Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets
Being an intern is a pretty thankless job at the best of times, but even more so on board the Aurora Space Station. The station is run by a space scientist, named Professor Lupo, who has no qualms using the intern as bait for his collection of aliens. These aliens come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common; they are exceptionally deadly. As the game opens, Lupo is attempting to sell some of his horrible pets to the highest bidder to be used as weapons. However, before the bidding can begin, the station is attacked by unknown forces. This attack leaves the unnamed intern with the unenviable task of navigating a space station full of deadly aliens running loose as he attempts to reach an escape pod in time. Plato, the AI computer of the station, assures the intern that the odds for this escape attempt actually succeeding is very low, but the alternatives are not much better. This means that players will have to help the intern stay alive long enough to leave the station and hopefully learn more about what is going on along the way.
Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets is a very narrative focused puzzle adventure and was developed by BeautiFun Games, the indie studio behind the rather brilliant Nihilumbra of a few years back. The intern is not exactly the most physically fit of people and clearly his job did not require any combat skills either as just about every alien on the station can easily kill him. However, the intern does have the advantage of being able to use the station environment to his advantage in order to outwit the aliens. Unfortunately, the aliens he has to deal with starts out relatively stupid, but it’s not long before the odds against his survival are stacked even higher.
PLahHP features more than 100 levels, which means it has the luxury of easing players into the puzzles. On the other hand, players expecting a slow paced adventure that they can solve in a leisurely fashion are also in for a surprise as the game has a very action-packed feel to it. There are a few spots on each of the level where players can catch their breath and plan their next move, but generally the game demands quick thinking and an understanding of the aliens you are dealing with.
All of the aliens in the game have very distinctive behavior patterns and these must be studied in order to deal with them safely. Fortunately, players can unlock extensive notes about all the creatures while playing and these will reveal everything from their taxonomy and anatomy to their perception, movement, diet, behavior and morphology. While all this information might sound like overkill for a puzzle game, the entries are entertaining to read and packed with useful revelations.
For example, the worm-like Vermis cannot move backwards and trapping them in a dead end will effectively immobilize them while Sagitta can’t see while they are moving, which means they will head for the last spot they saw you standing. Some enemies will chase you from afar, while others only notice you when you are close. You’ll also find that certain enemies give up the chase if they lose sight of you while others will pursue you no matter where you are. Don’t even get us started on the Furaxs either, as these critters who look like a cross between dolphins and velociraptors are smart enough to hunt in packs and flank you if you are not careful. The wide assortment of aliens, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, keeps the game interesting as well as challenging right to the end.
Since the intern is pretty defenseless against even the smallest of alien creatures, it’s a good thing that the Aurora space station allows for creative ways to kill or at least thwart adversaries. Not only is it filled with narrow corridors, but there are also doors everywhere, which can be operated using control panels. The various doors are color coded and, to make things even more interesting, some of them are on timers when it comes to opening or closing them. Seeing as Professor Lupo is a bit of an evil scientist, the station is also filled with all kinds of other interesting contraptions. These range from poisonous gas and flamethrowers to pulsar radiation and infra-red scanners. All of these can be used to your advantage, such as getting to the other side of an oxygen shower to mask your scent from a particularly aggressive alien. While humans are the top snack for most of the aliens, there are also some who prefer eating another alien species if they are in the same area. Finally, the vacuum of space can also be used to your advantage, provided you can make use of it without getting sucked out of an airlock yourself. We don’t want to spoil anything, but in addition to dealing with the various aliens, the intern will also have to deal with the enemies who have boarded the station as well as another deadly, but very amusing, opponent.
With five chapters to complete, there is more than ten hours of fun to be had in this game. It doesn’t have to end there either as the developers have also included all kinds of extra challenges to sink your teeth into as well. Players can select any level that they have previously completed and then attempt to complete these additional challenges. Some levels feature a switch that can be activated to turn on “Hard” mode, which typically changes something, like the speed of the aliens, to make things even trickier. Most of the levels also have optional collectibles that can be grabbed on the way to the exit. These collectibles, which include classic books, films, pieces of music, and indie games, are usually placed in spots that exposes players to much more danger than the straightforward route. Then there are the challenges that are unique to each level, such as killing or sparing certain enemies. All in all, there is a mountain of content in this game to keep players busy for ages. Apart from the Steam achievements, there is also a compelling in-game reason for getting to the coveted 100% completion, but we will leave that up to players to discover themselves.
PLahHP makes use of an overhead isometric perspective for the visuals, while the art style favors a charming hand-drawn look. The balding intern is not exactly the most heroic figure we’ve ever seen in a game, but his look fits perfectly with his character. The aliens on the other hand all look adorable, until they reveal their true nature and transform into bloodthirsty killing machines. Although the game features quite a few gruesome ways for the intern to die, such as being eaten alive, crushed, or turned into a pile of bones, these deaths are more cartoony than gory. Since the Aurora is a scientific space station, it is not much to look at, but aliens are the real star of the game in any case and not the environments. The game is a little light on visual options as well, with only the choice between windowed or fullscreen available, along with a selection of resolutions. The soundtrack for the game is pretty good, as are the sound effects. We also like the fact that the game makes use of full English voice-overs for all the characters, which is not always the case in puzzle games. The game also allows players to adjust the volume of the music, sound effects and voice levels independently. The controls, which is quite important for a puzzle game, are intuitive and the intern can be moved around using the WASD keys or simply pointing and clicking with your mouse. It’s a bit annoying that the intern will plod along at a steady pace, no matter what is chasing him, but his movement speed is part of the puzzle elements, so it is hard to criticize it too much.
Overall, Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets is a great puzzle game that can provide players with hours of entertainment. None of the puzzles are illogical or obscure, which allows everyone to progress through the game at a steady pace. The game also makes use of checkpoints on the larger levels to keep repetition down to a minimum. Players in search of a greater challenge can try out the hard modes or aim for the optional objectives, so this is really a game for everyone. The story is also surprisingly captivating for a puzzle game and we found ourselves looking forward to seeing what new revelations the poor intern will be faced with next. We definitely had a blast with the game and it is one of the few puzzle games that might even be able to draw in fans of action games because of its faster pace. So, whether you are a fan of the genre, or simply looking for a humorous game that can keep you busy for ages, don’t let Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets slip under your radar.
- OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10
- Processor: 1.6 GHz
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: 2Gb RAM (Nvidia GeForce GTX 650, AMD Radeon R7 250X or similar)
- Storage: 3 GB available space
- OS: Snow Leopard or later
- Processor: Intel Mac
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: 2Gb RAM
- Storage: 3 GB available space