Goloso Games has been making retro-styled indie titles for a number of years now, but it wasn’t until Inspector Waffles arrived in 2021 that the solo French developer really landed on the radar of the broader adventure game community. A charming, genuinely funny mystery starring an anthropomorphic cat struck just the right tone, with a pleasing pixel art design sure to scratch any adventure fan’s nostalgia itch. Thankfully the game was successful enough to warrant a sequel – or a prequel in this case – but Goloso wasn’t content to deliver more of the same. Instead, Inspector Waffles: Early Days takes us back not only to the detective’s younger years, but to our own as well, with an even more retro design playable on the Nintendo Game Boy. (Though rest assured, PC gamers, you’re covered as well.) The developer is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for Early Days, so the time was ripe to catch up with series creator Yann to talk about cats, games, and favourite old-school handhelds.
Hi, Yann. Welcome to the Adventure Game Hotspot! A lot has happened since we spoke last, with a new website for me and a new game for you. Tell us about yours.
Yann: Hi! Well, since the last time I’ve started to work on a prequel to my previous adventure/detective game, Inspector Waffles. This new game is called Inspector Waffles: Early Days, and I plan to release it for PC and Game Boy.
Before we discuss more details about Early Days specifically, I’m (appropriately) curious: why cats?
Yann: It’s actually a combination of events. I’m not a huge fan of cats like a lot of people believe. I actually wanted to make a detective game, but I didn’t know what the story and the characters should be. And one day I saw a game jam with a “cats and dogs” theme, and I thought: “it could be fun to have a detective cat to investigate a crime scene where a cat fell from a house and didn’t land on their feet/paws.” And that’s how it’s all started.
Do the residents of Cat Town behave like felines in any noticeable manner, or are they basically humanoid in all ways but having fur, pointy ears and a tail?
Yann: They are globally like humanoids, with some slight differences: catnip is the most popular drug, the milk bar is a popular place to go, cardboard boxes are the best-selling entertainment products… It lets me build a world close to ours, but I would say it gives me the opportunity to add jokes/cat puns to it.
You decided to make this a prequel rather than a sequel. Why go that direction?
Yann: It all had to do with the fact that I wanted to experiment making a homebrew game, a game for a retro console. I’m a huge retrogamer who’s still playing games on my Game Boy and my SNES. And I also believe I have more stories to tell in the past: it would put more focus on Cat Town again, adding backstories to a lot of characters players already met in the first game… So yes, I thought “a game in a past for a console from the past,” it all made sense to me.
What can you tell us about Inspector Waffles, as both a detective and as a ma… I mean, a cat?
Yann: As a detective, he is a bit of perfectionist and needs to understand everything. That can lead him to great results, but also to his own downfall. He is a good person (I mean, cat), always trying to do his best, but ever since something that happened in the first game, he has trouble putting his trust in people. In the prequel, Waffles is a different cat: younger, ambitious, respectful of his partner… And happy to start his dream job!
This time he’s got a new partner. What does Pancakes bring to the table, and how does he differ from Spotty in the first game?
Yann: In the first game, Spotty the sniffer dog is helpful and is like Milou/Snowy with Tintin: when the situation seems desperate, he finds a solution to an impossible problem. The “sniffing” feature was something I really liked: it was simple and added more context to every scene in the game. An odor of sausage that left Spotty unable to think properly, for example.
In the new game, Pancakes is more of a wise older colleague who lets you do all the work (for the sake of game design too). But it doesn’t mean he is completely useless: you are a rookie, and he’ll train you to become a great detective… and it starts by being smarter than everyone else, in particular a criminal legend.
After playing both games, you’ll notice that Waffles needs to have a partner to be a much better detective.
You opted for a decidedly retro pixel art look and feel with Inspector Waffles. What attracted you to an aesthetic that would have been right at home in the genre thirty years ago?
Yann: To be honest, that was the only kind of art I was able to do at that time. It was hard for me to find someone who would be okay starting an adventure that would take several years of game development. So I did all the art by myself. I have no regrets about that. I know it isn’t the most beautiful pixel art you can find nowadays, but it’s good enough to appreciate an adventure game. I also learnt a lot through the years and I draw Inspector Waffles: Early Days art way faster today.
However, for my next “big” game I would like to work with talented artists, like the game jam game we did last summer, an adventure game named Pixel’s Time Paradox: it was relaxing that for once I didn’t have to draw all the assets! And Marilou Renault-Carraro’s art is absolutely gorgeous.
The Game Boy seems to be having a day, with quite a few modern titles being developed for it. What do you make of its resurgence as a desired gaming device?
Yann: Most of the new Game Boy games, including Inspector Waffles: Early Days, are made with GB Studio, a game engine built to make Game Boy games. I love using GB Studio; it’s super easy and forces me to make games with limitations, which is something I really need to finish developing games (like Waffles, I’m a bit of perfectionist sometimes).
I believe more and more games will be released on Game Boy during the next years, and more and more will be of the highest quality. For example, Broke Studio, who I partnered with to make the physical box and cartridge for Inspector Waffles: Early Days, are starting to add to their own homebrew catalogs with more and more amazing Game Boy games.
