Poppy Playtime is a first-person horror-puzzle adventure game developed by MOB Games Studio, which consists of a small team directed by Isaac Christopherson. It is divided into multiple chapters around the abandoned Playtime Co. factory, specializing in producing “the nation’s favorite toys.” As a former employee at the toy factory, you uncover the mystery behind the disappearances of employees. You progress further into the mysterious factory with your Grabpack while you sneak around the dangerous toys ahead.
The game has garnered an abundance of hype throughout the community, and rightfully so! Poppy Playtime introduces horrifying toys and a detailed hidden backstory surrounding the mystery behind the Playtime Co. factory. It uses the popular mascot horror trend used in many horror games but effectively brings chills to the players. With its approach to the game, this could easily be one of the most popular game series yet, and one of the best ones to come out this year.
Poppy Playtime’s first chapter is available for PC on Steam for your regional pricing.
Story – Powered by VHS and Toys
Playtime Co. is an abandoned factory known for its creation of toys loved across the nation. You play as a former employee in the factory and investigate the facility when you receive a letter that the missing employees from 10 years ago are still within the factory. The main clue to finding the staff is the search for the “flower.”
Poppy Playtime leaves a feeling of mystery throughout the game. There are no explanations immediately, and if there are, they are usually in VHS tapes. Within the VHS tapes, you collect the story throughout the game. Each VHS tape uncovers the hidden lore of the facility and the dangers presented within. I highly recommend checking out the game yourself, as the tapes are spoiler-heavy.
As for the toys in the facility, imagine Toys ‘R’ Us, but all the toys within turn on you. One of the first toys you encounter is this blue toy named Huggy Wuggy. Huggy Wuggy is colossal and consists of fur, bulging dilated eyes, and wide red lips formed into a smile. His image acts as a mascot for the company, spread through posters and walls around the establishment. He is automatically intimidating, solely from his size, and is full of surprises throughout the game.
Gameplay – Life back into the Toy Factory
Within the danger of hiding away from toys is a toy of your own, the Grabpack. The Grabpack is similar to sticky hands and acts as an electrical conductor to power through the puzzles ahead. It can also grab small items and get to places that are far to reach. It is a unique feature and provides a new way for players to interact with the game, other than simply walking through the facility. As you bring power back into the facility, you discover the second hand needed to progress through the rest of the game.
One of the best uses of this toy is when you reach the Make-A-Friend section of the facility. You pull together infrastructures and puzzle your way through powering up the Make-A-Friend machine. Once you bring life into the system, you can make your toy from head to toe and unlock the next part of the game. Most of your time in the establishment revolves around making the toy factory work again. It’s almost like picking up the pieces and putting them back together.
Other notable quirks
Collecting and watching VHS Tapes is also essential for uncovering the story and helping with potential clues to progress within the game. One of the best demonstrations for this is the second VHS tape, which demonstrates how to use the Grabpack. All the other VHS tapes give more insight into the story, reminiscent of Five Nights At Freddy’s: Help Wanted tape and audio logs. It would’ve been nice to see the developer expand more on this idea and essentially have more visual VHS tapes that could give us direct hints into the story.
Some horror games use vents to sneak around or find clues, but Poppy Playtime uses vents as a means of transportation. Within the vents are conveyor belts that need to be powered on to function and take you from place to place. The first use of this function is when you go from the staff to the Make-A-Friend section.
From conveyor belts to the electricity puzzles, the features flow together perfectly. The Grabpack is a fresh mechanic to the horror game genre, and the VHS tapes are a unique way to give the player a tutorial, rather than having text flash on the screen demonstrating what to do. With this said, however, I would’ve loved it if the VHS Tapes were utilized more effectively in the same way shown for introducing the Grabpack. You may have some visual shorts that introduce the different sections of the game, or the player may have a portable VHS device for the audio snippets. Although I believe the VHS audio clips are compelling, having them play from the TV with only a symbol in front doesn’t fully utilize the mechanic to its full potential.
Graphics and Audio – A big horror playhouse
The visuals are lifelike and grungy, which corresponds to the idea that the facility is stranded. The area never looks bright and remains in low lighting. The long hallways and smaller regions like the vents intensify the feeling of being trapped. Even though the factory is grubby, it still attempts to bring joy into the place.
When exploring the facility, you can spot posters plastered around the game featuring Huggy Wuggy and other unseen mascots to promote the facility and stimulate kids. Much of the art is also trailed around the walls and has a simplified cute art style. Another fascinating thing is that the colors utilize the three primary colors.
And to the final kicker, the model design. Most of the environment looks plastic and blocky. You can find Huggy Wuggy in the section where it is the most noticeable. The infrastructure design is like an interactive sandbox or bounce house. Even with the more technical parts, it stays between realism and toy-like models.
The detail on Huggy Wuggy is impressive in itself. They perfectly capture him as a toy with the different lighting techniques and texture distinction. The surroundings and his design complement each other, as both share the same color scheme and toy theme.
You can tell what goal the developers were aiming to achieve. Since the central point of the game is toys and the factory, it manages to balance both settings into one.
False sense of security
Most of the chapter is atmospheric and consists more of sounds you would get from interacting with the environment. The atmospheric sounds have a few droning notes and piano notes. It adds to the mystery of the factory and helps aid the suspense and build-up of the game.
The sounds range from playful and soft to loud and abrupt. Both fit into the theme and mix with the childlike factory setting. The sounds and visuals carry the weight of the game as the majority of the game is silent or has very low musical hums that would play periodically. You get more information from what you see and hear and get a sense of progression within the game with sound cues.
Unlike most horror games that use shrieking music and pulsating noises, Poppy Playtime instead does the opposite effect and calms the player with soft music. The music you do get from certain sections puts you more at ease than in a fearful state. Good examples would be the music in the Grabpack VHS tape or the Make-A-Friend section. The music feels vintage and makes the player even feel safe. I think this is a good diversion for the chilling undertones in the game.
Poppy Playtime was reviewed on PC via Steam.