February 8, 2012 1:00 AM | John Polson
Mobile developer Simogo has quickly distinguished itself with the charming, musical aesthetic of iOS titles Bumpy Road and Kosmo Spin. Its newest game, colorful Beat Sneak Bandit, takes the studio's affinity for rhythm games further still -- and has earned a Best Mobile Game nomination in the IGF for the effort.
Players control a sprightly bandit who must "sneak to the beat" in the clock-controlled mansion of the aptly named Duke Clockface, who has stolen all the world's... clocks. The guy loves clocks, it seems, which makes sense because of the role timing plays in Beat Sneak Bandit, which employs repeating puzzle loops with the aim of creating a true rhythm game.
Gamasutra spoke to Simogo co-founder Simon Flesser about the development of the game, the evolution of the rhythm-action genre and Beat Sneak Bandit's clever aesthetics.
What background do you have making games?
Me and Gordon [Gardeback] started Simogo in late 2010. Before that we worked a few years at Southend Interactive, making ilomilo and a few remakes and things for XBLA and PSN.
What development tools did you use?
We use Unity and Photoshop as our main tools. But there's quite a bit of 3D animation in Beat Sneak Bandit too -- it's the first Simogo project we've used Maya in.
How long have you worked on the game?
We started working on Beat Sneak Bandit in August, but back then it was a very different game, in which you controlled time like a DJ. It was sort of a weird reality scratching time puzzle thing... In late September, after trying to make this concept understandable in loads of different ways, we shifted to the more rhythm-based gameplay we have today. So the line between prototyping and actual development is a bit blurred.
The rhythm genre is a personal fave of mine, but I don't get nearly enough games like that for my taste! What are some of your favorites, and how might they have helped inspire Beat Sneak Bandit?
Rhythm Tengoku (and its sequel) is by far my favourite rhythm game. I would actually argue that it's the only true rhythm game, since it can be played with your eyes closed, while most other rhythm games are more about pattern recognition and reaction. That said, Beat Sneak Bandit is a game that is very much based around studying rhythm patterns, so I wouldn't call it a traditional rhythm game by definition since the actual rhythm input from the player is very basic in itself.
Gameplay-wise maybe Rhythm Tengoku didn't inspire Beat Sneak Bandit a whole lot, but it definitely influenced the way everything is animated so snappy to the beat and the way it creates challange by mixing beats and backbeats. I think we were more inspired by classic logical puzzles and rhythm theories and how to create puzzle designs based on rhythm, more than rhythm games, actually.
I love the music based games from iNiS as well -- Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and Gitaroo Man are big favourites, but their influence on Beat Sneak Bandit is pretty limited.
Why do you think attention to the genre seems to come in fits and starts? It's hugely popular, but iterative evolution seems sort of rare.
Tough question, and I don't think I have a good answer to it. Like all things, I would guess it's about trends. It's indeed weird how the rhythm genre is still so much about matching button presses to basic signals on screen, when there are games like Ouendan or Gitaroo Man that do something new with the interface of rhythm based gameplay.
It's a shame that rhythm games that are not so much about matching button presses to falling tiles, but that are more about actual rhythm and music at their core (like Rhythm Tengoku or Wii Music) are even more rare.
You've set the gameplay against this sort of delightful absurdist aesthetic and storyline. Why do you think that kind of bold choice helps highlight your gameplay?
Even if we're not big storytellers or anything, I think having some sort of context, characters or motivation is important. Gameplay is always king, but it's a king of nothing if you don't have a good presentation to fit it in.
We wanted to make something that felt cool, but in a silly cartoon show kind of way. The way everything is pretty self aware in its silliness in cartoons is something we wanted in this game, because the concept of a house in which everything moves to the beat is in itself pretty absurd.
Played any of the other IGF finalists? Any you particularly loved?
I'm a big fan of ASYNC Corp! I just started playing Pugs Luv Beats too and it's a very fascinating little toy.
What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?
Most of the games I find interesting is coming from small independent teams, so I would say the state is fantastic. The only thing missing, and I'd say this is an overall problem for the game industry, is the lack of diversity among game makers. We need more people from different backgrounds with new perspective.
[This article originally appeared on Gamasutra, written by Leigh Alexander.]