The best way to terrify an audience is to mingle the scary and the commonplace.
Doctor Who has made shadows and even plain old statues the stuff of nightmares in recent years, while the Child's Play flicks do much the same with dolls.
Turning a band of puppets into a mounting army could well give our stringed friends much the same kind of edge, yet Battle of Puppets twists things the other way.
Here, combat is cute and warfare rather wondrous. Rather than souring the common, this is a game that sweetens it with fun gameplay and colourful visuals.
Break a leg
This is due, in large part, to the game's visuals, which appear to be the delicious debris of LittleBigPlanet colliding head on with the style of a samurai. Both perky and oriental at the same time, the game's operatic setting also deserves praise.
Though essentially a series of castle-versus-castle encounters, each battle is portrayed as an opera. These artistic puppets are keen to export their own brand of opera to cities across the United States, and taking out rival packs of puppets is your goal.
Dominating the scene means balancing offence and defence, sending out puppets from your base on the left of the screen to take down your rival's house on the right. With a total of nine puppets at your disposal at any one time, Battle of Puppets requires mindful action.
The time and resources needed to construct and equip your warriors - each one coming with a specialist skill - encourages planning out your line of attack, rather than simply ploughing head-on.
The idea is to upgrade your base to foster more and more hardened warriors. Tank-like puppets, for instance, offer a particular advantage: they fire upon enemies with gusto, taking down fortifications with relative ease.
The trade off comes in the fact that they take longer to build and require two upgrades before they can be equipped.
As a result, bringing them into the action takes time, the battle often swinging wildly against you before you can employ them to tip it back in your favour. Patience is required, and it can be hard waiting for your troops to mount up while the enemy charges towards your defensive line.
The 2D layout depicts this tug-of-war well because the balance of power is illustrated literally: whichever band of troops is closest to the enemy's base is more than likely in charge at that point.Until the fat lady sings
Such is the compelling nature of these contests that it would be especially easy to overlook the game's few faults. In truth, however, repetition is its one real weak point: each city you visit plays out in much the same fashion, just with a harder edge.
Restrictions like time limits are placed upon your shoulders and each tussle naturally ramps up the challenge a little higher than its predecessor, but you're essentially doing the same things, over and over again.
That, of course, isn't so much of a problem if you enjoy what's on offer in the first place, and Battle of Puppets is as well placed as any quality release on the App Store to keep you entangled in its opera of assault.