What do you get when you come across WarioWare with Skeletons? Spookware, of course.
But Spookware is more than just a WarioWare reskin. This is a set of clever cinema-themed micro-games framed by a clever storytelling device of three skeleton brothers who decide to leave their basement cinema cave and go on an adventure in the world. , solving problems and creating new ones as you go.
Developers Adam Pype, Viktor Kraus, and Tibau Van den Broeck didn’t start out by trying to recreate themselves and their movie-watching habits in the form of microgames. Instead, Spookware grew out of Pype’s participation in Game a Month, a challenge that (as the name suggests) requires developers to create one game per month over a set period of time. Pype and Kraus had worked together before, and Kraus contributed the sound for the first performance of Spookware, while Van den Broeck joined a little later.
The first version of Spookware was just a small set of rapid-fire micro-games. But they were quickly approached by DreadXP to participate in one of its Dread X collections, low-cost bundles of clever little horror titles made in relatively short periods of time. DreadXP asked the trio to flesh out Spookware, and of course, they added some skeletons.
Spookware opens with the skeleton trio – Lefti, Midi, and Righti – lounging on a couch and watching horror movies, which manifest to the player in the form of a series of movie-themed micro-games. ‘horror. There’s one where you saw off a limb, another where you put together bones in the right places on a skeleton, one where you dig up a skull from the ground, and another on defusing a bomb. There are others, too, that offer regular activities with a horror polish, like chopping wood in a quiet forest or a ghoulish hand filling in papers. Complete all the microgames for a card-sorting boss fight game, and the Skeleton Brothers will end their movie viewing and venture out into the world. From there, the skeletons visit a school and later a cruise ship, meeting people and overcoming obstacles in the form of, yes, more micro-games.
Spookware’s microgames are instantly striking, with exaggerated horror music and bold text making pun filled jokes on every successful completion of the game. My favorite game is playing bongos to accompany a skeleton in the game. saxophone, with the concluding musical interlude “Now it’s jazz!” »If successful. They’re all wacky like that, using horror tropes to delight rather than scare, and while there are certainly a lot of skeletons, there is very little repetition in terms of tropes or micro activities. games. Also, the skeletons are extremely funny and cool, turns out.
Pype and Van den Boeck attribute their clever micro-game styles to their main inspiration for Spookware: the movie. They and Kraus may not have intended to base the trio of skeletons on themselves and their regular movie nights together, but to some extent, that’s what happened. Pype says that now when the three get together for movie nights, they’re constantly brainstorming ideas for new microgames based on the movies they’re watching.
“In terms of coming up with a good idea for a microgame, I think at least I try to watch a lot of movies and find little memorable things,” Van den Boeck said. “For example, at school you have to grab the paper boats – it’s a very famous scene in IT. I feel like it’s always a good way, you take movies of horror or movies that fit the genre of the chapter, then you think of some memorable moments, and usually there are some really simple actions.
“We try to limit microgames to one or two actions, because people need to be able to understand it immediately. Then, based on that, we try to create something easy and fast. You don’t want the microgames to be long – I think the longest we have is 15 seconds, hard max for a microgame.
While the three were obviously inspired by WarioWare, Pype says they wanted to use microgames in a new way: to carry a story. Like the microgames, the chapters and the overall stories themselves are inspired by the movie. For example, the school chapter is based on Mean Girls and Clueless. An upcoming chapter set in the city recalls Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. Each chapter features a different type of movie, which in turn gives each chapter a different mechanic.
“At this point, I’m mainly trying to find new ways of doing things with buttons,” Pype says. “At first, I mostly came from, ‘What’s a good horror hope?’ and then there could be a micro-game. But now it’s more like, “What’s some kind of input or mechanism that we haven’t done before?” And then can we make a joke out of it or something? Because after a while you don’t want every microgame to just spam left and right.
Aside from its microgames, what strikes most about Spookware are its sound and its art. Kraus tells me that he takes inspiration from anime sound effects for the sound of Spookware, looking for “weird pitch wobble things going on” and aiming for something less realistic and more cartoonish, but that’s really satisfying.
When it comes to art, Pype has a rather unusual explanation for why Spookware seems so unique:
“It’s very easy to do, as if all the images are in the public domain,” he says. “And it’s all projected onto low poly models basically, which is good because a lot of the lighting information is already in the texture. Even though it doesn’t make sense that the texture lighting is coming from [one direction] but in the scene [the light comes from another direction], just because it all looks a lot like HD, you get a lot of fidelity for free which makes things really quick because we can really be very careless about that.
“And we have a lot of post-processing there. There’s like a slight painterly filter going on and the thing moving a bit, and there’s rain and film grain and so much going on. If you just look at the thing, you will see that the resolution is completely different and everywhere. Because the paint filter is there and the color grading and everything, it does everything together, making it look super clean and polished.
“It’s the best look you can get for the least amount of effort,” he laughs.
Spookware is an episodic game, so while the chapters are now available on PC, there are four episodes planned in total, and the team is now working on episode two. Pype says he hopes Spookware inspires more developers to work with micro-game sets in the future, something he doesn’t see that often despite their apparent simplicity.
“I hope more people try to do the Wario Ware thing, because Nintendo has the [monopoly] on it, ”he said. ” They should not ; there’s no reason not everyone should try to do stuff like this.
Rebekah Valentine is a reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.