I knew James Turner was up to something. He had previously announced on Twitter that he was starting his own game studio with a friend, and as TheGamer’s biggest Pokemon fan I follow what former developers are up to, especially Turner due to his role as Sword & Shield’s art director. It also helps that he posts the cutest illustrations on his Twitter feed. But I didn’t realise that his studio’s first game would steal the show at this year’s Devolver Digital Showcase.
The Plucky Squire, the debut from Turner’s studio All Possible Futures, starts off as an adorable, if slightly cliched, adventure. Jot, our plucky protagonist, begins the trailer on a Link to the Past-esque 2D adventure within the pages of a story book. However, he soon finds he is able to escape from the pages and into the real, 3D world of a child’s bedroom. The art changes from two dimensional illustrations of Jot hopping over lily pads and battling bears, to something more akin to the style of the Link’s Awakening remake.
I’ll start with the 2D levels, pre-twist, which are more interesting than I gave them credit for in the last paragraph, and have been overlooked by most people as they get excited about the 3D twist. The pages of the story book act like tiles in old school Zelda games, but the puzzles are very different. Dungeons appear to ape Mario more than Zelda with side-scrolling caverns, and there’s some sort of word game involved with the lily pads. Whether you have to collect words on your travels that will aid you to get to new areas or you can write freely remains to be seen, but at this point Jot is still confined to his story book, so I suspect it will be the latter.
The bear boss fight switches from a top-down perspective to third-person, and the battle seems to be inspired by fighting games as you dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge your much larger opponent’s swipes and land some punches yourself. Then, Jot discovers the portal to the outside world.
The twist is great; I certainly didn’t expect it and I imagine few did. I had thought that designing the 3D bedroom was a bit excessive for a trailer for a 2D adventure game, but I definitely didn’t make any assumptions. But aside from moving between 2D and 3D platforming, The Plucky Squire’s innovation doesn’t stop there.
Jot battles on bookcases, but also makes his way across the sides of novelty mugs – again converted to his two dimensional self. The comparisons to A Link To The Past again rear their heads. Jot clearly inhabits two worlds, two dimensions if you will, and must shift between them on his quest for… Whatever his goal is. That in itself is a great premise, especially when each dimension is realised in such a beautiful style. But when you take into account the shifts in gameplay from top-down adventure, to 3D platformer, to side-scroller, to third-person fighter, this seems like a game that could have it all. Keep your eyes on The Plucky Squire, because it could be 2023’s indie hit.
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