The Plucky Squire Preview – A Clever And Colourful Caper

Proper page-turner.

Like many, I have long believed that the indie space, when it comes to video games, is the birthplace of innovation, with safer, low risk practices leading to a bit of stagnation among the bigger players. To this point, the initial reveal of The Plucky Squire, the debut title out of Brisbane-based upstart All Possible Futures, felt like the last real mic drop moment I can remember. What begins as a quaint, adorable adventure game within the confines of a storybook quickly breaks that fourth wall as Jot, the titular plucky squire and hero to the helpless in his paperback world, ventures beyond the page’s border to find himself in the third-dimension of Sam’s room. 

It was unexpected, but undeniably whimsical and left me enamoured from the get go. Its subsequent gameplay trailer only served to solidify my excitement for the title, whereas the more recent Devolver Delayed which saw it bumped into next year was a bit of a heartbreaker.

The Plucky Squire is an in-universe picture book written by E.N. Arthur, and features a band of heroes thwarting and undoing the misdeeds of a nasty sorcerer named Humgrump. Seemingly tired of Jot’s interference and wanting to be a protagonist in his own story, the sorcerer banishes Jot into a world beyond the one he’s always known—the three-dimensional desktop in Sam’s room on which The Plucky Squire rests. Of course, we’ve seen this kind of stranger in a strange land trope done in countless stories throughout history, and just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Jot finds himself away from home base in a magical land. 

The game is a result of decades of camaraderie between Jonathan “Bidds” Biddle and James Turner. Their respective journeys through the industry have kept them apart, with Turner’s tenure as a lead creature artist for Pokémon at Game Freak keeping him in Japan for several years. And even now, as Turner returns to the pair’s homeland of Britain, Bidds’ journey brought him to Australia to set up shop with All Possible Futures in Brisbane. Fortunately, even as their working relationship remains remote, the trust they place in each other has seemingly delivered a game that’s creative across the board. 

On the surface, The Plucky Squire borrows some from the playbook of A Link Between Worlds, however Bidds described the game’s evolution from a simple storybook adventure as a natural step for an idea that initially seemed lacking. It’s an incredibly layered game that’s coming together to be a wonderfully imaginative, referential jaunt through a world of childlike fantasy.

Combat looks confident, albeit a bit simple, and it’s propped up by a bunch of clever puzzles that involve retreating for key items within bygone pages of the book, as well as rearranging the story’s print to alter the context and warp the book’s reality. At one point, Jot happens upon a “huge” bug blocking his path, which, in a game full of nods, felt like a tip of the cap to sleepy Snorlax. To tip the scales, he frees up the word “tiny” from a neighbouring sentence and puts it in place to render the big timid. 

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Just to flex, The Plucky Squire also does that thing It Takes Two did where it includes surprisingly in-depth mini-games that introduce once-off mechanics. In search of a bow, Jot ventures out to the perimeter of Sam’s desk to cleverly pinch one from an elf living inside of a Magic the Gathering card guarding the cardboard castle towering over Sam’s desk in a battle that mimics Pokémon. And even once the bow is retrieved, it’s the feature of a Duck Hunt-like shooting gallery. I do love fun little nods like these and I’m so keen to see how many this small team are able to squeeze in. 

Bidds did say they’re looking to reward creativity in The Plucky Squire and that they’d aim to implement other solutions that might present through play testing. Even watching the demo I could see where other ways forward could come from and I do hope they’re able to implement other avenues for thinking outside of the box, because it’d give it a Scribblenauts-like sense of player agency. That said, there are a number of things that are expected to be implemented before reaching the finish line, including full narration from the velvet-voiced gent from the trailer, which I’m pleased about. 

Turner’s famous cutesy art direction might give the impression that The Plucky Squire is a game made for kids, it has been designed with top-level players in mind first and foremost. Fortunately, given the inevitable appeal it’ll have with children, the accessibility features will let players tailor the experience to their skill level, which I always think is a phenomenal choice. 

If the fourth chapter levels I observed are anything to go by, The Plucky Squire is going to be one hell of a charmer. It’s consistently clever and wholesome, and I found myself grinning ear to ear with every new string it adds to its bow.

The Plucky Squire is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Switch and PC in 2024.