South Korean developer and publisher Neowiz created quite a stir with the release of Lies of P’s gameplay trailer last month. Twisting a childhood fable such as Pinocchio into something murky and macabre isn’t an entirely new concept; no, children’s stories often flirt with darkness. Instead, it’s Lies of P’s obvious Soulsborne influence – complete with direct, sometimes mirror image comparisons to Bloodborne – that is turning heads. In an ever-bloating sub-genre of video games, what can Lies of P offer to stand out from the crowd of Souls-like games?
It’s a dark retelling of Pinocchio
Perhaps most interesting is Neowiz choosing Pinocchio for its first foray into Souls-like action, for most Westerners’ frame of reference for the character comes from the mischievous puppet’s depiction in the 1940s Disney movie. As explained by Lies of P director Choi Ji-Won in interview, the Disney iteration of Pinocchio is more family friendly, whereas Carlo Collodi’s original story is much darker and macabre by comparison. This, coupled with Pinocchio’s already established familiarity, are principal reasons Neowiz chose to build a game around the character.
Set in the city of Krat
Lies of P is said to begin with Pinocchio waking up in an abandoned train station in the Euro-stylised city of Krat, itself a city once prosperous during the Belle Epoque era of the late 1800s, now fallen to ruin, its citizens degenerated to madness and bloodlust. A world once beautiful has become a crumbled hell filled with – in Neowiz’s words – unspeakable horrors.
Another reason Pinocchio was chosen as source material by the devs at Neowiz is for the sheer variety of locales in which Pinocchio visits. Wretched amusement parks, the ocean, and inside a whale’s belly are all locations iconic to Pinocchio’s tale (at least, in the Disney version), and whilst there’s no confirmation yet as to whether Pinocchio in Lies of P will venture outside of Krat’s city limits, the fact Neowiz’s director states openly Pinocchio’s diversity in locales is an attraction to adapting the character to a video game means we’ll likely see a raft of imaginative environments to explore.
Original characters will appear
Alongside Pinocchio, we’ve glimpses of the marionette’s maker Geppetto. He’s somewhere in the city, with players tasked with finding his whereabouts. His appearance in the recent Gamescom live trailer is somewhat shadowy though; a semblance of unfamiliarity hangs over his interaction with Pinocchio, so possibly we’re looking at a heart-breaking reunion. There’s a nod to Jiminy Cricket in the Gamescom trailer too; the talking cricket in Collodi’s original fable isn’t as prominent a character as in the 1940s Disney adaption where he’s appointed as Pinocchio’s sidekick by the mysterious blue fairy, balancing wisecracking remarks with pearls of wisdom as Pinocchio’s conscience.
Gameplay is fast-paced, action-RPG in style
Lies of P will be playable in third person and is said to be a Souls-like action RPG with fast paced combat. Of course, if it’s Souls-like then combat we expect to be deep and intricate. Indeed, we see a range of approaches to attack, dodge, and defend in the game’s 40-minute gameplay trailer, with a plethora of weapons and abilities with which to fight the city’s wandering enemies all delivered in a manner that encourages players to be aggressive.
Heavy Bloodborne influence
Let’s address the elephant in of the room: Lies of P is clearly indebted to FromSoftware’s dark fantasy opus Bloodborne. From the dense, crumbled city streets imbued with menacing fog, to its NPCs roaming aimlessly, inflicted with some sort of curse, with twisted narrative complete with multiple possible endings, Lies of P is repackaging Bloodborne’s aesthetic quite liberally. Lies of P director Choi Ji-Won isn’t exactly coy about the comparisons, stating they’re “honoured” their art is mentioned in the same breath as Bloodborne. Whether the similarities are coincidental or not is by the by, for Pinocchio set in a Bloodborne-inspired world might appease FromSoft fans, at least temporarily, who’ve been clamouring for a sequel to FromSoft’s 2015 classic.
