Whilst Geoff Keighley’s Summer Games Fest might not have been as packed full of surprises as we had perhaps hoped, we did get a nice little lift last night in the form of a demo drop for Neowiz Games’ Lies of P.

This promising Soulslike has been on our radar for quite some time now, and the South Korean developer has certainly served up a generous first hands-on here, with two full chapters to get stuck into for those amongst you who’ve been hankering for a dark and twisted take on Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio.

Indeed, dark and twisted is the order of the day in Lies of P, with the story of the puppet boy given an all-new horror bent as players explore the Belle Époque-styled city of Krat, dispatching creepy animatronic foes as they inch slowly through the cobbled streets of this blood-soaked setting.

As far as we can tell with regards to the narrative, our old pal Geppetto seems to have set off a rather sinister chain of events, resulting in an outbreak of murderous creations who’ve been busy painting Krat red with the innards of its human inhabitants. This ain’t your Disney’s Pinocchio, that much is for certain. If creepy psychopath puppets and twisted circus performers give you the shivers, well, prepare for scares as our time spent with this one was full of sadistic marionettes and big top freaks with which to do battle.

Speaking of battle, right from the get-go the FromSoftware school of combat is front and centre here. This is a game that hews very closely indeed to its sources of inspiration and, if you’ve spent any time with the likes of Dark Souls or Bloodborne, you’ll need little in the way of a helping hand as you begin to get stuck into murdering your way through the roughly three hours of content that’s on offer in this demo.

Whilst the opening moments reminded us mostly of Bloodborne in terms of the general tone and mood, in the long run it’s actually Spiders’ 2022 steampunk effort, Steel Rising, that’s a closer match in terms of how things feel to play on the whole. The attack patterns and controls are the same as ever in this tough genre, with a light and heavy attack, guard/parry and ability to dodge and roll through scenery to get out of the way of enemy assaults, but there’s an overall slickness that’s just slightly missing here, for our money at least, when compared to the very best of FromSoftware.

Much like with Steel Rising, Lies of P does a very good impression with its combat, and fans of this particular style of game are sure to eat this stuff up regardless, but we can’t help but notice a certain scrappiness around the edges as we engage our enemies and traverse the very pretty environments. Early scuffles have a tendency to frustrate due to a lack of explanation as to the finer details of the game’s sword-based confrontations. Yes, we all know how to block or perform light and heavy attacks, and we’re no strangers to rolling and dodging out of the way, or making space to take a swig from our worryingly slight stock of health refills, but there are other mechanics at play here that the game makes a bit of a heavy-handed mess out of explaining.

Enemies can be staggered, leaving them open to vicious attacks, but it’s never quite clear just how to go about initiating this state beyond hammering them. There’s a sneak attack that can be used to severely punish unaware foes from behind, but it very often doesn’t trigger at all, and early weapons are poor for guarding attacks with as you’ll still take lots of damage, fair enough, but we’re not told about parrying as a means of avoiding damage completely until we’ve been killed several times over. None of this stuff is a huge deal, you’ll get there in the end, but as much as Lies of P is nailing its atmosphere and vibes early doors, we do worry that the combat could be doing with a little tightening up here and there.

We found distances slightly harder to gauge than they should be too, with our sword swipes often connecting or missing when we didn't expect them to. Larger enemies can be a bit of a pain due to this same issue, as we had some difficulty in reading whether or not they were going to connect with a shot. It's the kind of thing you don't get in a Souls game, where everything feels absolutely spot on and any mistake or death is 100% on you. Again, it's slight, we're still having a good time making our way through the action here, but a bit more polish in places could set all this stuff right.

Thankfully, beyond these niggles, there are also plenty of positives to take into account, with multiple combat styles to choose from that cover a balanced build as well as straight up agility and power options to suit how you want to do battle. You’ve also plenty of upgradeable aspects to your character which you can fine tune at the game’s take on bonfires, and we are liking the mix of swords that we’ve discovered so far, each of which has a unique secondary attack that operates on a gauge. These swords and their handles can be swapped out and mixed and matched to give you various special attacks to pair with a weapon’s default power and poise stats. It’s a system that could lead to interesting places if there’s enough variety employed down the line.

Away from the combat side of things, the rest of what we’ve seen looks great. This is a hugely atmospheric experience from the get-go, with an interesting take on a classic story at its core, and we’re definitely looking forward to seeing how its narrative unfolds and how the choices we makes as Pinocchio – yep there are actual lies involved here – affect the story as the campaign progresses.

Overall, colour us very intrigued by Lies of P. It may err more on the side of a faithful tribute to FromSoftware’s peerless output rather than something that’s set to romp to the top of the Soulslike roster, but it’s still got plenty of its own style and an intriguingly creepy premise that should deliver some solid good times for fans of this genre when it releases on September 19th.

Have you tried the Lies of P demo yet? Make sure to let us know how you're feeling about this upcoming Soulslike in the comments below.