There is something special about the effort the creators of Professor Lupo and His Horrible Pets have put into creating puzzles that have the plot of the game woven so tightly into them.
You play as an intern who has been working aboard Aurora Space Station for so long you have forgot your given name. Now balding, you have spent many years of your life effectively acting as bait for various dangerous aliens that your boss Professor Lupo has captured. Upon your return home, the Professor is in the process of auctioning off the aliens when the ship is compromised. The mission of the game is to escape with your life.
To do so, you have to work your way through the spaceship. Each room you pass through is infested with aliens, some of which are still contained in locked areas and some of which are running riot through the space that is supposed to be safe. You have to lock and unlock doors at the right time so you can flee through them without getting eaten or squished or something else equally horrible.
Thanks to the years you’ve spent fleeing the various monsters, you know how each one moves and behaviours. You can use this knowledge to manipulate them so you can trap them or lure them in the way of flamethrowers so they are no longer a threat.
The puzzles in Professor Lupo and His Horrible Pets are challenging, but not so hard they inspire a whole lot of rage-quitting. The main test of your skill is the timing. You often get one look at the room you’re in before the monsters start moving and you have to get a wiggle on. You have to figure things out quickly, and sometimes you have to time your clicks just right if you want to get through timed door before something nasty bites your head off.
This can be somewhat frustrating as the characters move very slowly. It definitely doesn’t feel like they’re fleeing from man-eating aliens. Even though they yell at each other to hurry up, they all stroll through the game like they’re taking a walk in the park after a heavy lunch.
The point and click style controls don’t help, either. Pointing with a joycon at the screen doesn’t feel like the most efficient way of controlling your character, especially as the camera will move and leave your cursor somewhere you’re not pointing. Playing in handheld mode is marginally better, but not by a lot. You can move the character with the analog stick, but you still sometimes have to operate locks remotely which require you to move a cursor.
The style and aesthetic of Professor Lupo and His Horrible Pets are excellent. The design is fantastic in every sense. The human characters have plenty of personality and are wonderfully voice acted. The aliens are brilliantly designed. The cutscenes are lots of fun, with beautiful depictions of space drifting past outside the Aurora.
It is also quite funny. The intern’s long years as bait have given him a dark sense of humour, and your malfunctioning robot assistant has some decent one-liners as well.
The premise and the attitude of Professor Lupo and His Horrible Pets are excellent, but there is a little to be desired in the execution of the gameplay.