What can one say about one of the more surreal products this industry has created? What can one say about Puppetland and Power Kill? They work.
Both games are boundary-stretching experiments from the talented John Tynes, who has already shown how to give new life to Call of Cthulhu. Puppetland draws on the conventions of children's television shows, for each episode of the game takes precisely an hour of real time. The PCs are puppets trying to escape the wrath of Punch, who has killed the Maker, the only human in their world. The rules are clear and simple, and the author explains the importance of keeping the mood without making me feel either bored or condescended to.
Puppetland is the more playable game and, coincidentally, the least experimental. The rules are simple and thorough.
I am not sure if anyone actually plays Power Kill, but it can be done. The game is a thought experiment about the kind of violence that makes up many RPG sessions. It is played at the start and end of another RPG. Characters in Power Kill are guilty of crimes committed while believing themselves to be the RPG characters from the other game.
Tynes says that the game is meant to suggest answers or at least ask questions about the violence in RPGs, and he succeeded in making me think about the subject. I far prefer the thought experiment of Power Kill to the rant of Violence. This is no surprise. Tynes' writing in general is on my wavelength.
The layout is good, and the art is decent for Power Kill, and good for Puppetland. Do not let the low page count fool you: This product has a complete game in Puppetland, and a thoughtful codicil in Power Kill.
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)