In 2015 Undertale took the internet gaming community by storm, delivering a subversive, touching, and thought-provoking RPG that was quite a bit more than meets the eye. With a variety of hidden systems, nuances, and branching paths depending on how you played, its perfect 10 rating on Steam, and its place in the hearts of gamers world-wide is well earned and richly deserved.
So it is with reckless abandon that I suggest Wuppo, an indie Action / RPG / Adventure game, embodies the spirit of what made Undertale so special.
The problem is quantifying that spirit. Both Undertale and Wuppo need to be played to be believed – and to explain the nuances and details that make the games unique – beyond their wonderful art-style – would be to ruin a great deal of the fun.
As for actual gameplay, you’re platforming, solving puzzles, killing bosses, and it’s all quite good. In particular there’s a boss battle that requires you to bounce mercilessly on the heads of your allies in order to shoot at your target. It was equal parts hilarious and challenging.
But the platforming isn’t really the point. Wuppo is to ‘Metroid’ as Undertale is to Dragon Quest; meaning their genre exists primarily to be subverted. In fact, I’d argue the game’s genre works against it, being marketed as a Metroid-Vania style platformer betrays the title’s delicate and human touch. At a cursory glance it’d be easy to write off Wuppo. I’m glad I didn’t.
Here’s a brief, early-game example (spoilers): At one point you come across some dudes with sunflower heads that are thwacking things, rummaging for fruit, and generally acting like fools. Having just received the game’s first weapon, and learning there’s a ‘store’, I assumed I shoot these dudes. And I did, making some cash in the process.
But then I realized they weren’t aggro. They never attacked me unless I attacked first. Already fascinated by the game’s off-kilter approach, I wondered if I was doing the wrong thing. I e-mailed the developer:
Is there like a weird morality thing going on? The dudes with the sunflower heads don’t aggro me, but also give out coins. if I kill them will it come back to bite me on the ass?
(Hint: It did)
There are plenty more delightful early-game beats: Cleaning up ice-cream you spilled the beginning of a game. Chatting with an elevator operator about snails, racing that snail, completing a side-quest involving the best way to paint an explosion, discovering a stow-away in your room hiding under some cardboard boxes, and dawning a pathetic disguise and being found out immediately – all in a quest to find a new home.
After these moments the game turns into…something strange and wonderful and weird in its own right – always cute, always smart, always poignant, often involving a real-time day/night cycle of adventures, quests, and distractions – there really isn’t anything quite like it – and I am not even finished yet.
Does it hit the emotional highs and lows of Undertale? Probably not. But then again it’s trying to tell a different story, and trying to make *you* feel a different way. Both Undertale and Wuppo subtly hint at their themes, but obscure it with quality humor, gameplay, and distraction. Undertale ultimately delivered an unintentional gut-punch to your soul if you played a certain way. Wuppo teaches you to avoid such punches – as you giggle at the insanity of all along the way.
The developer’s website put it best: “Knuist & Perzik is an independent game studio from the Netherlands, creating imaginative, atmospheric & humorous games that will provide happy memories.” And in the case of Wuppo, so far, Boy howdy, did they hit the mark.
Wuppo is currently available on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One.
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