Story influenced by lying mechanic
Of course, what is Pinocchio if not a cautionary tale on the perils of dishonesty and hedonism. Neowhiz’s official press release advises players that ‘you must always lie if you hope to become human’, so this aspect of Pinocchio’s original story is present and correct. In fact, speaking mistruths in Lies of P has direct influence on the outcome on the game’s story, with interconnected procedural quests playing out differently depending on how the player lies.
Pinocchio’s Legion Arm adds depth to combat
You may have noticed in the gameplay revealed so far that Pinocchio in Lies of P resembles more of a mechanised humanoid puppet rather than the traditional marionette with strings; his left arm especially is mechanical in nature. In fact, beyond the raft of melee weapons Pinocchio wields in combat, his arm can be interchanged to best suit the needs of the encounter. Some of his arms are elemental, like a flamethrower or a mechanism to cast powerful electric bolts, whilst another is a hand cannon, or extending grapple hook shot that drags enemies into range of Pinocchio’s melee weapon, or a good old fashioned iron fist capable of knocking enemies sideways in one swift punch.
Pinocchio’s Legion Arm great to interact with environment too
In addition to extra weaponry, Pinocchio’s robotic prosthetic arm looks super-powerful too, which will certainly come in handy when traversing and interacting with the game’s environments. Latching onto ladders before sliding down, or wrenching safe doors open, and yanking rusted elevator levers are just a handful of ways Pinocchio will utilise the strength of his Legion arm to interact with the environment.
Combine weapons to make something new
Pinocchio will be using two weapons components – the replaceable arm component, and the blade, comprising Lies of P’s raft of melee weapons. Take the blade weapons, for instance; they’re composed of blades and handles, with each featuring its own unique weight and handling ability. Should players acquire a new handle, they can combine with a blade to create an entirely new weapon. Plus, any stats or upgrades invested into the blade won’t be lost should a new handle be attached.
There’re 30 weapon types
So, the weapon harmonisation system entails 30 different weapon types – from claw hammers, heavy javelins, to fire lighting swords. The breadth of weapon combinations is reportedly set to offer players up to 100 combinations to explore, so adapting Pinocchio’s weaponry to individual ability and playstyle looks a real treat.
Enemies are mechanical monsters and puppets
Krat’s dimly lit alleyways and alcoves are dotted with a broad range of wretched enemies – from easily identifiable marionettes and evil puppets, to hulking mechanical monsters. The once opulent city is said to now be riddled by an unknown plague, with all Geppetto’s mechanical creations coming alive to stalk the crumbling city at night.
Bosses inspired by Pinocchio source material
Throughout Collodi’s original story and the Disney adaption, Pinocchio encounters all manner of horrendous creatures on his quest to become a real boy. The novel’s Terrible Dogfish, later portrayed as sperm whale, or the murderous fox and cat provoke imagery disturbing enough to befit the game’s Bloodborne-esque aesthetic. Who could forget Pinocchio’s encounters on Pleasure Island, amongst the shady organisation who turn boys into donkeys? Well, Lies of P showcases a half-humanoid, half-donkey boss battle in direct hallmark to the game’s source material.
Different combat styles
There’re three combat paths selectable at Lies of P’s outset, with each harnessing specific stats and capabilities to promote a certain fighting style. There’s the most balanced ‘path of crickets’, offering equal focus on strength and speed; the ‘path of the bastards’ harnesses an agile fighting style with particular focus on catching enemies off guard; or the ‘path of the sweepers’ which will see Pinocchio split enemies in two by sheer strength. Pinocchio begins his quest with a specific starting weapon attributed to each fighting style: the sabre, rapier, or clockwork smasher for the balanced, agile, and tenacity combat paths respectively.
Multi-platform game, releasing in 2023
Lies of P is currently slated for release some time in 2023, with PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, and PC the platforms announced at present. It’ll reportedly be made available to download on day one for Xbox Game Pass subscribers.