Wuppo: Hands on Preview
Scallywag, a sloppy Wum, who can never keep his ice cream from messing up the entire Wumhouse, one day gets on the nerves of the caretaker and is kicked out. He sets off to try his luck with the folks at Popocity to see whether they’d be more forgiving to have such a clumsy Wum as a neighbour.
Everything about the world of Wuppo is silly, but in a good, kind-hearted way. The story starts a long time after a big conflict in which a war-like race, the Fnakkers, were defeated by the combined forces of the Wums, the Blussers and the Splenkhakkers. Times are peaceful and your hero is propelled on his quest not by some righteous force, but because he’s been too lazy to clean behind himself. You walk around exploring the brightly-coloured world and interact with other charming and idiosyncratic little living blobs out minding their business.
Wuppo is the first game by Knuist & Perzik, a two-man indie dev from the Netherlands, and was initially conceived way back in 2009, but moved along in fits and starts until two years ago, when the duo could focus on it full-time. It was funded in part by Creative Industries Fund NL, an initiative established to support creators working in new media like video games
At the start I was slightly puzzled by the game having been labelled an RPG when it seemed like I was playing a linear 2D platformer. Getting deeper into the story it became apparent that the developers used a clever way to force a player to explore and play the game like they would an open-world RPG even though in essence it was a linear platformer. The NPC mobs that swarm other RPG’s don’t really exist in Wuppo, instead there are long stretches of gameplay where you’ll encounter hostile beings you have to shoot your way through, at the ends of which there will be a boss battle. These are really hard. Even after you’ve internalized their moves they are hard to surmount without the best items and all of the upgrades you can find at that point in the game. By smashing you into a wall of difficulty every time you see the boss health bar light up at the top of your screen the game makes you backtrack and explore every nook and cranny of the world you might’ve overlooked by thinking you were playing a linear platformer.
In terms of mechanics the game is very simple – you can only use a single item at a time and the only stat you need to keep an eye on is your health. Your inventory might be huge and the amount of things to find and combine is pretty amazing, but you don’t need to be bogged down in minute micromanagement of your character all of the time.
The true charm of the game comes in the countless pieces of small comedic gold nuggets you find in almost every interaction with the inhabitants of Wuppo. Even though the design of its world is very low-poly, the facial expressions of the tiny living beings are detailed enough to instil a liveliness you wouldn’t expect from only seeing the trailer. In terms of the dialogue this game truly holds up, you never feel like you’d rather just skip a random encounter with some non-essential character because the text is dull. Wuppo is also the first game I’ve played which doesn’t make you eye roll after characters break the fourth wall.
Bear in mind that I’m reviewing an incomplete version of the game and I’m sure there’s quite a lot of content I haven’t been able to access, but the incomplete version I’ve been able to access holds a lot of promise for the complete game. Besides a few issues with the sound I didn’t notice any bugs with the beta.
At a time when we’re been hit with the latest expansion of WoW and the mind-boggling infinitudes of No Man’s Sky it’s great to know that small, silly RPGs that are still incredibly fun to sink a whole afternoon in, like Wuppo are being made.