The Plucky Squire first landed on my radar when it was announced last year at Summer Game Fest during the Devolver Direct. Despite being the debut title from All Possible Futures, the co-founders behind this new indie studio have been involved in the industry for quite some time. Jonathan Biddle has worked on games for over 20 years, designing titles like Fluidity, Stealth Inc. 2, and most recently, The Swords of Ditto. The other half of this veteran duo is James Turner, an art director who worked at Game Freak on numerous Pokemon games, including Pokemon Sword and Shield, Pokemon X and Y, and Pokemon Black and White.
The pair have combined their expertise and, over the past few years with a small team, have been developing a charming puzzle adventure that sees players explore a magical book that comes to life. I had the chance to sit down with Biddle, aka Bidds, in a hands-off demo while he talked to me about The Plucky Squire’s beautifully captivating art style and the assortment of puzzles players will experience.
Changing the Narrative
Jot is the hero of the story, and his main antagonist, Humgrump, doesn’t like that one bit. He’s sick of Jot always getting the limelight and being the center of attention. By using a form of mysterious magic, Humgrump figures out a way to alter the book’s story, which ultimately causes all sorts of things to go wrong for Jot – including being kicked out of the pages of the book and entering the living world.
The 2D environment of the book will see Jot fighting enemies and solving puzzles as he flips between pages to try and rectify the chaos Humgrump has created. In one particular moment, I’m shown a basic puzzle of how Jot needs to get a key from one side of the river to the other but can’t cross the water while holding the key. Instead, the player can exit the book with the key, which transforms into a 3D world, and Jot can now walk above the pages to get to the other side of the river and back into the 2D world of the book.
Although the majority of the game takes place within the pages, there are instances where you’ll leave the confines of the book and explore the room you’re in. During one puzzle, we see Jot remove a jump pad from a page so that he can traverse a bookshelf in the real world while searching for an item. This leads him to a conversation puzzle with a character inside a collectible card that is very Pokemon-esque in style.
Moments like these are sprinkled throughout to help break up the pacing, along with numerous mini-games that completely change the standard gameplay formula of the 2D world. In a demonstration of how powerful words are in this book, Jot can try to solve puzzles by replacing select words to form a different sentence that describes what’s happening on the page. These will essentially transform what you see on the page into something entirely new.
A ‘big’ bug sitting in the middle of a path blocking your progress can be changed into a ‘tiny’ bug by switching the keyword found sprawled across the page. The depth of this is showcased as I see Jot pick up a word from one page earlier on in the book, only to plonk that word down on a completely different page to alter the environment. Bidds described this as a challenging system to design and also, from an art perspective, have it be represented for each possible combination of select words that can be switched in and out.
Devolver Digital has published some absolute gems over the past few years when it comes to supporting indie developers. Inscryption was my Game of the Year for 2021, and then there are titles like Cult of the Lamb and Loop Hero, which I’ve loved that the publisher has also worked on. Devolver has an excellent track record of finding exciting and compelling games that stand on their toes to grab your attention. The Plucky Squire looks like one of those games, and I’m excited to get my hands on it to check out more once it’s released.