You’ll still be releasing Early Days for PC as well, so how will it work on PC? Are you adapting it for larger monitors, or will the whole viewscreen be in a smaller box-like area to simulate Nintendo’s old handheld device?
Yann: It will work like the Super Game Boy works on the Super Nintendo: to fit the screen, a banner will wrap the game. It’s still a work in progress, so it’s hard to tell you how exactly it will look, but the Super Game Boy will be the main inspiration to the look of it. The game will be playable with a controller.
What other changes do you have in store for the new game?
Yann: Nothing I can share at the moment. 😀 Mainly because it will depend on the technical possibility of doing so.
Will Early Days retain a similar interrogation system, where you use items and information you’ve found in your questioning?
Yann: Due to the Game Boy limitations, I couldn’t do the same exact interrogation system: having a moving notepad with several pages wasn’t possible anymore. Handling complex point-and-click screens and combining items, for example, wasn’t as easy as before.
So, there is still an interrogation system in the new Game Boy game, but it’s now more focused on clues than items: you gather clues while investigating scenes, you interrogate suspects and confront them with the clues, and finally you report to your partner, Pancakes.
You’ve currently got a Kickstarter campaign for Early Days, which seems to be going very well so far. Is its success due to the built-in fan base from the original game, enthusiastic Game Boy fans, or a combination of both?
Yann: It’s hard to tell; I’d say both of them, actually. I believe Broke Studio, who is a well-known publisher of (good) homebrew games, helped me bring Game Boy fans to their audience.
And in the meantime, when I released the first Inspector Waffles, I thought I wouldn’t do a lot of sales. But almost three years later, I can say that the sales exceeded my expectations. And it still is! I am lucky to have a small community of players who really want to hear more about Inspector Waffles’ adventure, and I was happy to see that they were excited by the Game Boy project, which I was a bit afraid of, to be honest.
Speaking of looking back at one’s younger years, how did you originally come to be a game developer?
Yann: I am a software engineer, so I’ve been developing programs for almost 15 years. I also always loved video games, thanks to my parents who let me have a PC and an NES at a young age. I actually never felt the need to make games until few years after I graduated, when I started to get very, very bored at a new job. So I just started to make games I’d have loved to play when I was younger. I did that for a couple of years just for fun as a hobby, until Waffles came out. It was at that time that I decided things were more serious than just a hobby.
Why an adventure game?
Yann: It’s one of the three genres I love the most: simulation/management, adventure and platformer. I didn’t want to do a platformer at first, and a management game seemed way too complicated for a first game. I also wanted to design puzzles and write a story, so point-and-click it was.
Other than starring anthropomorphic cats, Inspector Waffles has a strong film-noir vibe. Are you a big fan of the classic detective mysteries?
Yann: Not more than thriller or comedy, actually. I like detective mysteries; I remember watching them when I was younger, and they probably influenced me as a person. Who Framed Roger Rabbit was clearly an influence: a film noir with funny anthropomorphic animals, a sad and tortured detective with a tormented past surrounded by idiots who don’t understand him… Well, sounds a bit like Inspector Waffles, right? 😉
Someone told me one day that some of the jokes felt like they came from a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker movie. I was glad to hear that; I was more influenced by movies in general than video games, when I design a game’s atmosphere. Spike II was inspired by the Rambo series and Pixel’s Time Paradox by Groundhog Day.
Presumably you’ve been influenced by some of the adventure genre’s greats as well. Do any games stand out for you as being particularly impactful on you, either as a player or as a developer?
Yann: When I was younger, I remember playing Broken Sword constantly. It will always be my favorite point-and-click adventure game. I also remember playing Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. These two games have the best introductions I’ve ever played in a video game. The Broken Sword opening was so intense, very well made; you are immersed in the action quickly. I always use this one as a model of how to hook players to a game.
The Indiana Jones intro was so creative. I remember playing that one at a friend’s house; we absolutely loved it. Falling from one room to another, while introducing the dev team. Brilliant.
More recently, Chicken Police’s noir atmosphere, Lord Winklebottom Investigates and Lucy Dreaming’s British wit, and Joe Richardson’s games’ Monty Pythonesque humour really stood out for me.
What’s the status of Early Days currently, and when might we see the game available to play?
Yann: I’d say 70% is done. There will be five cases and one secret case if you found all secrets in the previous cases. We don’t know at the moment if there will be more languages than English and French. Adding localizations to a Game Boy game is way more challenging than a regular PC game.
We plan to release it in summer 2024. The first three cases are already done and tested, and it seems that the testers enjoyed the two other cases that weren’t featured in the current demo (which makes me happy, as you can imagine).
Any sneak peeks into what you have planned after that?
Yann: We want to finish Pixel’s Time Paradox. The reception was amazing; we got more than 7,000 players on itch.io, which is absolutely incredible. Although it will take a lot of time because we all have other projects at the moment, but we’ll do it in the long run.
I also want to make other games that aren’t point-and-click games; maybe still adventure games, maybe not. We’ll see. My mind will be focused on Inspector Waffles: Early Days for a while longer. 😀
No doubt! I’m sure you’re busy with production, so thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us about your game, Yann, and I wish you all the best in blowing past your Kickstarter campaign goal. Inspector Waffles: Early Days looks like the cat’s meow, so to speak, and we can’t wait to check it out when it arrives!