his way back to reality. Staying trapped and seduced in this world, however, is a hard habit to break.

Charlie's journey begins with an animated sequence, as he pulls up into a dark, deserted drive-in to watch a scary movie. Sleep holds dominion over our wanderer, and his imagination takes him to dangerous places. Pulp fiction writer Cornell Woolrich once said that "First you dream, then you die," and for Charlie, the Grim Reaper may take hold in his slumber. I love movies like the next guy, but Clash of Puppets reminds us that drive-ins aren't just a make-out location with the missus - they're also a harbinger of death! Word of advice - Frankenstein is not your friend.

The primary advantage of playing a three dimensional platform title lies in the expansion of a game's visual scope. With Clash of Puppets, Charlie doesn't exactly inhabit an open world, since progressing from level to level demands linear movement. With a 3D aesthetic, the developers give us the ability to move around during the fight sequences. Although I was felled by Frankenstein on more than one occasion, I could have dodged his attacks, set up traps along the way, and hid in a corner, protected by crates. Going toe to toe against these creatures gets intimidating, especially if your health meter is running low, so there's no shame in dropping a few blade traps and watch them splatter before your eyes.

The layout for each stage has a simple enough concept, as you must find various gears that will open gates. Coins, as well health and ammunition power ups, are also mandatory pick ups during each stage, as the monsters will come at you in horde like fashion. Once you find the right gear to open the drawbridge, you can advance to the next stage.

Within that straight ahead construct rests a world which gradually ingratiates itself with its nuanced design as well as immersive game play. Part of the app's complexity stems from the variety of weapons you have at your arsenal. To access your melee weapons, touch the sword icon on the right side of your device. Below that is the jump icon, and with the amount of mazes featured in Clash of Puppets, dexterity is just as important as your fighting skills.

There are also separate buttons you will access to lay out traps and access your firearms. Whenever possible, try to save the ammunition for your guns and use them as a last resort. Unfortunately, I've been too liberal with my laser guns and instead of killing the necessary enemies, I'm fragging away like there's no tomorrow.

Even though the mazes are simple to solve, they give this app a much stronger shelf life. This isn't just a beat 'em up title that you can forget and erase on your device within minutes, as Clash of Puppets' literally attempts to entertain us from different angles. Whether it's from a top-down perspective, from the side, or a close up of Charlie's face after a bloody kill, this app is a visual feast. If you have an iPad, skip the mobile version and enjoy the world's rich textures in tablet form.

With three different worlds as well as the ability to unlock survival mode, Clash of Puppets definitely offers up your money's worth. The absolute lack of in-app purchases are also a huge plus, and it's great to see a developer put gaming first over creating a manipulative, cash grabbing app. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself amidst a den of monsters, aliens, and even ninjas. I refuse to patronize drive-ins, even if they're a dying breed. Charlie's dreams, however, continue, and as long as he's ready for battle, puppet hunting remains high on the menu.


App Store Link: Clash of Puppets for iPhone & iPad | By Crescent Moon Games LLC  | Price: $4.19 | Version: 1.01 |  196 MB | Rating 9+

8.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating