Professor Lupo and His Horrible Pets is an interesting, love/hate type of puzzle game. Its horrid creations are beyond creative and evoke a familiar Lilo and Stitch vibe. Sadly, an entertaining story and slew of unique monsters do little to deter you from the glaring control issues.
You assume the role of Professor Lupo’s “intern”, a balding, grizzled middle-aged man that has spent far too many years working for the Professor as bait for all of his captured aliens. Aboard the Aurora Space Station, the Professor is attempting to sell off all of his prized creatures during its return trip home. However, the station is attacked and the intern’s controlled demonstration quickly turns into a fight for survival. It falls on you to help him navigate the infested hallways of the Aurora and escape with his life.
To escape, you must unlock a series of doors in a specific order while also avoiding the detection of these alien creatures. Each one has a unique movement or pattern that must be taken into consideration before attempting to get from point A to point B. As you continue to work your way through each area, the rooms become more and more complex; adding in things like timers on doors or noxious gas that must be diverted before you can proceed.
You can use the joy-cons as a mouse or pointer if you’re playing in docked mode, or the touch screen if you’re playing in handheld. The latter is preferable considering the latency in the game’s joy-con option. As the intern moves, the camera moves with him, so leaving the pointer on a door actually doesn’t happen. Instead, as the camera follows him, the pointer is left behind and you need to continuously keep moving it to keep up. It’s an added frustration on top of the already clunky controls. Instead of being able to focus on where the aliens are at, you need to also keep an eye on the pointer to make sure it’s ready to open the door when you get there.
It’s confusing why the intern’s movement is so slow when he’s trying to escape with his life. He moves at a snail’s pace, even when a caterpillar covered in sharp teeth is hot on his heels. This on its own would be manageable if it wasn’t for the very stiff controls and input delay. Countless times I’d overshoot a tile he was supposed to be on because I held the controller in it’s desired direction for a second too long. Since your movement is so slow, the aliens are typically only one tile behind you, so overshooting means death and starting over.
It’s commendable that BeautiFun Games has crafted so many meticulous levels, but there is no room for error here. Nor is there any kind of option to try and lead the aliens around in order to escape. This typically means you have one chance to get the puzzle right, which means there is a lot of trial and error, restarting, and deaths. Failing a map too many times results in an “Infrared Mode” being activated. This shows you the movement lines of the alien(s) in an attempt to make things easier on you, however, it doesn’t slow their movements or aid you in any other way. Failing so many times that this mode activates just changes how things look, I didn’t find it any more helpful, because I’d already been watching and learning the alien’s movements. I guess it’s the thought that counts.
Aside from the frustrating, slow-moving controls; aesthetically this game strikes an enjoyable chord. The creature designs are very creative. The dark humor will surely get a few laughs as the intern makes it seem like another day at the office. The voice acting is pretty well done and the failing AI that attempts to help you adds a nice bit of comic relief. He’ll usually ask if you want any backstory about the aliens chasing you, which is a fun way to add in some lore while you’re attempting to make it through a level.
If the game rewarded skill instead of timing, it would be one of those next-level puzzlers. The characters and aliens are very interesting and entertaining. The introduction of each alien typically involves something cute turning into something horrifying and each cutscene is very enjoyable. If only the mechanics and controls emulated the game’s aesthetic.