Some of my favorite games are ones that remind me of my childhood, either in the way they feel, play, and are presented, or the themes and overarching stories they try to convey.
I think it’s because childhood was a simpler time, one before the constant connectivity of cell phones and the internet, before the responsibilities of having a job and needing to pay monthly bills, before the permeation of my modern day cynicism regarding anything potentially good in my life… And I know I’m not alone in this emotion. A common word many use to lovingly describe the feelings evoked from some of their favorite titles is nostalgic. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, one that can lead us to overlook glaring flaws or turn offs that others may readily perceive and reject, but to us, it’s perfect as is. Having the opportunity to preview Wuppo before its release, I feel I’ve been entertained by a sensation of nostalgia, not through its imperfections, but through its aesthetic, attitudes and just plain enjoyability. If you loved such titles as Cave Story, Super Mario RPG/Paper Mario, or even Binding of Isaac, you’ll definitely enjoy or at least appreciate Wuppo.
A passion project of Knuist & Perzik’s Lars Korendijk & Thomas de Waard, Wuppo tells the story of a young scallywag of a Wum who is unjustly ejected from its room in the Wumhouse for letting a little bit of ice cream spill on the floor. Now outside and far from safety, it is forced to fend for itself against unfamiliar environments, dangerous enemies, and unfair price gouging from independent salesmen. An Action RPG at its heart, Wuppo is a Metroidvania that shines with personality from the hand drawn animations and environments, to the personal and personable interactions of the game’s denizens. Most areas of Wuppo are full of life and verticality, with branching paths that cross over each other and provide plenty of secrets to uncover. Character movement is smooth and fluid, with double jumps helping the player reach higher ledges or distant platforms. Once you’ve gained your first gun, the gumgumgun, you’re able to aim and shoot at enemies and objects. Firing is responsive and playful with gum gum bullets taking exaggerated arcs through the air, limiting your range and forcing you to measure your shots to make them count. A variety of weapons, as well as headgear and other items, can be acquired through story progression and exploration, as well as the multiple shops throughout the world. Character progression, namely health increases, are gained by performing great deeds, either through combat or conversation.
Social skills are a must, as almost all creatures can be interacted with for better or worse, depending on your choices.
Dialogue between characters is often times hilarious thanks to the quirkiness of each interaction and the uniqueness of each NPC. While playing the pre-release version I had a particularly amusing conversation with Denksnevel, your knowledgeable bird companion when he informed me that, just as heads up, my preview would end once we boarded the train. My character was then given the choice to agree and continue, or question his statement with, “What are you even talking about?” Naturally, I picked that, and was presented with more chances to frustrate Denksnevel’s attempts at explaining he was trying to talk to me, not my Wum. Such clever writing throughout Wuppo helps make every moment of gameplay constantly delightful and wonderfully surprising, keeping the player captivated throughout their journey.
Besides confabulation, the art of Wuppo is another engrossing element awaiting players.
As mentioned before, all characters and environments are hand-drawn, specifically by Lars Korendijk. His work is beautifully expressive, with a grand range of colors and linework. All menus, dialogue boxes, and sprites are lively and fun, superbly straddling the line of childish whimsy and professional design. Everything seems meticulously crafted to fit together, with carefully chosen color palettes and character design, but is loose enough to seem like a happy accident that just works perfectly.
The sounds and music of Wuppo is yet another excelling segment of the whole, thanks to the work of Thomas de Waard. Youthful melodies and ludic beats are found in an overabundance as they warmly harmonize together to create an enthralling soundtrack that you can’t help but smile along with as you listen to it. Many of the tunes are related jingles that eagerly await your ears as you return to previous areas, be it the change of the happy chug of the Wumhouse theme during the day to its lazy lullaby sleepily playing at night, to the wistfulness of Burt Smulder’s story time theme, to the seemingly duplicitous theme of the Popocity promotion team’s creator. Each arrangement is carefully developed to convey the appropriate emotions the composer intended.
Overall, Wuppo is an excellent example of how great a good game can be. Every piece found within has been fine-tuned and polished to shine in the eyes and ears of those fortunate enough to experience it. Gameplay is enjoyable, controls are tight and responsive, characters are alive and full of personality, and the soundtrack is more than a pleasure to listen to on a regular basis. Multiple difficulties, varying dialogue options, and a plethora of collectibles help encourage replayability. Wuppo is my future nostalgia.