The Plucky Squire - Hands-Off Preview
It’s fair to say that the team at All Possible Futures has had a mountain of expectation placed upon them following the premiere of The Plucky Squire during Summer Games Fest of 2022, and according to Jonathon Biddle, Co-Founder and Director at the studio, it’s a level of expectation that they’re intent to meet. With thanks to Devolver Digital, Jonathan, and our wonderful hosts, The Lost Boys Bar in one of Melbourne’s Northern Suburbs of Fitzroy, I had the opportunity to take in some of The Plucky Squire, albeit, in a hands-off capacity, and based upon that time, I’m feeling confident that Biddle and his team can deliver in spades.
Players have been ensnared by The Plucky Squire’s adorable aesthetic, and the addicting off the pages of a storybook gameplay perspective. The way that The Plucky Squire is embracing 2D and 3D gameplay, with mechanics that translate across either perspective is even more impressive. Biddle spoke of how Jot’s adventure won’t be the best example of 2D gameplay, nor will it be the pinnacle of 3D gameplay, but he is hopeful that it will be the best game that does both. In our conversation several Nintendo titles, from The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Super Mario Odyssey with their 2D and 3D elements were both discussed, but there was a restraint shown with these Nintendo titles that simply is not present with The Plucky Squire.
The combat looks and feels heavily inspired by classic Zelda titles, but that is where the simple parallels end. The Plucky Squire has been carefully designed to make every transition from 2D gameplay to 3D seamless, but just because there’s a lot going on, it does not mean that the game will take it easy on you. While you can scale things down if you choose, the standard difficulty tosses quite a few challenges at you, from large clusters of enemies, each of which are pretty handy, to the occasional mini-game, each that introduces a new, fun but also challenging gameplay mechanic, from shooting down swarms of bees and more. Of those that were available in the vertical slice I observed, none outstayed their welcome, an each were enjoyable pace-changers.
What is of course of the most interest to players is the 2D to 3D transition. While Jot can fairly easily move from carefully designed page to carefully designed page, it’s through some selectly positioned portals that Jot can leap off the page and explore the world beyond it. Now while the worlds on the page can wildly differ, Sam’s desk, at face value should feel bland in comparison, but as it turns out, Sam is very creative child. The portals you jump through are smartly designed in that they allow you to skip around puzzles in clever ways, but also allow you to explore other spaces in creative ways too. From zip lining across bunting, to moving up vertical posters and more, Sam’s creative flair provides Jot with some equally creative ways to move through the environment. Players can pull objects inside and outside of their originating realm too which further increases the level of creative licence granted to the player.
Finally, it is also worth highlighting the game’s literary elements. No, not the plot, although Biddle provided a fascinating synopsis that explores Humgrump and his repeated failures with the events of The Plucky Squire, being but his latest attempted uprising. No, the game leans into it’s storybook inspirations by presenting players with some clever word puzzles as well. Jot can displace certain words from sentences, and insert new words in their place. This suddenly makes a tiny lillypad into something gigantic that can be now traversed, or shrinks a large and intimidating enemy down to something laughably microscopic. It even appears as though the same word has the potential to be used in multiple sentences simultaneously opening up further creative use of the written word.
We’ve long known that The Plucky Squire looks the part, but it seems a though it plays it too. I wasn’t lucky enough to go hands-on with the title, but watching the game in action still greatly sold me on its potential. Although The Plucky Squire has been recently delayed to 2024 – it’s already abundantly clear that it will be one of the must-play titles of the upcoming year.