Nothing quite peaks our interest better than an opening scene filled with destruction and impending doom. We see the drama unfolding and immediately want to discover why and how it’s happened, and more importantly, if we can prevent further chaos.
This is how Professor Lupo: Ocean begins.
It isn’t quite as explosive as some of the bigger brand titles available, yet its simplistic and unique aesthetic ensures you’re aware of what’s been happening ready for when your character wakes up. Once this happens, you’re thrown into a crumbling environment of a fallen space station, one which is slowly filling with water and hungry creatures.
To those who are familiar with developer BeautiFun Games, the name Professor Lupo, with this game following on from the events of the first game, Professor Lupo and His Horrible Pets. In that instalment, gamers navigate the 2D grid of the Aurora Space Station while avoiding the Professor’s escaped alien pets. The indie title proved to be a delightful puzzle game that challenged you as the mysteries of the Aurora Space Station were slowly revealed.
Professor Lupo: Ocean opens on the station looking even more worse for wear, but the unique gameplay and aesthetics the series is known for remain much the same, there to help propel your character along the winding corridors of the station and its flooded rooms.
As someone who didn’t play the first game (I know, bad gamer etiquette), I didn’t know what to really expect when I woke up on the Aurora without my memory. I knew puzzles were inbound, but I didn’t know how easy or difficult they’d be, if there’d be much of a story, or whether I’d be gripped enough to see it through to the end. All I did know was that the game looked like an anime, which helped me warm to the title quicker — there’s a rustic charm to the game’s appearance that’s familiar and comforting.
Having been swayed by its looks, the next hurdle I had to overcome was whether I would enjoy the puzzles. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I can become frustrated if I can’t solve something quickly or with ease, which is why I have a love/hate relationship with most puzzle games — I want to play them and learn their secrets, but I don’t handle being outsmarted very well.
Fortunately, Professor Lupo: Ocean starts players off gently instead of throwing them in at the deep end; the first few levels are quite straightforward to navigate. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit some had me momentarily stumped, but once your brain starts working logically, you soon adapt to what the environment throws at you. Nonetheless, although it started off simple, the difficulty progresses quickly, with the later levels becoming equal parts challenging and frustrating. This difficulty was then worsened by the game’s controls.
I can’t speak for PC or mobile players, but for those playing on the Switch the way you control your character doesn’t feel well matched with the style of game. By default the game makes use of motion controls to interact with your character and various puzzle objects, such as switches, doors, etc. For some titles, motion control adds a deeper level of immersion, but in this case, the control just didn’t feel as initiative or as natural as they should have, like there’s a barrier between you and the game. Luckily, you can turn off the motion control and use the D-pad instead. This still feels unnecessarily clunky, though ultimately it proved far easier to use… until it came to the timed puzzles.
Yes, there quite a few timed puzzles, and when time is of the essence, the last thing you want are sluggish controls that mean your character takes two seconds too long and is gets eaten. I wish I was joking, but that happened more times than I care to admit. In fact, there were so many times this happened that I was ready to throw my controller at the TV.
I’m pleased I didn’t though, because despite its occasional flaws the experience is a subtly immersive story that compels you to seek out the answers to the persistent secrets of Lupo’s experiments. No matter how maddening a puzzle proved, I still longed to beat the level so that I could learn what fate had befallen the crew of the Aurora Space Station.
Speaking of the station and its crew, although this game is a sequel, you don’t need to have played the first game to understand what’s going on. Nevertheless, while it may not be necessary, I would argue that it’ll help you adapt to the puzzles and controls if you have experience of the previous game.
Those coming from the first game might also feel that Professor Lupo: Ocean comes up short in terms of length. Professor Lupo and His Horrible Pets offered 100 levels, but this adventure is much shorter with just 40 of them. Professor Lupo: Ocean is pitched as an epilogue and priced much lower than the original, but it’s something to bear in mind.
Once a level is completed, you’re able to go back and redo it, which is handy for those of you who love getting all the collectables. Each level has a document to collect, provided you can figure out how to get to it, but doing so will put your life in greater danger. If you want the easiest playthrough possible, my advice is to leave them well alone unless they’re easily within your grasp.