REVIEW : A Juggler’s Tale (PC)
Have you ever wanted to like anything, especially something that would ordinarily tick all your boxes, but couldn’t bring yourself to do it? This was my experience when playing A Juggler’s Tale.
A Juggler’s Tale is an ambient puzzle platformer developed by a kaleidoscope and published by Mixtvision for those unfamiliar with the title.
Rhyming NOT Required
A Juggler’s Tale tells the story of Abby, a circus performer who is kidnapped by her ringmaster but tries to escape. After Abby flees, she finds herself in the middle of a frightening adventure involving huge spiders, enraged townspeople, and a gang of dangerous bandits who want to catch her in return for riches.
Despite the multiple villains, the narrator is the most engaging aspect of A Juggler’s Tale. Because all of the characters in the story are mute, he is left to convey most of the story. Nonetheless, it works well with the game’s theatrical presentation (characters have strings attached to them and the ending scene for each chapter is a curtain call).
Not only does the narrator provide us with constant insight into Abby’s thoughts, the world around her, and how to assist her through it, but he also turns antagonistic in response to Abby’s rebellious behaviour.
While some of the plot twists were intriguing, the poor writing style of A Juggler’s Tale detracts from whatever enjoyment or meaning I was supposed to derive from the novel. The speech in the game is frequently cringe-worthy because 90% of it is presented in a rhyming fashion. Every other line was a corny string of words that I wished I hadn’t been saying.
It’s a shame because A Juggler’s Tale attempts to touch a variety of intriguing topics. The dilemma of how far one is ready to go for independence and whether such lengths are worth the safety and security you’ve known your entire life arises.
Juggling ISN’T for Everyone
I’m a big lover of puzzle games, especially when they’re well-made. A Juggler’s Tale, unfortunately, did not succeed in this aspect. To begin with, Abby doesn’t have a lot of options. She can interact with specific objects, as well as aim and roll them at targets. There are other tiny lever mechanisms she can trigger as well.
The riddles themselves are also rather straightforward. They primarily include directing Abby across various terrains and assisting her with overcoming obstacles that prevent her from progressing (i.e., needing to light tree branches on fire so she can pass or guiding her through a river by strategically placing wooden boards). Furthermore, Abby is constrained by the strings on her back. Thus an entire puzzle may consist of you figuring out how to get around the thing on which her strings are caught.
Because A Juggler’s Tale is a short game, I didn’t anticipate any mind-bending riddles. They, on the other hand, had ZERO issues. The game’s terrible lighting was the ONLY thing that bothered me. Because it was so dark, I couldn’t see the object I required to proceed; it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to leave a region. I clicked my way through till I found it. The lighting problem persisted, making deciding what to do next laborious rather than exhilarating.
Finally, I’ll mention that the game’s controls on the Switch felt a little strange. It was tough to aim items since Abby would turn around at random times when I was trying to line up my shot. When I was trying to do anything else, she would jump right into doing something completely else. As a result, I was captured nearly immediately when attempting to flee.
In short, my playing of A Juggler’s Tale felt like a major waste of time due to the lack of challenge, horrible lighting, awkward controls, and a plethora of problems I encountered near the end of the game.
A Theatrical Experience
A Juggler’s Tale is a visually appealing game. It may not win any awards compared to current AAA titles, but it’s wonderfully coloured, and the setting is curiously brought to life. I appreciated touring the different settings we were treated to, regardless of how restricted they were, because the decision to present it as a theatre show felt appealing. The score was equally compelling, with certain songs perfectly complementing the scenes playing out in front of me.
One of my favourite features of the game was the music, which accentuated the impression of watching a play in a theatre. I’d recommend playing this game with your sound turned on only for the soundtrack.
Even though it was visually appealing, the lighting in A Juggler’s Tale was terrible. The game was always dark, which made it difficult to solve puzzles and took away from the romance of the landscapes. I think the creator was striving for a Grimm fairytale theme, but staring at the screen made me feel gloomy after a while.
A Juggler’s Tale tried to do a lot in a two-hour game, and while that isn’t always a bad thing, I wish it had focused on one thing and mastered it instead of throwing everything at me and having none of it land. I also encountered a bug in which one of the sequences would cause my entire screen to freeze. I eventually got through it, but this issue, combined with the poor lighting and clumsy controls, made the game feel like a chore to complete.