The Cub bills itself as “The Jungle Book meets Armageddon”, and that is one hell of a sell. Add that to the fact it’s a self-proclaimed old-school platformer, inspired by 16-bit era sidescrollers but “built for today”, and it would appear Demagog Studio and Untold Tales are very clear on what they hope to achieve with their latest venture. Having received its world premiere at the Future Games Show’s Spring Showcase last month, The Cub shares the same universe as the developer’s previous outing, Golf Club Wasteland. And while that may seem like a strange pairing at face value, the devs are confident both worlds fit together seamlessly. As for The Cub’s more obvious inspirations, it does indeed echo The Jungle Book as it appeared on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis decades ago, as well as everything from Aladdin to The Lion King, Another World, Earthworm Jim, and World of Illusion.
Players of a certain vintage grew up playing these super-challenging games, and the same is true of Demagog and Untold Tales themselves. “Those games are burned into our psyche, for better or for worse,” Untold’s Paul Milewski tells us. “They had this great blend of appealing visuals and challenging gameplay. So a good helping of sweet to the sour that really sticks with you. We wanted to recapture that but with a few tweaks and changes to the formula. Like being a bit more fair with the challenge. Present a story that is front and center, a lot more mature, somber, and a dash satirical. And we also wanted to use audio and music to tell the story and not just as background noise. So, as we did in Golf Club Wasteland, we have this fully fleshed-out radio DJ broadcast that tells you a whole lot about the state of the world the game is set in.”
Same world, different story
FUTURE GAMES SHOW
Everything Announced at the Future Games Show Spring Showcase 2022
Milewski says that it wasn’t long after creating Golf Club Wasteland’s world that the devs realized its potential for deeper exploration. When fans of Golf Club Wasteland asked for more story-driven content set in the same post-apocalyptic environment, the sentiment was confirmed, and work on The Cub began shortly thereafter. “In Golf Club Wasteland, you played as Charlie and saw that a mutant child was following you throughout,” Milewski continues. “In The Cub, you are that child and you will now see his story prior to meeting Charlie and also where their mutual story continues which was the spot that Golf Club Wasteland concluded.”
Set in the not-too-distant future, The Cub portrays Earth in the throes of the ‘Great Climate Catastrophe’. This extinction-level event has seen the super-rich flee the planet to pursue the colonization of Mars, leaving billions to die in their wake. Decades pass and the newly-settled Martians return to their homeland to do a wee bit of reconnaissance, gather samples of a world now consumed by chemical waste, and, obviously, play a few rounds of golf. The mutant child Milewski mentions above is spotted and hunted, and it’s up to you, the player, to guide the kid to safety while traversing the dangerous wasteland.
We see elements of this in The Cub’s trailer, as the protagonist sprints across irradiated landscapes brimming with terrifying enemies and crumbling platforms and plateaus. It’s all suitably frantic and strikes at the heart of its retro platforming inspirations – certainly in structural and mechanical terms. To this end, Milewski continues: “We are saying that The Cub is heavily inspired by those classic games, but built for the 21st century. So the difficulty element is going to be there, but in a more fair way and with some options to adjust how light or brutal it is.”
Thematically, The Cub takes a distinctly firmer stance, painting a tale that’s rooted in balancing despair and hope. Milewski adds: “The song in the trailer is from the in-game radio show, and we made it in-house like the rest of the soundtrack. Even though it’s not the full song and it sounds very somber, it actually communicates the gist of The Cub. Unlike Golf Club: Wasteland, which was melancholic and essentially about solitude, here we’re aiming a little different, more energetic overall and with a bit of ‘hope in the rubble’-type feel.”
“While Charlie in Golf Club Wasteland was looking away from us into the foggy distance, contemplating the world and its loss, The Cub is looking straight at us, confrontationally, fully belonging in the broken world. The Cub is going to be a more hopeful game. A hope that likely won’t be felt by the people living right now, but rather by the future generations. I don’t think they won’t be like us. The game is hopefully going to be an ode to those that come next.”
Currently without even a vague release window, what is next for The Cub remains to be seen. But what it has shown off so far is an impressive blend of old and new, and I for one can’t wait to be shown more from The Cub’s slant on the not-too-distant future, and the grave circumstances that await our shattered planet.
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