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Poppy Playtime Chapter 3 review – a nightmare and a dream

Poppy Playtime: Chapter 3 is an enjoyable and emotional horror game - as long as you can stick it out through bugs and difficulty spikes.

Poppy Playtime review: Miss Delight jump scares the player in Poppy Playtime Chapter 3, Deep Sleep.

Our Verdict

Poppy Playtime: Chapter 3 is an enjoyable and emotional horror puzzle game that draws to a powerful conclusion, even if bugs, difficulty spikes, and its oddly paced narrative keep it back from greatness.

The Poppy Playtime series has so far consisted of short, snappy, and fairly easy horror games. Based in the Playcare Co. toy factory, the story revolves around a mysterious event in which countless members of staff were killed, but all we really learned in the first two chapters is that deadly toys have come to life seeking blood. Poppy Playtime Chapter 3, however, begins to answer our burning questions, even if it’s an occasionally rough ride to get there.

Using our blue GrabPack hand to open a door during our Poppy Playtime Chapter 3 review.

As an enjoyer of indie horror puzzlers, I’m a big fan of the Poppy Playtime series. The puzzles are just challenging enough without threatening to harm the pacing, and the various tools you’re given in the form of GrabPack add-ons give way to a variety of engaging mechanics. While the latter is true of Chapter 3, the difficulty level here is a little inconsistent, and somewhere near the middle of the story is where I came closest to throwing in the towel. Having now wrapped Chapter 3, I’m so glad I stuck with it.

After being dropped into a trash chute at the very start of the game, your first few minutes are spent in the innards of Playcare, the orphanage-cum-school operated by the toy company. A few mini-games later, you find yourself in the main area, much like the factory in Chapter 1 and the GameStation in Chapter 2. From here, Home Sweet Home, the School, the Playhouse, and the Counselor’s Office are your puzzle destinations, as you need to reroute the power from each to the center of Playcare, with the help of Ollie, your mysterious guardian angel.

Poppy Playtime review: A dark and dingy corridor, with deep scratch marks across the walls and floors, in Poppy Playtime Chapter 3.

The first of the areas, Home Sweet Home, looks like a quaint suburban house from the outside. Inside, though, horrors await, and while the gameplay here is among Chapter 3’s strongest, the storytelling left me a little cold. During a dream sequence in Home Sweet Home – a labyrinth of ever-changing corridors similar to PT, Layers of Fear, and Outlast 2 – a radio plays some rather disturbing news about the creator of Playtime Co. and the discovery of a child’s body in his home. At this point in the story, this feels a little out of left field, and blood-stained kids’ beds and photos of real children feel unnecessarily disturbing. So far in the series, the imagery of death has mostly, if not completely, focussed on adult staff members.

The FNAF similarities are no more obvious than in the next section, the school. Miss Delight, a blonde-haired animatronic teacher, hunts you down in an incredibly challenging chase sequence that’s impossible to complete on the first try. As Miss Delight chases you, and you try to avoid your first Chapter 3 jump scare, you must also complete puzzles. The only way to keep Miss Delight from catching you is by looking directly at her, only making the puzzles harder. Once you’re through the initial struggle and start memorizing your path – being careful to keep Miss Delight in your sights as much as possible and looking away to lead her exactly where you want her – the chase becomes doable. Those first few attempts, though, made rage quitting seem appealing, but Miss Delight, despite being your first deadly challenge, is by far the most difficult.

Poppy Playtime chapter 3 review: A cardboard cutout of Huggy Wuggy looks worn and distressed.

From here, it’s largely plain sailing to the end, but I wish the challenge ramped up more organically throughout the game. Another chase, this time with the tragic DogDay, is much like the encounter with PJ Pug-a-Pillar in Chapter 2. The puzzles are fairly similar to those you’ve already completed, aside from one particularly troublesome one in the caves. In fact, the biggest challenges I faced in Chapter 3 were the gameplay bugs, which left me resetting entire sections, and the overly dark environments. You are parted with your flashlight in the school, as it flickers and burns out, and despite finding a tool a little later that sort of provides you with some light, the pure darkness of the second half of the game left me frowning and squinting at the screen, wondering if I was missing anything crucial, and taking twice as long to complete challenges. If there had been a little more light and fewer simple puzzles, I’d have enjoyed the experience far more.

Poppy Playtime review: CatNap, the final boss in Poppy Playtime Chapter 3, stares at the fallen player through glowing eyes.

CatNap, the final boss, provides an air of difficulty once more, requiring a few attempts to work out just what’s going on. Sadly, the first time I died, another bug lost me a fair bit of progress, but once I got back into the ring, this terrifying final level gave me just what I wanted from Chapter 3 – the perfect balance of challenge and fear.

Despite taking the full game to get here, it’s worth it, as this final sequence changed my entire perspective on Chapter 3. DogDay is really the only character so far to offer any emotion or story (aside from a very missable moment with Kissy Missy in Home), but the end is where the narrative finally starts to come alive, as a powerful cutscene plays out upon defeating CatNap. Shortly after CatNap is ‘taken away,’ you make your way out, complete another brief puzzle, and finally meet up with Poppy for the final cutscene. In these last few minutes, questions are answered, more are raised, Poppy’s voice actor puts on a stunning performance, and two characters are given a truly heart-breaking scene.

Poppy Playtime Chapter 3 review: Poppy sits on the shoulder of Kissy Missy, as the player shines a flashlight on the pair.

I’m not going to say any more about the story itself in an effort to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but I do wish there had been more of this character development spliced throughout the game. After finishing Poppy Playtime Chapter 3, I want to give it a more glowing review than I can, and I struggle to remember the downsides through my new, rose-tinted outlook, but the bugs, inconsistent puzzle difficulty, and backloaded narrative did make my time with the game a little less enjoyable than I’d expected.

The ups and downs were well worth it in the end, however, and any bugs and glitches are already being patched out, so the overall experience should be a positive one for any indie horror game fan. While Chapter 1 and 2 might have had fewer issues, there is a clear improvement in length, difficulty, and story development here, so I can’t wait for Poppy Playtime Chapter 4.