Poppy Playtime Chapter 3 is an enthralling entry into the iconic series, bringing even more fearsome foes, perplexing puzzles, and juicy lore than its predecessors, and building upon existing mechanics and narratives to bring you a fresh and frightful experience. Unfortunately, some performance issues and bugs hold it back, but should Mob Entertainment roll out those promised fixes, it deserves a near-perfect score.
Poppy Playtime is a series with a name that certainly precedes it. Whether you’ve played the first two chapters or not, you’re sure to have heard of the name by now, or at the very least seen about a thousand Huggy Wuggys out in the wild. This fame is certainly well earned, though – with its unique art style, engaging gameplay, intriguing concept and setting, and more lore than you could ever hope for, it’s truly earned a place in the horror hall of fame over the last few years.
Well, now the hour of joy is upon us and the story continues, as CatNap is here to put us all into a Deep Sleep – and I’m here to be your gas mask by proxy, as I take you on a ride through this Poppy Playtime Chapter 3 review. Oh, and I’ll keep it as spoiler-free as possible, because I promise you that this one’s best played blind, as there are plenty of surprises to uncover in Playcare.
So, of course, Poppy Playtime Chapter 2 had a bit of an explosive ending, with a train we were on crashing, and Poppy ominously informing us that she can’t let us leave. But that’s put to the side for a moment, as we begin Chapter 3 with a retro cartoon introducing us to the Grinning Critters and – most importantly – Poppy Playtime’s CatNap, who is the main antagonist in this new entry.
The animation is, as always, brilliantly macabre, showing us a group of animals begging CatNap to put them to sleep because they’re scared. We then get a short news report discussing the controversial kitty and how even Playtime Co. has all but struck him from the record following some unsavory allegations, going so far as to erase all the promotional art of him and recall him from sale. We then find ourselves back in the Poppy Playtime factory, tossed down a chute and attempting to escape a trash crusher, and it’s all go from there.
Chapter 3 is set in Playcare, the orphanage that Poppy Playtime’s Elliot Ludwig and Playtime Co. opened beneath the factory. As with the Game Station in Chapter 2, Playcare’s courtyard acts as a central hub, branching off into multiple locations that you must progress through in a set order.
The courtyard is wonderfully ominous, with painted skies and fake grass reminiscent of a TV set from something like Sesame Street. It has, of course, seen better days though – with giant scratches, mangled toys, and damaged furniture everywhere. It’s a great focal point that really instills a sense of horrified wonder as you first approach it, and does a great job of driving home the familiar contrast between childhood innocence and the horrors of what happened in the factory.
The map consists of several unique locations, each separately instanced. In the order that you visit them, they are Sweet Home (the large, old building that acted as the orphanage itself), the school, the Playhouse (a building resembling a circus tent on the outside, with a variety of play zones inside), and the counselor’s office, with occasional deviations to control rooms behind the scenes. As always, each location has its own threats and a unique atmosphere, which makes progressing through them all the more terrifying and exciting.
The gameplay maintains the same formula from the first two chapters. You have a central goal that drives you to enter each location, in which you must navigate your treacherous surroundings, make use of different tools, solve puzzles, and escape from nail-biting chase sequences.
The puzzles in Chapter 3 do a great job of taking the same structure from the previous chapters and building on them with new elements. The difficulty of these puzzles has definitely ramped up, too, with fresh mechanics such as turrets, new GrabPack attachments, and other features adding to the complexity of each challenge.
And the puzzles aren’t the only thing upping the ante in Chapter 3, either. On my first venture into Sweet Home, I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderfully claustrophobic horror that awaited me, as I found myself helplessly wandering down endless corridors, stalked from the shadows as I desperately tried to find my way back to reality. It doesn’t end there, either – Deep Sleep does a brilliant job of tapping into a variety of horror styles, leaving you constantly on edge as to what comes next, and consistently subverting your expectations.
Another great example of this is the first real chase sequence you encounter, featuring a character that Mob Entertainment has kept entirely under wraps before release. Instead of the linear chases we’ve come to expect from the first two chapters, this one sees you weaving in and out of hallways and through different doors, solving puzzles in order to open shutters in time to make your escape.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of chase sequences – despite being a massive fan of horror games, I find them to be more frustrating than anything. However, I have to give this chase credit for how intense it is at first, as you scramble and desperately try to get your head around the labyrinth ahead of you.
