When we last saw Knuckle Sandwich, indie designer Andrew Brophy's latest Windows PC and Mac project, we remarked upon the role-playing game's similarities to EarthBound, the beloved Super Nintendo adventure. But the game draws more inspiration from another Nintendo series instead, Brophy explained to Polygon.
"I think mechanically, Knuckle Sandwich feels a lot more like playing Pokémon," he told us.
That's not to suggest the contemporary RPG features any monster-collecting, however, although it does pit you against monsters in turn-based battles. Instead, the primary logline is distinctly more relatable.
"Having a day job sucks" is how Brophy summed up the game, in which you play as a boy who's living on his own for the first time, supporting himself with a diner waiter's salary. That might sound mundane, but things quickly get weirder: People have been disappearing from town, and there's talk of cults behind the mystery.
To that end, Brophy cites a certain non-gaming inspiration: American Psycho, "which I think will be very clear to people when they play the game," he added.
Knuckle Sandwich's latest teaser trailer, which you can watch above, doesn't readily suggest how that gore-filled cult favorite comes into play. Instead, Brophy uses it to premiere other previously unseen elements, including a brand-new art style and redesigned main character.
"It [also] introduces your three co-workers," he said about the teaser, "who act as your guide[s] and occasional traveling companions throughout the game."
Players will spend the bulk of Knuckle Sandwich splitting their time between exploring their city with their group and working at the diner.
It sounds mundane, but things get pretty weird
"To me, it's interesting having this divide between keeping up with a routine and then going open world," Brophy explained. "The game rewards you for exploring and interacting with the sub-plots within the story, but to that end, you are not punished for skipping straight to the main story arc.
"Not everyone has time!" he added. "I'm considerate."
Scoring this adventure is an original soundtrack by Gyms, whose work is heavily influenced by Super Nintendo-era jams. The new teaser features the debut of the game's score, which Brophy cites as a big part of the game's overall style.
Even if it's more Pokémon than EarthBound — although Brophy did name its sequel Mother 3 as another influence — there's another title that this retro-style RPG might remind gamers of.
We couldn't help but ask Brophy what he thinks of 2015's underground hit Undertale, which itself bears many similarities to Earthbound and other JRPGs from the SNES' glory days. What does he make of Knuckle Sandwich's potential to succeed following Undertale's own success at revisiting that genre?
"I think now is a great time for fans of games like these," the designer replied. "This whole sub-genre is based on subverting tropes in role-playing games, so you tend to be surprised with each one, even if they follow a similar format.
"I think there's plenty of room for video games like mine, so I don't need to succeed over Undertale because I know I'm crafting a very different experience."
There's no firm release date yet for Knuckle Sandwich. Brophy is working on a demo, however, so gamers will be able to try out the latest RPG with a twist soon. The game was also successfully greenlit on Steam last fall.