A Metroidvania with a bundle of personality, and a hand-scribbled artstyle, Wuppo aims to pitch its stall among a slew of similar titles, and stand out. Does it have enough about it to do that? The short answer? Yes, yes it does.
Wuppo is a passion project for developers Lars Korendijk & Thomas de Waard, that’s taken eight years to see the light of day on consoles, a long time in videogameland. So what are we getting into?
It begins with your character’s (a round multi-legged creature called a Wum) eviction from a live-in hotel, where you’ve spent your days aggravating the staff and making a mess of the place. An incident with an ice cream has proven to be the final straw and our ‘hero’ is booted out of the hotel. So now your task is to find a new home. The tricky part of that is finding somewhere you’re not disliked, and even then, finding a place that isn’t a teensy bit dangerous might prove troublesome enough.
Wuppo is first and foremost an adventure game that dabbles in the platforming and combat of a Metroidvania game. The platforming is fairly frequent, as it’s the most common form of traversal between cities or hub areas and is an enjoyable enough distraction on your way to the adventuring, which can be a touch simplified for advanced tastes.
The positive to take there is that the world the developers have created is densely packed with interesting details and characters. Most of the various residents and inhabitants have something to say, and you never know if what they have for you is useful, flippant, or just plain silly, but it is fun to find out.
The art style for Wuppo has a hand drawn look where everything has a scribbled look to it reminiscent of a child’s drawing. It’s endearing, but it also gains an extra dimension thanks to the undertones found within Wuppo’s lore (of which you can discover more about via collectible filmstrips). There’s a surprising amount of depth to this world, as you travel through dense jungle, caves, carnivals, and odd cityscapes filled with an eclectic bunch of characters. That it’s backed up by a wonderfully whimsical soundtrack only adds to the experience. The level of variety is impressive, and a real show of the personal passion that has gone into such a long-gestating project.
As you roam this world, you’ll stumble upon one of the many boss fights that will crop up. They’re generally a delight, coming across as inventive as they are challenging, with some delightful character design work on display.
The combat kicks in here most of all. Our Wum uses items it collects by popping them on its head like a hat. So if you’re using an in game store, you have to equip your cash to its bonce, and chuck it at the storekeeper. You also can carry candles, matches, and health-giving fruit up there the same way, but in the case of combat, there’s a bunch of weapons to obtain that can be equipped to the Wum’s cranium and are used in a similar manner to most twin stick shooters.
Back to the boss fights, and as inventive and surprising as they can be, they’re also occasionally the cause of an unnecessary spike in difficulty. You really do just stumble upon them most of the time whilst exploring the world and collecting hats, so the first encounter with them will likely leave you under-prepared. That wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but as you can only map a few items for quick use to the d-pad at any time, it means you have to fiddle with the menus, and they pop up as the action continues, meaning you’re sometimes left exposed and fumbling for the correct items for the fight at hand. When a fight is already tough, the last thing you need is a bit of menu rummaging. Still, that really shouldn’t take away from what are some great boss fights.
The story doesn’t really go anywhere special from there. Beyond the hugely beguiling interactions and lovably farcical encounters, it’s a pretty plain bread tale, but one told with a lot of warming depth to it. There’s the odd flaw in the mix, but those are relatively minor annoyances given the strength of the whole. For an adventure that’s a bit lighter in tone than most, you’d be hard-pressed to find a grim time with Wuppo.