It definitely requires quite a few attempts (or a good walkthrough) to make it through this part, as there’s little room for error so you really need to learn the route in order to make it through – which, in my experience, detracts from the fear as you get a little too familiar with the monster, as well – but it’s worth it, and gives you a great feeling of accomplishment when you come out on the other side.
All of this culminates in an epic showdown with CatNap at the end, which makes use of multiple mechanics we’ve learnt throughout the chapter and has us managing multiple systems at once in a segment almost reminiscent of the FNAF games. It’s nerve-wracking and also somewhat bittersweet as you best yet another foe, making for a very satisfying conclusion to an extremely turbulent chapter. And, as always, it leaves you with even more questions and an eager taste of what’s to come in the next chapter.
The narrative is just as twisted and dark as we’ve come to expect of this series. It continues to build on the world of Poppy Playtime, dropping some absolutely fascinating snippets of lore that are sure to keep theorists busy for the foreseeable future, while bringing up plenty of new questions that I can’t wait to find answers to. That’s not to say that Chapter 3 is lacking in content though – it’s easily the longest chapter we’ve had so far, taking anywhere between three to five hours, or even more if you take your time exploring every corner and soaking up the small details.
The story behind Playtime Co., Play Care, and all of the Poppy Playtime characters – including both CatNap and the Prototype – is even more fleshed out, with elements drip-fed to you through cutscenes, environmental clues, and, of course, those collectible VHS tapes. It’s delicious, with a heart-stopping final sequence that already has me on the edge of my seat in anticipation of Chapter 4.
In terms of sound design, Chapter 3 continues with its wonderfully eerie mixture of ambient noises punctuated by the occasional piece of music to emphasize the atmosphere, and some great voice acting from allies and enemies alike. There are some truly imaginative tracks that incorporate sirens and bells, too, which really add to the sense of urgency in the moment.
So, how does Poppy Playtime Chapter 3 perform? Well, full disclosure, I could only get access to a PC version of the game for this review, so I can’t currently comment on how Chapter 3 performs on Switch. As for PC, the visuals overall look absolutely beautiful, and show a marked improvement over the first two chapters, with showstopping environments and so many gruesome details that it’s hard to soak it all in at first glance. I also experienced next to no framerate drops or stuttering, load screens are quick, and controls generally feel very responsive.
However, the pre-release build that I played saw quite a few issues with bugs, which is a real shame. From batteries and cables not working as intended to monsters getting stuck in shutters or phasing through objects, there were quite a few areas where a lack of polish hindered my experience – I can only be grateful that checkpoints are pretty frequent, or I might’ve ended up yeeting my keyboard and mouse out of the window.
On the bright side, Mob Entertainment has already promised a daily rollout of small updates following launch. I also reached out to the dev team and they assured me that all of the problems I highlighted are known bugs that have been or are already noted, and will be addressed as the dev team continually updates the game throughout the week.
As such, I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt in this scenario, and put faith in the fact that these issues will be resolved shortly and we’ll be able to enjoy this brilliant chapter in all its glory soon enough. Though, honestly, I can’t help but wish that it had been left in the oven to bake for another week or two so that my first playthrough hadn’t been tarnished with these hiccups.
Overall, Poppy Playtime Chapter 3 is a truly impressive continuation of the iconic series, capturing all of the magic that makes the first two entries so revered and building on it with some enthralling new elements. With heaps of engaging puzzles, terrifying chase sequences, and so many surprises, it’s sure to impress any PP fan out there – that is, as long as it gets the TLC it deserves in the coming patches.
If you need a refresher, be sure to check out our Poppy Playtime Chapter 1 review and Poppy Playtime Chapter 2 review, or see where it all began with our Poppy Playtime Chapter 1 walkthrough. We’ve also got a super interesting Poppy Playtime interview with Mob Entertainment, along with a list of the best Poppy Playtime toys in case you fancy your own wuggy to huggy.