Lies of P review: No strings on this Pinocchio-themed soulslike
Lies of P is a Soulslike adventure from the developer Neowiz based on the original story of Pinocchio by Italian writer Carlo Collodi, but is it worth your time?
When most people think of Pinocchio they think of the classic animated film by Disney. Like the original story, this 1940s movie was intended for children, and while it retained some of the story’s dark themes and imagery, it was a very different story.
Guillermo del Toro’s interpretation of the story in 2022 was a more faithful adaptation of the source material, but this too was intended for children and once again focused on the titular puppet’s quest to become a real boy. Lies of P however, is absolutely not for children, and this opens lots of violent and creepy doors.
The game retells the story of Pinocchio, including many of the original story’s characters and themes, but amidst a robot uprising where puppets are slaughtering humans using puppet-maker Geppetto’s technology – only his masterpiece, Pinocchio can save the day. The main question most people will have when they realize Lies of P is based on Pinocchio is “Does it work?” and we’re happy to report it does, for the most part.
Lies of P key details
- Price: £49.99/$59.99
- Developer: Neowiz
- Release Date: September 19, 2023
- Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
From a gameplay point of view, the game mimics the now tried and tested Soulslike formula. If you’ve ever played any of FromSoftware’s deliciously dark adventures, or their many (often also pretty good) imitators, then you’ll instantly be at home with Lies of P’s mechanics. We initially felt that the game was a little too derivative, especially of Bloodborne, but as the game revealed more of its secrets, its own identity became more and more apparent. Like Pinocchio himself, Lies of P proved it was less an imitation, and instead morphed to become the genuine article.
While the game tries to be atmospheric and creepy, this doesn’t always come off as the environments are often dull and uninspired. The fictional city of Krat is littered with corpses and debris, but once you’ve seen one overturned carriage surrounded by the mummified bodies of its owners, you’ve seen them all. A plague is also tearing its way around the city, so if the murderous puppets didn’t get the population first, then that certainly will. A hotel is the only safe place in the city now, and that is used as the game’s hub area and where survivor NPCs gather as the game progresses.
Lies of P makes up for its often dull environments with some rather slick combat and fun ideas that shake up battles. It takes a while for the game to spoon-feed you each of its mechanics, but once you get going, your Pinocchio will start to feel less like a pathetic puppet and more like a robot badass ready to terminate.
Building your Pinnochio
We originally opted for a balanced build with the option to switch to something heavier if the situation called for it. However, as the game went on, we realized that combining a dexterity build (called Techniques here) with elemental attacks was much more our vibe. If not a more fiddly way to play.
Pinnochio is equipped with a main weapon (with another in reserve) in one arm, with his other being used as a ‘Steel Arm’ – a customizable secondary weapon that players can use in a variety of ways. The Steel Arm is how Lies of P differentiates itself from other Soulslike games and really spices up combat.
You can really go to town with this mechanic, either using it as a simple way to stun or pull enemies towards you or, if you figure out that one boss is weak against lightning, then equipping Pinocchio with a way to blast that boss will make a previously very difficult fight much easier. We had a lot of fun figuring out what different enemies were vulnerable to and then using that as a weapon against them using the Steel Arm.
The game features a very deep weapon customization system too, letting players mix and match handles, blades, and other things to make some really wacky and bespoke creations. P Organs are another way to customize and craft a build, allowing players to prioritize the skills and attributes that are important to them in granular detail.
Facing the robot uprising
We were frustrated by the game’s stagger system though. After hitting an elite enemy or boss with some powerful moves, you can initiate a stagger when their health bar glows white. However, to do so, you’ll need to hold down the heavy attack button and land the hit, which sometimes just didn’t work or felt impossible to pull off due to an opening never appearing during the heat of battle.
Few bosses give you that precious second to pull off such a move, so we often found ourselves ignoring the stagger mechanic, especially when using one of the slower, heavier weapons. It was much easier to pull off with the quicker ones though.
Bosses are the main event in Lies of P and will test your skills — and at times, your patience. The first boss is an especially tough customer and serves as a way to encourage players to engage with Lies of P’s mechanics before tackling the rest of the game. Players may also find themselves unable to level up once they reach this boss, as the method by which you upgrade your stats changes once you reach it.
This will make life difficult for some players as grinding ceases to be an option, taking the concept of “git gud” to another level. However, we soon discovered a strategy that caused the big puppet to fall to our blade, which is often the case with Lies of P’s bosses. Every one of them has a fatal weakness, it’s just a case of finding it.
While the mechanic isn’t available during the first major boss encounter, by the time you face the second boss you’ll be able to summon an AI companion to help you in battle. This will be a great help to players who struggle with tough boss encounters and it’s fun to have an ally to fight alongside in the absence of co-op multiplayer.
Souls purists may scoff at this idea, but it’s no different from Spirit Ash in Elden Ring or summoning an NPC character in Dark Souls. These allies are unlikely to take down the boss for you, but they’re a helpful way to distract each boss while you work out your strategy. After all, the game has no easy mode for newer players.
The Verdict 4/5
Lies of P isn’t going to be for everyone. Some Elden Ring players may struggle going back to such a curated environment after the freedom offered by the Lands Between, while others may love this classic Soulslike approach, or even prefer it. The game isn’t just for hardcore Souls fans either — in fact, it’s a great entry-level game — ideal for those who don’t want to go back and play older titles, but still really want to give the genre a try.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S