In a perfect world, every video game would have cute pets in it. However, we live in a fallen world, a truism exemplified by the pets of Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets. They’re not quite the evil-but-cute pets I’d bargained on.
Professor Lupo is the archetypal evil mad scientist—a man who has scoured the galaxy for the most dangerous and bizarre aliens he can capture and now seeks to auction them off to the highest war-mongering bidder, for fun and for profit.
The game casts you as the unfortunate, pseudonymous “Intern”, dropped into the spaceship The Aurora to be dangled as bait for Professor’s Lupo video demonstration of his alien pets.
Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets Review
Of course, a guy like Lupo is bound to have ruffled some feathers along the way, which is clearly demonstrated in the way in which The Aurora is suddenly and thoroughly attacked by an organisation known as Blue Ragnarok.
Your job as the Intern is to find your way through the damaged ship’s many levels to an escape pod, evading its now free-range and profoundly pissed off alien inhabitants.
Helping (or hindering) you along the way is a rather salty AI called Plato (who feels a bit like a GLaDOS fanboy), and a Blue Ragnarok agent named Flame.
Modern Problems Require Modern Solutions
Each level in Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets is laid out as a top-down grid-like maze. You need to direct the Intern from his starting point to an endpoint, using doors and contraptions through the level to trap or circumvent the creatures trying to catch and devour you.
Complicating this is not only the panic-inducing fact that the pets can move faster than you can, but each type of alien has its own unique behaviours that you’ll need to figure out as you go. The good news is that these behaviours can be exploited to your advantage.
For example, one of the aliens has a long centipede-like body and can be thereby be trapped in lengthy hallways. Once you’ve figured out a creature’s modus operandi, evading it becomes much, much simpler. And it’s as satisfying to solve a level as it is stressful to be caught and eaten once again.
…I’m Sorry, Man
The design of the aliens is quite well done and the animations introducing these are delightfully cute. That is until they reveal their ‘horrible’ side. In fact, the aliens have a much wider range of animations than the human characters. The aesthetics of the game are similarly mostly enjoyable.
However, some elements feel a little simple in contrast to their settings. For example, the coloured circles and arrows that denote control points and connections are somewhat jarring against their artistically rendered background.
That said, I’d prefer them to be jarringly obvious rather than blending into the background to the point that I couldn’t identify them.
Directly impacting the stress of the game are the controls. Players can choose to play in a point and click mode, selecting which square they’d like the Intern to move to next or which control to activate. Alternatively, they can use the Joy-Cons to move around the level and the buttons to activate control points.
While the point-and-click mode works easily and intuitively, the Joy-Con method really falls short. I found changing directions felt quite laggy, and I often ended up running past a corridor I intended to turn into, only to do the same thing again once I’d managed a U-turn. In a game with serious time pressure that requires pinpoint precision, it was deeply frustrating.
On the upside, it appears to be a game that would translate beautifully to mobile devices.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All!
In complete contrast to this, the menu system is a joy, allowing you to access a codex of information about each type of alien, and letting you return to previously completed levels.
The levels contain up to three collectible items that are considerably harder to reach than the endpoints, and I often found myself having a ‘eureka’ moment when I discovered a new tactic that could help me reach these items in previous levels.
Also delightful is the voice acting.
Which is fortunate, because Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets contains many cutscenes and commentaries throughout each level. Professor Lupo’s voice simply oozed with nefarious confidence and I enjoyed actually hearing the flippant Plato’s descent into artificial insanity.
Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets manages to squeeze some compelling puzzles out of the very basic, primal human fear of being chased. It weaves together a web of alarming creatures and entertaining narrative, which, while fairly well-paced, don’t always hit the mark. At the end of the day, if you’re a fan of puzzle games, you’ll enjoy this.
Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets was reviewed on Switch using a digital key provided by the developer.