☆ Review: Lupinball "Wolves shooting fireballs, FINALLY!" ☆ #GameDev #IndieGame

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Over the New Year period, I had a few days where friends came over and we played through some four player games. 

I’ve recently written a Games Freezer article about local multiplayer games and my deep love for them, so Lupinball came across at a very good time as I was in the zone for some frantic four-player action and that is something that Craftven’s Lupinball delivers with a gleeful howl.
Platform reviewed: PC (Steam)
Developer: Craftven
Rating: Ice Cool

The setup of Lupinball is wonderfully simplistic. Essentially a ‘dodge-ball’ game at heart, you choose up to four players from a pack of seven wolves and then the stage you wish to play on (each player selects a stage which is then played through in a random order). 

The aim of the game is to collect three blue orbs which appear on the screen to charge up a fireball which is then fired at your opponents, these fireballs never disappear, instead, they bounce around the screen until someone is hit by them and the orbs reappear randomly around the screen. The game gets frantic quickly as you not only dash around to collect orbs but avoid fireballs and also some stage-specific quirks such as moving floors, ice and untoward items etc. 

You can also use the orbs to instead power up a shield that reflects shots and stuns enemy wolves…which is handy.

The genius of Lupinball is in its tightly-designed simplicity. The hand-drawn graphics are reminiscent of later Amiga games and this coupled with the bubbly music really adds to the games’ charm. After originally assuming that the title was a one-trick pun, after playing the game it was great to see that the gentle humour runs through Lupinball and gives it genuine character and warmth. 

Each wolf plays identically but has its own personality which comes through in the character portrait and post-match banter. For instance, the wolf I tended to choose, ‘Anders’  was wearing a red smoking jacket, had reading glasses perched on the tip of his nose and was holding a glass of red wine (his Street Fighter 2-esque winning taunt is 
“I win with wine, you lose and whine” – perfect).

The stages themselves are varied and engaging. There is a basic street setting, a park setting and the usual slippy-slidey ice stage but also really innovative stages such as one taking place on a constantly moving sliding puzzle (that was CHALLENGING) a farm that has gusts of strong winds affecting movement, a haunted house that occasionally descends into complete darkness and also a level set on the keys of a typewriter which types out all the letters that your wolves run across as they desperately avoid fireballs. Every single stage adds a new challenge and is individual in itself, giving further variety to the proceedings.

There are items in boxes that add another layer to the game. From a random teleport to items that jumble up your opponents’ controls or speed you up greatly, everything in Lupinball is easily understandable and locked within a basic framework that makes it easy for anyone to pick up and play within seconds.

There are several modes available, single player is clearly not what the game was designed for and amounts to little more than a training mode, although there is the opportunity to upload your personal high-scores to an online leaderboard, a nice touch. Following this is  local multiplayer (which is where I think I’ll get most of my game time from) and also an online aspect that, whilst having the option to have two local players go up against another team, sadly seems quite sparse at the moment as I couldn’t find a game to connect to. Whilst this isn’t a problem for me as I tend to have friends around to play these games, if someone is looking for a bustling online community, they would be disappointed in the same way that the equally enjoyable Dynasty Feud sadly suffers from the same fate, a fate that is easily solvable….by everyone buying copies of these amazing games, quite frankly.

Summary For some Lupinball may lack depth due to its arcade genre nature but it’s that pure arcade playability and ‘pick up and play’ aspect that keeps me coming back to it and I know will make it a staple of my multiplayer nights for months to come. 

The game’s innate charm from the quirky characters to loading screens that give tips such as, ‘The thing that wolves are covered in is called ‘fur’’ and, ‘wolves don’t really shoot fireballs’ combined with how the game doesn’t feel ‘empty’ in two player mode due to its design and frantic nature (a fate that can befall some single-screen four player games) makes it a complete winner in my eyes.

Right, I’m off to learn to stop calling them ‘Werewolves’ they are plain WOLVES, Britt….albeit really cool ones.

Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)

MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

Review By Britt

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