The Joy of becoming a better person in Wuppo

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When Wuppo [official site] begins you are gigantic and barely able to run. That is because your lazy character loved watching television so much that he ate one. As you progress, you learn to run and jump and fight, but most importantly you learn to help the people around you rather than being a jerk. Like Undertale and Chulip, this is a game about good citizenship.

It’s a game full of those playful “they thought of that?” touches that make Deus Ex or Paper Mario titles rewarding. You have controls for movement, an action button that does whatever you need in a given context, and a dedicated button for whistling, which is never necessary yet often rewarding. Your nameless character’s health meter is justified as “happiness” – when you make a friend, or watch a new filmstrip, or eat your favorite food, your maximum health increases. For all the Kirby-as-designed-by-Dr. Seuss trappings of the setting, Wuppo takes the idea of self-improvement sincerely.

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And your character has a long way to go – he’s introduced mid-prank-phone-call to Carlo, the manager of the hotel where he lives. It seems he does this all the time. And now he is you, and you’re a jerk of such titanic proportions that after you drip ice cream all over Carlo’s spotless hotel, he throws you out the window, into a jungle with no way home. The beginning of Wuppo, orienting the player to the game, primes you for a collect-the-blue-gun-to-break-blue-blocks Metroidvania, but it’s something altogether different.

Take that TV you ate. Your first Chozo Statue caliber upgrade comes when someone robs you and steals the TV out of your mouth, making you smaller and more nimble. But the game is still basic at that point – you collect items, jump over pits, fight bosses, and make your way through a labyrinth to find your way home.

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Then you get back to the hotel, and after all your travails the manager… has given away your old room and banned you for life. This is where the game opens up into its real shape – your only direction is to find or buy an expensive train ticket to the big city. As you explore the hotel and befriend its inhabitants, you help people out. You clean rooms, you stop a bloodthirsty dessert, and you make friends. You can even get Carlo to admit he’ll miss you a little. You grow as a person, essentially.

A nearby theme park, Wondersplenk, is nothing but side content and gags – you never need to go there. But there is a lot to do, including side-quests and minigames and roller coasters that give you a happiness bonus.

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The roller coasters aren’t themselves anything special, but in a move at once mind-numbing and mind-blowing, you have to queue up to get on them and get that happiness/health upgrade. Thankfully, there are only a few times in the game you have to do something like that. But it condenses everything else in the game into one element to force the players to feel empathy: these little cartoon people around you are all doing their own thing. No one cares that you’re the player.

That grows more apparent in the next sequence, the big city, where a valid strategy is to leave the game on and wait several hours for other characters to finish everything for you. It’s not the fun way, but it’s an option. This is a world where other people have feelings and goals. It’s great to see that in a game about a jerk learning to live with others.

Wuppo is available for Windows via Steam and GOG for £10.99 and £11.79, respectively.

13 Comments

  1. Vilos Cohaagen says:

    I believe Wuppo is the highest rated “hidden gem” game on steam (annoyingly I can find the link for the study). It is delightful and I’m glad I own it :)

    • mechavolt says:

      I bought the game based on that article you’re talking about. No regrets, it’s a great game.

    • grimdanfango says:

      I think this was the original article I read.

      link to nition.co

      It’d be marvelous if someone set up an automated system to collate this information day by day. I’d hate to miss another Wuppo :-) (And who knows how many Wuppos I’ve missed in the past?!)

      • floogles says:

        Thank you for digging that link up, fascinating stuff.

        I agree on the automation, perhaps a steam curator bot?

      • Alberto says:

        Same here.

        I don’t have the patience for most blockbuster releases and love minor indie games I can actually beat

        • grimdanfango says:

          I do a reasonable job keeping my eye on the indie scene since I stopped even bothering to take a second look at anything from the triple-A industry. I was concerned I’d miss out at first, but honestly, it’s the best move I ever made as a gaming enthusiast… my library has been constantly stocked with wonderful, unique and explorative titles ever since.

          But yes, a dedicated discovery tool would be a great addition to further this approach.

      • Vilos Cohaagen says:

        Yeah that was the article I was thinking of. Thanks for finding the link.

  2. grimdanfango says:

    Jeez, whack a spoiler announcement at the top there :-P

    A lot of the fun of the game is discovering all this wonderful nonsense for oneself.

    • grimdanfango says:

      I’ll add – It’s a lovely article to read for someone who have already played, and I’m glad it’s finally getting some coverage!

  3. Fnord73 says:

    I have no idea about the game, but that is Northern Norway plus Finland and parts of Russia, basically Sapmi nation, on the map.

  4. genoforprez says:

    I just bought and completed this game about a month ago and couldn’t believe what a delight it was. An extremely well-imagined world with tons of character on nearly the same level you’d expect from a Nintendo title. And those boss encounters can be extremely challenging! It is definitely one of the great hidden gems in the Steam catalogue.

  5. cpt_freakout says:

    I got this in a past Humble Monthly and immediately disregarded it based on a video since I thought it was just one more straightforward platformer (I don’t need more platformers in my life). I’ve just redeemed my key now, and I hope to play it in the winter break, so thanks for this!

  6. caff says:

    Brilliant game, but I got stuck on an underground puzzle section that drove me absolutely nuts and I refuse to go back sadly :(

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