The Theater like you’ve never seen it before…
Ah, the beauty of theater! A haven of peace and serenity, shielding us from the daily burdens, anxieties, and fears that besiege our fragile minds. It’s an ideal opportunity to admire the extraordinary performances of great professionals who dive into works of high artistic caliber, such as the Greek tragedies of Euripides, the masterpieces of William Shakespeare, or the great works of Samuel Beckett and Christopher Marlowe. And what about comedies? What could be more beautiful than laughing and enjoying a light-hearted, pure comedy performance? A magical moment to immerse ourselves in another world, a parallel dimension, brimming with fun and joy, entertaining both young and old alike. It truly seems like an authentic paradise, don’t you think?
Well, not today. The show, or shall we say, the tale we’re about to share with you, unveils the dark and harsh reality concealed beneath the beauty and spectacle of a theatrical performance, revealing its most grimy and grotesque facets. t’s the kind of tale that perhaps none of your children would want to hear… However, this doesn’t make it any less of a captivating story. Yet, it is perhaps this suggestive aura of mystery, this dark side, that heightens its appeal.
Allow us to introduce you to Once Upon A Puppet, a surreal and delightful 2.5D puzzle-platformer developed by the independent game studio, Flatter Than Earth. Set in a mysterious and twisted theatrical-inspired world, the story follows Drev and Nieve, two victims caught in a larger scheme than they could ever imagine…
Are you ready to learn more? The time has come. Tuck your little ones into bed, join us, and don’t lose yourselves in the shadows!
Flatter Than Earth: Let’s discover who the makers of Once Upon A Puppet are
The story of Flatter Than Earth began several years ago, from an idea, a bit crazy – as the development team tells on their official website – and dare we say, also successful, by founder Martin Malek. The funny and absurd part? Martin had no prior experience as a CEO, but simply believed firmly in this project. So, in just 8 years, he brought the project to life, quickly transforming Flatter Than Earth from a “simple” company of graduates and aspiring developers into a team of experts and seasoned professionals, ready to share their vision with the world.
Since 2021, the studio has entered the video game industry under the name Flatter Than Earth, assembling a fresh senior team to bring Martin Malek’s brilliant concept to life. Below, we provide an excerpt of Martin’s vision for Flatter Than Earth, which will help you better understand the company’s aspirations, ideas, and mission.
“I started Flatter Than Earth to first and foremost make games that are balanced on all fronts. All our endeavors are aimed towards great gameplay and a fantastic look and feel. Our weak spot is the need to chase unique designs and create high quality art/sound. There is no other way. Compromises that make a weak interactive experience cannot be allowed. We take advice but also guard our vision. We promote individualism and independence within the games limits. We strive to build a game that will stand out from the crowd and we believe that we are on the right path to do so.”
Flatter Than Earth is a fully remote studio, with talent spread across three continents and half a dozen countries, including new designers and engineers alongside seasoned industry veterans from studios like Ubisoft and Blizzard. Their mission is to create games that are both familiar and unique, enriching players’ experiences with pure fun and fantasy.
At the core of their ethos lies innovation, as they reimagine traditional challenges and delve into captivating themes such as theater, puppets, and music. This results in an experience that not only stimulates the mind and touches the heart but also serves as a genuine source of inner growth.
And this is where Once Upon A Puppet comes into play, their debut video game, a fascinating reinterpretation of the concept of theater, stage play, and the stage-backstage dualism. An experience that will lead us into the dark clutches of the behind-the-scenes and reveal what darkness lies behind the making of a theatrical production.
A StageHand and a Puppet
What dark secrets lurk behind the curtain, hidden from the eyes of the audience? Well, if you’re not an actor or aspiring one, or studying acting, let’s be honest, you’ve asked yourself this question at least once in your life.
Actors preparing for their performance, makeup artists adorning the performers ready to take the stage… No, none of that. Nothing your rational and undisturbed mind could conceive. The story we’re about to tell will lead us into the dark depths of the creation of a theatrical production, where the set comes to life, and actors rehearse their lines. The backstage, a place where all is silent, and shadows devour any poor soul daring to venture within.
Do you truly have the courage to cross the threshold and enter a place that’s off-limits, where you are not welcome? Very well, please, come in. Our story begins.
