Youropa – When Upside Down is Right Way Up

Youropa is a 3D puzzle platformer with some really cool mechanics that set it apart from many others. Brought to us by a small development company, frecle. A labour of love for heading onto a decade now on and off, Youropa is finally set to launch this June 2018.

Thanks to the team at frecle, we were given the opportunity to explore Youropa and have a chat about its development. After a few short hours a game like Youropa deserves to be talked about!

 

Premise

In a world turned upside down by some mysterious force, only one short, stumpy legged guy can work out what’s going on. By some weird evolutionary blessing, you are adorned with suction cups for feet. Though impractical in day to day life, jumping is hard and finding shoes that fit is damn near impossible. You have gained the ability to traverse walls, ceilings and underneath platforms and get to the hardest to reach places.

Move through levels and complete a multitude of (sometimes truly) mind bending puzzles to power up doors and unlock the next area. With a heap of collectibles and achievements to complete along the way I’m finding myself lost in the world of Youropa and my wife’s distant “When are you going to put the bins out..” Dissolving into the serene soundtrack that accompanies.

Holy heck a lot of passion has gone into this and it shows!

Youropa Map Navigation

Mechanics

Initially you start out with just your wall walking abilities. Exploring the first few levels you’ll discover some hard to reach areas hinting at soon to come ways of overcoming obstacles. Being able to interact with levers, pick up objects and kick things are some of the ways to get through the more intricate puzzles.

Going back to the whole traversing any surface because that’s by far the most fun, your ability is limited by the space around you. Finding what slopes you can run up and using gravity to your advantage is an integral part of making your way through the world. It’s not as simple as just run at a wall and climb up it that’s too easy. Instead you need to find curved sections to navigate a maze, snatch up the collectibles and solve puzzles. It’s damn cool.

The life system is super cool too. Every character in Youropa is kept alive by a thin layer of paint, fall off the edge and watch your paint begin to disappear. You can find editing points throughout some levels that will let you refill your paint and customise your appearance any way you please. There’s so much to choose from, and you’ll lose hours if you’re as detail oriented as myself.

http://kit.frecle.net/youropa/images/youropa_paint_dot_you.gif

http://kit.frecle.net/youropa/images/youropa_kickit.gif

 

Chatting with Mikkel Fredborg

Mikkel from frecle was kind enough to have a chat to our own Michael about some of the interesting development behind Youropa and challenges along the way.

Michael TIG: Youropa has been in development for a long time, over 10 years in fact! That’s a long development cycle for any game, especially for an indie dev. Was it planned?

Mikkel: No, it certainly wasn’t planned. When we started prototyping and designing it, it was meant to take around 2 years in total. And I think if everything had panned out as expected it would have been fairly accurate. But we hit a few bumps in the road, that caused the project to stop several times and we actually cancelled it completely in 2014 and closed shop.

But it kept bubbling in the back of my head, as I felt it had such great potential and there were still things I wanted to understand about the mechanics of the game. After working on a number of other projects, I was fortunate enough to have saved up enough money to finance the remainder of the production. And in April 2017 I picked it up again with a small team, and since then it’s been in full production.

Michael TIG: What has been the most difficult hurdle for your team throughout the creation of Youropa?

Mikkel: Well, it’s obviously tricky to stay on the same track for such a long time, but that was actually not the biggest hurdle. We’ve built the game around the dogma, that we MUST use the same tools to build the game, as those we make available to the player. That has helped a lot in easing design decisions.

I think in terms of the actual design of the game, it was the structure of the experience that took the longest to figure out. When I rebooted the development, that was one of the things I wanted to try out. Originally we had it structured very much like an old school arcade game, but it was lacking a sense of progress and exploration that is absolutely key to the experience. Figuring out a good way to do this, so that it feels natural and exciting was what took the longest. The design we’ve ended up with, is a sort of metroidvania map, where areas unlock gradually as you learn new abilities. And because it has to adhere to our dogma, we had to make the creation of the map creation accessible to players as well. There are still a few things to iron out there, but it’s very close now.

Michael TIG: A lot of indie devs opt for a prebuilt game engine, but yours is custom built, (absolutely impressive by the way) what made you opt for this approach?

Mikkel: When we started production there weren’t many choices in terms of game engines, and most were either incredibly expensive or pretty mediocre. I already had a working game engine that was sort of decent, so it was a simple choice to continue with that one. Since then it’s been changed a few times, but the core is still the same. When we started up production again it didn’t make sense to switch to a different engine, because we already had a big part of the game working well.

Michael TIG: Would you consider letting other indie devs use your engine?

Mikkel: It’s possible, but it’s not really on the radar right now. We’re fully focused on getting the last bits and bobs in place for the launch of Youropa.

Michael TIG: Where did the inspiration for Youropa come from?

Mikkel: It started out as an idea of ‘wouldn’t it be cool if you weren’t affected by gravity’ and then we gradually came to the ‘let’s put suction cups on the feet of the character’ idea. That’s the base of it, and then there are a lot of different inspirations drawn from other games and popular culture. A bit of Super Mario Galaxy mixed with Portal, and I’m a huge fan of SEGAs games from the Dreamcast era, so there’s certainly a bit of those as well.

 

Personal questions:

Michael TIG: Favourite place in the world?

Mikkel: Saturday morning having breakfast in bed.

Michael TIG: Best moment in video game history?

Mikkel: I’d have to go for the original Zelda on the NES. When I was around 10, I played it a friends house for several weeks, and we were so drawn into it. We got stuck at the last fight against Ganon, and had to call a help hotline on the phone to beat him. Such an amazing experience.

Michael TIG: Favourite food?

Mikkel: I love food and cooking, so I have a lot of favourites. But today, as the sun is shining and it’s really hot, there’s only one thing to eat in Denmark and that’s Koldskål. Look it up, it’s delicious 🙂

Pipe Level!

Enough talk, should you buy it?

Simple answer. Yes. Youropa is definitely a game you should all be hyped for, it’s immersive and beautifully made. The built in editor will add hours of fun constructing your own world with all the same pieces you can find in the campaign.  The keyboard controls in map editing is a little finicky right now but a great heads up from the Dev team suggested trying an Xbox controller and that works flawlessly.

I’ve absolutely loved every minute playing this game, even the parts that feel like my brain is melting trying to work out a puzzle that’s glaringly obvious. I’m looking forward to the June 2018 release and frecle have been super generous and supplied us with two giveaway codes to pass on to some lucky readers. Keep an eye out on our Facebook page for the release date confirmation and giveaway launch in the coming weeks!

Youropa will be available on Steam June 2018

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