Jiminy Cricket, Lies Of P is good. While FromSoftware (Elden Ring, Dark Souls) has inspired a whole genre of soulslike games with its weighty third-person combat and oppressive atmospheres, those that stray closest to the source material have often felt like shallow imitations of the real thing — and when Lies Of P‘s first trailer revealed a Bloodborne-style retelling of Pinocchio, I worried this would once again be the case.
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Instead, a hands-on with Lies Of P has offered a shaky sigh of relief. Set in the fictional city of Krat, Lies Of P begins with puppet protagonist Pinocchio arriving at a gloomy train station. The station’s tiled floors are slick with blood, and there’s a distinct lack of passengers to complain about the rain pouring in through the ceiling: something is very, very wrong.
The mystery doesn’t last long: the station is littered with lifelike, animatronic puppets, whose makeshift weapons look suspiciously well-used. Once a city of marvels, Krat flew too close to the sun — its mechanical inventions have run rampant, and after slaughtering Krat’s denizens, they’re keen to give Pinocchio the same treatment. Luckily, this isn’t Disney‘s Pinocchio: in Lies Of P, the puppet is a dextrous sword fighter with a formidable steel arm, capable of cutting down weaker enemies with ease.
From the very first train-side scrap, fighting in Lies Of P feels fantastic. Pinocchio feels fluid and responsive to play, while his clockwork foes are intricately animated. Damaged puppets shamble like zombies from Resident Evil, attacking with twitchy lunges that suggest their inner mechanisms are rusted; while better-preserved enemies — like hulking police units or chrome dogs — move with unsettling wind-up grace.
To take them out, you have the usual Souls fare — light and heavy attacks, dodge rolls and sidesteps — but you can also kit Pinocchio out with one of three swords that vary in size. While the lightest blade encourages a flurry of quick attacks, the hefty two-hander offers slow, destructive swings that leave you vulnerable as they wind up. My own choice sat comfortably between the two: light enough to string together combos, but strong enough to dissect puppets through the midriff with a well-timed slice. With each mechanised puppet you kill, Pinocchio’s clothing becomes increasingly slick with their oil. It’s a nice touch, and feels like a manifestation of Krat’s tension, which only grows more cloying with every foggy backstreet you fight through.
As a result, Lies Of P‘s first two chapters drip with atmosphere — although developer Round8 Studio has claimed its parallels to Bloodborne weren’t intentional, they’re hard to ignore. Despite strings of bulbs and gaslit streetlamps, the dilapidated Belle Époque city is mired in gloom. Rain falls in constant sheets, soaking the many corpses that litter Krat’s cobbled streets and camouflaging the puppets that still lie in wait. Though comparisons to Bloodborne ring true, the quiet menace of Krat feels more like BioShock‘s underwater city of Rapture, where monstrosities nest in the ruin of former glories, lurking in every shadow. Within two chapters, Krat feels grotesquely compelling: like the oil that coats Pinocchio after one too many fights, I could feel its impression lingering long after I set my controller down.
While Lies Of P‘s opening chapters ooze promise, the game’s first boss — a gigantic clockwork parade master — was also its first real issue. Dodging his swipes often resulted in Pinocchio clipping with the empty space around the titan’s shoes, leaving me open to an inglorious (and unfair) squashing. I played around with this fight for a while to make sure it wasn’t a skill issue, but kept coming up against the same problem — collisions with the boss were inconsistent, and it felt like I was being cheated out of a genuinely cool battle.
That being said, this is an unfinished build, and it’s possible this gets cleaned up ahead of launch. I sincerely hope it is: despite years of tempering my expectations when it comes to soulslike games, Lies Of P is beginning to feel like one of the genre’s few entries that can live up to its flashy marketing.