In the kingdom of theater, another world exists, hidden from everyone’s sight, beneath the stage. Our journey in Once Upon A Puppet begins by introducing the two protagonists: Nieve, a skilled animated Stagehand exiled to the Understage, and Drev, a simple and innocent stage Puppet. Two remarkably unique characters in their own right, with vastly different backgrounds, much like their places of origin – Nieve from above and Drev from below – whose destinies initially seemed so divergent, different incomparable. That is, until the twist of fate moved their paths, entwining them, and, due to a dark and mysterious magic, they find themselves unexpectedly bound together, in the truest sense of the word.
You know, fate can be mocking sometimes, but this time it might have truly improved things. The fusion between Nieve and Drev has physically transformed them into one entity, puppeteer and puppet at the same time, where Nieve, with her glove-like features, pulls Drev’s strings, allowing the two to move as a single entity. And so, our two quirky heroes, brought together by a peculiar twist of fate, will find themselves collaborating, helping each other, learning to trust one another, in an exciting and mysterious journey that will lead them to the front stage, teaching them the true meaning of collaboration and… friendship, the real kind.
The plot of Once Upon A Puppet, along with its outstanding artistic direction, stands out as one of the game’s most distinctive features. Beneath its seemingly simple facade lies a depth of maturity in character development and script. The explored themes delve into various facets of human nature and psychology, including self-discovery, redemption, and how friendship and mutual trust can serve as weapons to overcome any fears that plague our minds.
The Show Must Go On
Once Upon A Puppet introduces itself to players as a 2.5D puzzle-platformer, with the theater acting as not only the backdrop and setting, but also the protagonist – essentially, the the key element around which Flatter Than Earth’s work revolves.
In this world, everything is theater. From the stage props to the scenery, and even the environmental obstacles, including the very tiles on which we place our puppet-like wooden feet. The characters around us, and the humor that characterizes them, are also a product of the ingenious art of theater.
In Once Upon A Puppet, players will be invited to traverse the depths of the curtain to the much-coveted front stage, engaging in gameplay characterized by deep and intricate platforming, a crazy mix of creative and artistic theater-themed puzzles, and elegant combat phases against the abominations lurking in the shadows. Our sole objective? Keep the show alive!
The artistic direction is undoubtedly the most striking aspect of the production, the studio’s hallmark, which showcases high-quality sets with beautiful color schemes and shades, demonstrating the team’s attention to both large and small details.
It will also be fascinating to see how Flatter Than Earth’s team has handled puppet controls and how the actions between Drev and Nieve are coordinated, including their approach to movement, action, and puzzle-solving, especially compared to a game like A Juggler’s Tale, which placed the responsibility of the puppeteer on the player.
Regarding inspirations, we cannot overlook the potential reference to a video game that few of you will remember, which Flatter Than Earth’s work seems to be the spiritual successor of – Puppeteer, a platform video game developed by Japan Studio (the creators of Gravity Rush, Ape Escape, Knack) and released on PS3 back in 2013.
However, as we have mentioned, the only true and reliable source of inspiration for the game’s production is theater, in all its forms and representations—an homage to the magic behind theatrical performances and the efforts, dedication, and sweat required to bring them to life.
When will Once Upon A Puppet be available?
According to Flatter Than Earth, Once Upon A Puppet is planned to be released in 2024 on PC, via Steam. Currently, the studio has not confirmed any console versions of the game, but they have also not denied the possibility. This leaves open the possibility that the game might see a console release in the future, following its initial release on PC.
The developers have not yet announced a specific release date or window, but rather a general “2024,” as displayed on the game’s Steam page. For more updates on this matter, please stay tuned.
Thus far, Once Upon A Puppet has left us with a more than positive impression, and we’re truly appreciating the dedication put forth by Flatter Than Earth in its development. We’re eagerly anticipating further insights and have full confidence that the team will persist in this direction, which, we reiterate, is the right path!
We also remind you to visit the developers’ official website to discover more details about them and their intriguing production. And don’t forget to check out Once Upon A Puppet’s X account for updates and behind-the-scenes insights into the development process.
That’s all for today. We’ll see you in the kingdom of theater.