The new indie horror sure to spook
Poppy Playtime is an indie horror set inside an abandoned toy factory. Players must navigate their surroundings while avoiding the terrifying toys that lurk within. Expect heart-racing chases, nightmarish monster toys, and unsettling music throughout.
Poppy Playtime may seem familiar to many players that have experienced Five Nights at Freddy's, or any other animatronic-led horror game. While the game heavily features these animatronic toys, the gameplay itself resembles Amnesia, where players must roam around the environment to find solutions to escape.
Right into the fray
MOB Games throw you into the deep end by offering a 50's style cinematic advertisement introducing players to Poppy, a rather unsettling doll. The factory where the doll is made from plays a prominent role in this cutscene, with a final note explaining that the world believes its employees have gone missing, but they are, in fact, still there.
You're given control at the entrance to the factory. Playing a videotape explains how you're trespassing and that there are various security measures set up in the factory, a foreboding warning of things to come.
From here, you can explore. You can see the various toys the factory creates through the opening rooms, with many boxes open, cut, or toppled over. A keen eye will catch that many of the toys are missing from their boxes too.
Creating despair through ambiance
Poppy Playtime excels with its use of ambient music and through its sound design. For the most part, you'll only notice audio when interacting with the various objects in the environment or the piercing alarm siren as you move throughout the factory. Poppy Playtime induces fear by creating anticipation as you move throughout each room.
There are rarely any audio cues as to when something may happen. This juxtaposes the usual loud build-up of jumpscares you may experience while watching a film. Instead, this emptiness has you carefully looking into new rooms or dreading what will happen when you fall from a ledge into a new area.
Yet, when things become dire, suspenseful yet chaotic metallic sounds create a sense of urgency and genuine fear as you begin to run for your life to escape certain death.
So let's address the most critical question, is it scary?
Poppy Playtime doesn't play around with the horror, and in fact, there are moments in chapter 1 that surpass some of the bigger named games in the genre. A significant reason why comes from non-telegraphed moments, where the toy (in this case Huggy Wuggy) would appear and begin chasing you.
Suppose you've gotten used to large open spaces, empty corridors, or music-cued entrances from previous horror games. In that case, Poppy Playtime will undoubtedly catch you off guard and induce real panic as you scramble to find the nearest safe space or exit.
The cherry on the top for us was Huggy Wuggy's animations. Crouching through arches and scurrying toys towards you makes it all feel real, leaving you constantly asking whether you are out of its reach, even in the smallest of spaces.
Interesting mechanics to carry a similar formula
Mechanics are rarely a focal point when playing horror games. You may find yourself needing to use a camera to blind an enemy, a flashlight to search for items, or make use of various hiding spots to keep yourself safe. Poppy Playtime takes on the puzzle adventure horror in a different direction by introducing a two-arm mechanic.
This mechanic gives you control over your character's arms, allowing you to throw each out independently to stick to or grab objects. You can then pull out panels, hold buttons and interact with the environment to solve various puzzles around the factory.
What's ingenious about this is the ability for the arms to retain their position as you move further away, forcing you to think of a solution and engage more with the environment to find the correct path to move while one of your hands is unavailable. A simple mechanic, yet one that adds greater depth to what we typically see as puzzles added to halt progress.
A story with a future
Poppy Playtime is currently only available as a first chapter, with other chapters coming further along in its development lifespan. While unusual for a horror game, it indicates that the team at MOB games wants to develop something that has depth rather than a quick-fire horror experience.
The well-thought-out intro sequence, opening commentary tape, and the slight nudge towards the game's main plot - finding the missing employees - certainly provide intrigue and make us want to dive into the real issues, threats, and story behind the factory's terrifying toys.
But with only one chapter currently available, it isn't easy to see where the series will go and what we can expect as a result. Releasing by chapters has made many players hope to receive a satisfying payoff to the story and their survival efforts.
Bugs, and not the scary kind
Many players have reported encountering bugs while playing through chapter one. While we only experienced some minor ones, such as objects clipping through locations they shouldn't, some players have experienced worse bugs that have negatively impacted their experience. We do not doubt that these will be patched out with the next updates the developer releases, but it's essential nonetheless.
Should this be your next horror game?
Poppy playtime isn't free, yet there is an abundance of content for a small price. Unfortunately, due to chapter releases, there isn't much replayability once you have gone through the chapter once.
But the experience that you get from this first game, you'll find an interesting take on the already familiar horror adventure genre with a fun new mechanic. We had a blast, and we're sure that it will get your heart racing and make your turn your toys to face the other way at night.
Editor's note: Poppy Playtime - Chapter 2 is now available! Discover what this new adventure has to offer!