Mob Entertainment shocked the world back in October 2021 as it introduced the world to Poppy Playtime. I say shocked because people really weren’t expecting that horrific chase sequence at the end of Poppy Playtime Chapter 1: A Tight Squeeze. Come to think of it, I’m sure there are a few things about Chapter 1 you weren’t expecting.
I guess the place to start is the beginning. In Poppy Playtime, you find yourself returning to the desolate Playtime Co. Factory ten years after you originally left. You’re here on a whim, but I can’t help but question your judgment as soon as you see that hulking mass of fluffy blue greeting you in the plaza and don’t turn right back around. There’s just something so eerie about this creature, this toy known as Poppy Playtime’s Huggy Wuggy. Well, the reason for my uneasiness becomes all too clear as I go through the chapter.
From the get-go, there’s this instant intrigue. I want to know what the hell is going on here; the atmosphere is very foreboding. Mob Entertainment truly does a great job of putting you on edge in the early stages of the game, yet you don’t really get why. Yes, the idea of exploring an abandoned factory is quite panic-inducing, but that’s nothing compared to the terror you feel when you finally realize your enemies in this game are toys.
As children, we’re taught that our stuffed teddy, or any dear toy we cuddle at night, is there to protect us from those monsters we think live under the bed or in our closet. Mob Entertainment takes this idea and puts a sinister spin on it. Through videotapes and piecing together the convoluted lore of Poppy Playtime, you come to discover that Playtime Co. initially created these toys to help children, yet a dark secret and abysmal practices mean they now wish to harm humans.
There’s a lot more to it than that, sure, but this is a retrospective review, so I won’t touch on Chapter 2 or what we know about Poppy Playtime Chapter 3 (even if our Poppy Playtime Chapter 3 theories feature Huggy Wuggy). Still, even when you know more of the truth and piece together the facts, the thought of your childhood protectors being evil beyond comprehension brings a sense of terror and dread that I can’t recall feeling in any other horror game.
Poppy Playtime evidently takes a lot of influence from Five Nights at Freddy’s, yet, dare I say, it takes what makes FNAF creepy and ramps it up to 11. If you look at the earlier FNAF games, PP trumps them for the eerie atmosphere, and I’d go so far as to say that while Security Breach is a good game, Poppy Playtime still boasts more foreboding surroundings. I feel a greater sense of dread in Poppy Playtime than I do in FNAF, and that’s honestly something I applaud Mob Entertainment for.
However, for the lore and story at large, Poppy Playtime is on par with FNAF. FNAF has a long legacy at this point and impressive lore to back it up, but Mob Entertainment clearly knows what it’s doing, as the game drip-feeds you story beats throughout Chapter 1, leaving you to put the pieces together yourself. As much as I want to talk about the story, and given the game is two years old, I probably could, but I don’t want to run the risk of ruining it for those who want to try and figure this mess out for themselves.
As with many great horror games, Poppy Playtime Chapter 1 (and its subsequent chapter) makes great use of puzzles. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that they only add to the horror. Even in the early goings of Poppy Playtime, you feel pressure when attempting puzzles. You know deep down that these are training you for what’s to come, and the events of Poppy Playtime Chapter 2 are a testament to that.
Your grabpack is your best friend when completing puzzles and exploring the factory. You start with the blue hand after searching the factory’s reception area; you then use its extension feature to slap a blue hand button above the door that leads further into the factory. This feels quite like high-fiving to your own demise. This small interaction serves as a little taste of what’s to come.
Outside of the blue hands, there are numerous different puzzles for you to tackle in Poppy Playtime Chapter 1. For instance, you need to use the colors of a toy train to figure out the color combination to a lock, find fuses to put in fuse boxes, hit sockets to electrify your grabpack so you can open doors, and more. Some of these puzzles are real noodle scratchers. I can’t tell you how long I spent playing Ring Around the Rosie with the conductor poles as I attempted to keep one arm in a socket and navigate myself around the poles and the platforms to place my other hand on the door’s switch.
So far so good, right? I adore the lore, setting, and puzzle mechanics of Poppy Playtime Chapter 1, so that’s where it ends, surely? Well, I’m sorry to say that there are a couple of gripes I have with the game, but this is only when discussing the mobile version, and given what we do at Pocket Tactics, I feel that’s the version I need to focus on. Truly, I adore both of the Poppy Playtime chapters on PC and have no qualms, but the performance on mobile leaves much to be desired.
During my time with the mobile version, I experienced frequent frame rate drops, screen popping, and I simply couldn’t get on with the camera. As the controls are touchscreen, you need to maneuver the camera with your right thumb by placing it anywhere on the screen. Sounds reasonable enough until you realize just how sensitive it is. One small swipe of your thumb doesn’t just slightly adjust the camera. Rather, it forces you to look in a much different direction.
Truthfully, this is pain all throughout the chapter, but it’s excruciating during the chase sequence with Huggy Wuggy. I need to see where I’m going, Mob. You can’t just get that fuzzy ball of death to chase me and quite literally not give me any direction on where to go. To escape, I need to see those sly little hallways on the conveyor belt, not just spin in circles, drop to my knees, and pray to Jesus.
Luckily, the graphics are still pretty good on mobile (I use an iPhone 13), but I can’t deny that it looks prettier on PC. Honestly, the moral of the story here is that Poppy Playtime is one of the best horror games out there, but to experience it as Mob Entertainment intended, you should visit the Poppy Playtime factory on PC.
Poppy Playtime Chapter 1 ushers in a new era of horror games, though it remains true to iconic tropes from the genre, thanks to its use of jump scares and puzzles. Unfortunately, on mobile the game suffers from some performance issues that may hinder your time with the game. Still, the atmosphere and story are enough to keep you hooked. Or, you could play it on PC, where we would score it higher than a seven.