It’s extremely easy for platformers and side-scrolling puzzle games to fall into a boring comfort zone. A cookie cutter comfort zone plagued with predictable areas; grass, desert, ice, cave, each with two bosses that are defeated after three hits to their flashing red body parts. Complete with an evil overlord, and a damsel in distress to act as a goal. There is nothing technically wrong with this template, but it’s been rinsed and repeated so many times it’s hard to get surprised. Likewise with puzzle games, a clever mechanic can only go so far before it gets boring. Portal, and The Witness pushed their mechanics to the limit just before gameplay got tedious. Many games attempt this level of perfection and fall by the wayside. Wuppo on the other hand abandons all rules and templates for a truly heart-warming and compelling experience. If you enjoy short indie games that favour quality over quantity, I would recommend you stop reading this review and pick it up right away. I will try my very best to avoid spoilers in this review, but Wuppo is best played without any expectations.
The title screen pops into existence accompanied with chirpy music and a crayon drawn art style that has wonderfully smooth animation, instantly you know care and attention has gone into this game. From the way characters speak and move their mouths in such a simplistic but charming way, to how your character skitters across the floor on their little legs. There is lots of attention to detail, some things many players won’t notice or aren’t even slightly required to make the game playable, but it makes Wuppo feel all the more special.
Wuppo’s innocent sense of humour will warm even the iciest of hearts. While it didn’t make me laugh out loud, it had me grinning ear to ear from start to finish. You’ll be chuckling to yourself as you accidentally spill ice-cream all over the hallway floor, just after your friendly landlord told you not to do it again. You’ll always be looking forward to the next piece of dialogue or the next character you’re going to bump into, it’s the kind of humour that anyone can enjoy.
The game gradually opens up in such a way it’s nearly impossible get bored, one moment you’re talking to a Wum that moved his house underwater because of an annoying bird, next you’re solving a puzzle and then suddenly out of the blue you’re fighting a giant boss. The game is structured and paced in such a way that it’s unpredictable without being sporadic. Moments of silent exploration and puzzle solving are broken up with dialogue and simple jumping puzzles. Objectives are also fairly nonspecific, encouraging you to explore each area with freedom. Sometimes there might be times you’re tempted to follow a guide, when you’re uncertain of where to go next, but I’m glad I never did. These moments of uncertainty let you soak in the atmosphere and make you feel like you’re actually a part of this world.
The backstory supporting many of these objectives is conveyed in a very subtle but clever way. Filmstrips are collected throughout the many areas of the game, but you must return to a projector to play them. This may sound like a bit of a chore, but it works in it’s favour, Wuppo manages to transcend this tedium by constructing a world that feels alive. Storms will randomly come and go, day turns to night and trains arrive at the station by a set timetable. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how this is done, but this world won’t wait around for you, it feels like it lives on even while I’m not playing. Likewise, just enough history of this place is given to you through the numerous filmstrips and words of dialogue, your imagination runs wild in it’s whimsical mystery.
Wuppo is like delving into the imagination of a child, full of bizarre adventures and cheeky characters. I was always excited to find out what was ‘round the corner, and I was never given a chance to be disappointed for just how unpredictable and unconventional it is. It captures the sheer joy of childhood without the bruised knees, this is something a game hasn’t done to me since Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, Morrowind or Fez. While not everyone will enjoy it as much as I have, I cannot find fault with it, Wuppo is extraordinary.
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