I love fairy tales. There’s a big laundry list of reasons why, but let’s focus on the reason that’s the most important to me and the one that made A Juggler’s Tale immediately cement a place in my heart as something that hits the same notes: they’re charming but they don’t shy away from their roots as cautionary tales about danger. A Juggler’s Tale is a uniquely animated game with a simple and engaging plot about a runaway girl and the struggles she must go through to break free from more than just cages. It’s a delightful tale about freedom which leans into how daunting its price may be - and how worthwhile it really is.
A good fairy tale, after all, is one that will let you know that the world is still full of bandits and wolves and monsters. An excellent one will then make sure you understand that they can be beaten.
The Good - Feast your eyes and ears!
A Juggler’s Tale is a short cinematic experience. The story is framed as being told by a puppet master with a colorful scenario and entertaining narration, and the game wastes no time in going all in on it. It’s beautiful, utilising its humble stylised look to great effect rather than being limited by it. Although the characters always look like puppets, each has a distinctive design while the backgrounds, colors and music are tailor-made to evoke a sense of a distant, yet not unfamiliar, whimsical world the likes of which you would read about in an old, hardcover fantasy book. As you enjoy the frames and the scenarios for all that they are worth, you will soon find yourself reminiscing of earlier days when you imagined the world looking just like that.
On the gameplay side, A Juggler’s Tale presents itself with 2D platformer gameplay while being designed in 3D; it really is more of a puzzle game played from the side-scroller perspective. The story is told in sections as our protagonist, Abby, reaches certain scenarios to weave through and reach the end safely. The particular point of interest in the gameplay is the puppet strings holding the characters up as they play an integral part in how you interact with the world rather than being a mere stylistic choice. “The strings that hold you up also hold you back,” says the narrator; as the player, you’re tasked with figuring out the best way to navigate through the puzzles without getting tangled. It’s an interesting and charming take on platforming and it’s even more interesting when you reach the point of considering not just your strings, but the ones holding everyone else up as well. So learn the rules of the world and you’ll be the one pulling the strings!
I have said it before and I’ll say it again: A Juggler’s Tale is brimming with charm. The simple but heartfelt story of a little juggler girl running from the circus to find a better life for herself engaged me and I found myself wishing fervently that maybe in the next scenario, she would finally catch a break - and this isn’t even counting the twists and turns that spice up this deceptively simple setup. The only other constant presence is the one from the narrator himself, who does more than just passively tell us this story, and helps Abby along, lifting her up. After all, someone must be holding up those strings and the ever-present rhyming has to be coming from somewhere.
- Beautiful visuals and great music
- Simple and unique gameplay
- Heartfelt, charming presentation.
The Bad - One second, I have to untangle myself.
As said before, A Juggler’s Tale is certainly more of a puzzle game than the advertised platformer. That doesn’t detract from its strengths but I did find myself wishing that they would have pushed the gameplay boundaries a little more and integrated platforming and puzzle solving in a more dynamic way. There are so many fun possibilities to be made with the setup of a world held up by strings and it would have been incredibly satisfying to be able to explore the world and scenarios in a more active way with faster movement. By the tail end of the story, if anyone deserved to be able to do some double jumping and get some power-ups, it was Abby. Or at least, let the poor girl run a little faster - she’s slow as molasses just to crank a lever.
For all of the praise I give the visuals and the string mechanic, there were a few times where jumping a little too far and landing too close to the edge resulted in Abby’s strings glitching and leaving her stuck, forcing me to restart the scenario. It repeatedly happened later with a very necessary character that was integral to the puzzle portion - the poor thing glitched in place and was ragdolled around by his own strings. The engine seems to struggle with placement of objects and how these stretchy, ever-moving strings interact with parts that require precision.
- Lack of dynamic, engaging platforming
- A little glitchy
- Really, really short
Final Score: 8/10
I cannot explain enough how enjoyable my short time with A Juggler’s Tale was. I am someone that loves anything that reminds me of childhood innocence, whimsical fantasy stories and the wonder of exploration. I truly had a hard time nit-picking for something bad to say about the game. What I can say is that A Juggler’s Tale exists to tell a story first and foremost. Much like watching a play or a puppet show, these things either speak to you or they don’t. I am more than happy to say that Abby’s story, the tale of the little juggler girl, spoke to me and I have been thoroughly charmed by this lovely, short game.
Thank you for checking out our A Juggler's Tale switch review, thank you to Mixtvision Games for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: