Joyville was once a thriving city, where tourists come to visit and marvel at the genius of The Master, a puppet maker whose mechanical creations were the main attraction of the town. However, one day the citizens started to disappear mysteriously, kidnapped by some evil dark force. On the now nearly deserted town, the owner of a hotel hires a detective to find his missing grandson. The sleuth wanders the empty streets and vacant houses, investigating each corner of the city for clues about the case.
PuppetShow: Mystery of Joyville is a hidden object game with adventure elements. The main screen shows one of the Joyville's locations, with sparkles shimmering over the interactive portions of the scenery. A single sparkle indicates a simple interaction fixture, like an exit hotspot or some place with a zoom view. Several sparkles show the position of one of the hidden object scenes. These scenes take place on a separate screen showing another angle of the location, where the objective is to find all the items listed at the bottom. Some of the objects found are stored in the inventory for later use. The hint button shows the exact position of one of the required items, but takes a minute to recharge after use.
One of the surviving puppets is a spider-like mechanical creature with a doll's head, that scurries across the scenery to guide the player to the next location. In some places, the goal is to use the available inventory tools to solve a puzzle, by dragging and dropping the items on appropriate and logical portions of the scene. The inventory opens up as a fan at the bottom-left, displaying all the objects on slots at the tip of each blade.
Some of the puzzles take place on a separate screen, where a mechanism has to be manipulated directly to solve it. A skip option is available for all the puzzles after sixty seconds.