Jack Holmes: Master of Puppets Review (PS5)

You can ride the rides!

By Paul Hunter

During my five-hour playthrough of Jack Holmes: Master of Puppets, one thought kept recurring: I can't believe this was created by a single developer. This survival horror game, available now on PS5 and PC, is genuinely scary, has superb macabre graphics and is absolutely dripping with inspired scenarios.

You play as Jack Holmes, a guy long unemployed who is forced to join his family business which, it seems, involves investigating disturbing cases involving disappearances and murder. Jack soon finds himself at a creepy house where lots of terrible experiments have been done on children and is now the home of living puppets, man-eating spiders and out-of-control animatronics.

While the first half an hour or so went by slowly and was a bit confusing, once you actually get inside the creepy house, Jack Holmes's real draw finally reveals itself: the incredibly creative and detailed environments. Each room has its own personality, like a medical room where nasty experiments took place, a jail corridor where the poor victims must have been trapped, and a terrifying den filled with life-size spiders. And all those areas will be explored in just the first ten minutes after arriving at the abandoned house.

From there you'll venture into a deadly mine filled with hungry spiders, including the first big boss fight against an ugly monstrosity. The cave leans into the 'survival' aspect with limited bullets and health kits, plenty of nasty spiders to contend with, and even a section where you're completely defenseless. Oh, and there's a spine-chilling Dark Souls-inspired giant pit where you take leaps of faith as you carefully fall way, way down to the bottom.

After leaving the cave, which is about the halfway point in the game, the best part awaits you: Jack Holmes' huge amusement park. It was this section that left me in awe as I visited different attractions that all had their own visual flair, animatronic characters, accompanying soundtrack and a vibe all to their own. For instance, the first zone is called Animal Village and is basically like stepping into a first-person Animal Crossing, only this version goes sour fast and the once cute bunnies and beavers become blood-thirsty animals.

The rest of the amusement park is filled with creative attractions, including a terrifying trip through Bubu's Funhouse complete with a killer bunny that only moves whenever you're not looking at it. You'll also get transported into a video game called Cyberglitch (a parody of Cyberpunk 2077), visit Wild West and Medieval-themed areas, and go inside the Phantom House filled with creepy ghosts, zombies and puppets that move like the young girl from The Exorcist.

There are many clever puzzles in this game, too. In one scenario you actually play Squid Game's glass bridge, and yes, I tumbled to my death several times. Other puzzles include finding lock combinations, gathering toys while a killer rabbit stalks you, navigating a glass mirror maze, and broken floor jumping sequences where one wrong step spells disaster.

Jack Holmes: Master of Puppets firmly embraces its survival horror genre with limited bullets and health kits. Never once did I completely run out of bullets, but there were plenty of times when I was dangerously low on bullets and terrified of turning the next corner. Boss fights all left me with low health and low ammo, so they achieved their goal of making me sweat bullets thinking I wouldn't survive the encounter.

What makes Jack Holmes really memorable is you can ride all the functioning attractions in the amusement park. There's a giant Ferris wheel that gives you a breathtaking look at the entire park, several rollercoasters complete with thumping rock music, and a leisurely pirate boat ride that gradually gets faster and scarier as it devolves into madness. You'll have to work to ride the attractions though, as you can only ride them if you find the cleverly hidden admission tickets.

While the game's positives far outweigh its negatives, there are a few cons that stand out, particularly the rather clunky and limited combat featuring only a pistol and a shotgun. Aiming down sights doesn't feel very accurate, so I hip-fired my way through the entire game. But even with the hip firing bullets would often miss enemies, reducing my already low ammo counts to drastic levels.

Another frustrating part is how enemies will suddenly spring out and rush you, not giving you enough time to react and kill them before they've shredded your health in half. There's a real disconnect between how quickly enemies move versus the amount of time it takes to kill them, so combat scenarios can feel unfair.

I also didn't like how little your light illuminates the path ahead of you. There were times when poisonous spiders on the wall would start spewing green slime on me, yet I couldn't even see them because of the limited lighting. The low lighting certainly adds to the game's overall horror vibe, but it comes at the sacrifice of the occasional cheap death.

The Verdict

Jack Holmes: Master of Puppets may not have the refined quality of a AAA horror title, but what it does offer is a suspenseful, frightful FPS trip through some of the most inspired scenarios I've seen in a horror game yet. The fact that one person developed this entire experience is all the more impressive. I had a blast playing this FPS horror title and it's easily one of the biggest and best surprises of 2024.

Final Score: 7.5/10 - Good

Jack Holmes: Master of Puppets details

Platform: PS5, PC
Developer: TonyDevGame
Publisher: Perp Games
Genre: Survival Horror
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher.