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Lies of P is the first soulslike that sparked joy

Apart from the challenging boss fights, it’s the fantastic story that makes Lies of P so good

When people talk about games like Dark Souls or Bloodborne, it’s always with words like ‘stunning’, ‘challenging’, or ‘rewarding’ and rarely words like ‘fun’. The joy of soulslikes is usually in bashing your head against the wall, studying the wall for its weak points, and then blasting your way through to the other side in glorious fashion. Trust me, I’ve tried them. A lot of them. I’ve played Dark Souls for hours and beat a number of bosses. But not once during these trials did I have anything approaching fun.

That’s because a lot of it feels cheap. Enemies will come up and attack you from behind, then you’ll end up getting stunlocked by a flurry of attacks until you die. I didn’t learn anything from these experiences except to move around exceptionally slowly, and where is the fun in that? I think beyond that, it was the lack of story. I know it’s there somewhere in the item descriptions, but it’s fed to you so slowly. I want to get to know characters, see my effect on the world. I want to be a part of the darkness.

A screenshot from the game Lies of P showing the main character in front of Hotel Krat at night

Lies of P is a loose reimagining of the story of Pinocchio.

Lies of P is filled with cheap tricks, too. There are puppets hiding around corners, zombies that will jump down on you from the rooftops, and creatures that explode once defeated. However, each of these feels like a learning experience. It’s not hard to learn to check corners before you round them, or to back off from enemies after their defeat. And when you learn something like this and put your learnings into practice, you feel smarter, successful, and, dare I say, rewarded.

However, it’s not overcoming the challenging boss fights, or figuring out the best build that makes Lies of P as good as it is; it’s the fantastic story. We’ll get to the lying system in a minute, but before we even get to that, there is just so much to discover and digest. Lies of P is a loose reimagining of the story of Pinocchio, an IP that is beloved enough that you will notice things point at your TV and say, ‘I remember that.’ It’s that nostalgic wave that so many games, movies, and TV shows try to hit, but it’s done in a different style. Some homages are subtle, like Monstro the submarine, while some play out similar to the original story, such as the Red Fox and Black Cat who befriend, trick, and betray you.

Lies of P screenshot showing the Scrapped Watchman boss fight

Lies of P is filled with formidable bosses to fight, but its story is what makes it truly great.

The story of Lies of P gives you enough of the story of Pinocchio for you to know where it’s going, but it still does work to subvert your expectations. Each character is designed and reimagined to fit in with the new world and skipped if they don’t fit. You won’t see Geppetto’s puppet singing or dancing on stage, and he’s definitely not going to Donkey Island to smoke cigars and chug beer. Lies of P has its own story to tell, with just enough nods to the original material.

What it offers instead is the lying system. It makes a meta call by tying you into the story of Pinocchio. You, the player, are a human, taking on the role of Pinocchio, the puppet, but the line between the two blurs. As you play through, you will come across difficult decisions you need to make, often choosing between the harsh truth or the kinder lie. How you respond determines how much humanity you show, which changes how you look, how people react to you, and even how much the hotel cat likes you. The biggest change, however, comes up right at the end, as your ending is then determined by how human you are.

Two statues face each other, revealing a hidden item in Lies of P.

As you play through, you will come across difficult decisions you need to make.

If you talk to another Lies of P player who might have fought the same bosses, discovered the same secrets, or come to the same conclusions, but there always seems to be more to find. There are differences in how people treat you, branching paths, and characters with backstories to uncover. Maybe these things also happen later in soulslike games, but I’ve never seen the same depth of detail as I did in Lies of P. It’s difficult to make me frustrated, and I’m more likely to give up on a boss out of boredom rather than anger. Lies of P was different because I wanted to beat the bosses just to discover more of that delicious story, to see more of my impact, and that motivation is something that few other soulslikes have given me.

I’m sure that taking down bosses that once took you hours in a few hits is fun in its own way, but Lies of P grabbed me from the start and never let me go. It got its hooks in me, but only to play more Lies of P, to read more on bits I missed, to find out more about the outcomes of different paths. It didn’t make me hungry for more soulslikes, it made me hungry for more P. Those strings really got a hold on me.