Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo is a game you shouldn’t sleep on | Hands-on preview

by on April 18, 2024

Every year we see hundreds of video games inspired by the classics with some chunky retro pixel art and chiptune music. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of a game that reminds me of the good old days of childhood gaming, but we’re past the point of NES-style visuals feeling unique and quirky. There’s still plenty of untapped potential in retro style games, though, and here to prove that with a game inspired by both the Game Boy Advance and Zelda is Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo.

Our hero Pippit is a young yoyo prodigy who wants nothing more than to shirk responsibility and do fancy string-based tricks around town. Thanks to his rich and influential family, he’s able to live off his auntie’s handouts without a care in the world until a fateful day that changes everything. When meeting up with Madame Pipistrello for his next handout, Pippit witnesses a group of thugs steal her life energy for their own personal gain. With her essence now housed in four mega batteries, it’s up to you to beat up four bosses with only a yoyo to help you along the way.

Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo

The preview build of Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo started in the offices of the family business, and served as an introduction to your yoyo powers. The game will immediately feel familiar to fans of those classic 2D Zelda games, with Pippit sporting the ability to do a small jump over gaps and launch his yoyo forwards to take down enemies. The yoyo is much more than a replacement sword though, which I found out almost immediately.

By default the yoyo simply launches forward in front of Pippit and functions as a standard melee weapon, but if you launch it into a diagonal wall it’ll bounce off it at an angle and extend much further (and can do so over and over again). Doing this will enable you to take down enemies from far across the room with ease, and can even be used to collect out of reach keys and cash.

This is but one of the yoyos many abilities though, all of which you’ll use to solve puzzles in the tricky dungeons of Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo. One of these abilities sees you launch your yoyo off the string to hit switches that are out of reach, which is incredibly useful but leaves you vulnerable with only a bit of string to defend yourself. You can also race across a room by “walking the dog” which damages enemies in your path and bounce off walls by launching your trusty weapon into them. There are sure to be plenty more abilities to collect in the full game, but the selection on offer here was more than enough to be getting on with.

Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo

The first two sections of the game I was able to play were traditional Zelda dungeons full of traps, treasure, and monsters. My favourite of these featured moving platforms that required hitting switches to move them where they were needed. Going back and forth to different areas, solving puzzles and looking for keys felt like a wonderful throwback, and with multiple hidden health upgrades to find throughout I just know that in the full version of the game I’ll be searching every nook and cranny for secrets.

The final portion of Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo I played was a boss fight with one of the thugs who attacked auntie, and it was glorious. With the ability to fire a bouncing attack (not unlike my yoyo) this baddie put up a hell of a fight, but using everything I’d learned from previous sections I was just able to come out on top. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a boss fight this much, and if other bosses in the game are this well designed I can’t wait to experience them all.

Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo

There were a whole load of aspects of Pipistrello I wasn’t able to fully experience during my time with this preview build. One of these were the badges you’ll collect that you can equip for all sorts of buffs, which I was given access to loads of in the latter half of the build,  but am excited to gather myself. There’s also a shop which loans you items as long as you don’t mind taking on a negative effect until you’ve paid it off, and a huge interconnected world which I couldn’t explore whatsoever. There’s so much I can’t wait to experience in this game, and I only wish I could do so right this minute.

Finally I can’t end this Pipistrello preview without mentioning the visuals and audio. If this game had released back in the GBA days it would’ve blended in perfectly with the very best that handheld had to offer, and if you leave the game paused for a moment the perspective zooms out to show that the whole game is being played on a knock-off Game Boy Advance. The love this team had for one of the best little consoles of all time is clearly on display here, and I heartily approve.

I went into Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo expecting to enjoy a retro style romp, but after just under an hour of playing I had found my new most anticipated game of the year. Everything I played felt so expertly crafted by people who love classic Zelda games, and the yoyo twist is just delightful. If you’re old enough to remember those GBA days you are in for an absolute treat, but even without that perspective Pipistrello is looking like a game you absolutely cannot sleep on.

Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo is coming to PC via Steam, but doesn’t have a release date yet.