“Soulslike” games are a subset of the action RPG genre. They’re generally known for taking place in a dark, often brutal fantasy environment and being really difficult. They’re called Soulslike because they find their conceptual origin in games such as Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, games that are well known for their almost masochistic difficulty.
Lies of P is the latest in that Soulslike lineage, but it takes the concept in new directions by positioning the story of Pinocchio as its battling centerpiece.
Now, granted, Carlo Collodi’s fantasy novel about a magically enlivened, lie-telling puppet has its own dark, perilous moments. But Lies of P weaves together a much gorier and more depressing fairytale.
Things begin without much exposition. Your protagonist, P, is touched by a blue, glowing butterfly and brought to life in an abandoned train car in the city of Krat. In time, you piece together that this is a world filled with robotic puppets and animated by a revolutionary power source called Ergo.
The puppets were meant to serve mankind through menial tasks. And each was inscribed with a Grand Covenant of four laws: All puppets must obey their creator’s commands. A puppet may not harm a human. A puppet must protect and serve humans and the city of Krat. A puppet cannot lie.
However, that covenant has been broken and the puppets have slaughtered much of Krat’s human population.
You eventually make your way to Hotel Krat, where some human survivors have taken shelter. And a mysterious woman named Sophia—who sent the blue butterfly—informs you that you must find and rescue Geppetto, the puppets’ original creator and the only person who knows how to stop the revolt.
There are many references to characters and concepts plucked from the Pinocchio story—including the Puppet Master, Fox and Rabbit and a sidekick cricket named Gemini. And P has the option of telling lies or the truth with characters he meets and in quests he takes.
For instance, he meets a mother who’s dying from a spreading disease and losing her sight. P sets off to rescue her kidnapped child, but he discovers the child has been killed. He can either tell her the truth, or he can lie and give her a doll that she can embrace in her dying moments. Those lies or truths shape the end of the tale.
For all of the game’s dark and stylish imagery and its story-focused elements, however, it’s the merciless combat and boss battles that are at the core of play. The combat is a precise dance of attacks and parries designed with difficulty in mind. Melee weapons are assigned to a player’s right hand, while their mechanical left arm can be transformed to incorporate shields, a grappling hook, a cannon and the like.
Lies of P is a single-player game.
Lies of P has a very stylish and appealing look to it. The game takes advantage of the latest-gen consoles’ graphic horsepower and creates some very immersive visuals.
Because P’s opponents are often machines and not flesh and blood, he can be more oil-smeared than gore covered at times. And ultimately P is fighting to save humanity. There are lots of mysterious questlines to pursue.
Throughout the game, P has multiple chances to make choices. By doing so he helps or hurts others. And those choices potentially lead P closer to becoming human and thereby alter the game’s ending.
The above-mentioned gaming graphics also make this moody hack-and-slash fantasy world all the creepier to wade through. And though robotic characters don’t bleed, others do—and players must still contend with goopy mess and blood. Some environments depict realistic bloody corpses and large blood stains or pools on the ground.
This is a game that focuses on murderous mechanical marionettes and macabre monsters. And while some foes you can lop through without a great deal of difficulty, other huge battlers are soul-crushingly difficult. P uses everything from fiery daggers and rapiers to hammers, greatswords, axes, pipe wrenches and enormous saw blades in his smashing, slashing battles.
The opponents in the game range from enormous robotics with huge and deadly blades and hammers (such as a large furnace robot that also spews waves of flames) to body-horror malformed creatures (such as a disfigured fallen human Archbishop). Some of the foes attack in groups, creating frenetic and difficult battles.
That Archbishop character mentioned above is part of a small element in this game that injects a twisted, unexplained spirituality in the mix. The Archbishop is a creature with one wing and he insists that “I am the one-winged angel. I can sense the presence of God! … It’s proof that God chose me.”
There is a stylish appeal to Lies of P. But this dark, moody, funeral of a fairytale is also a difficult hack-and-slash nightmare.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.