Frozen North Productions hopes to put a smile on the face of a lot of Wii owners this September. The company — which started with only six people — is behind the M.C. Escher-inspired platformer, Flip’s Twisted World.
The 3D platforming title, published by Majesco, allows gamers to manipulate environments by twisting and turning them 90 degrees. As such, walls can become the floor and ceilings the walls with a small gesture of the Wii Remote. To help wrap our minds around the title further, we conducted an e-mail interview with Douglas Gregory, lead designer of Flip’s Twisted World.
Nintendojo: What was the inspiration for Flip’s Twisted World?
Douglas Gregory: Our original inspiration was a print by the artist M.C. Escher, titled “Relativity.” That’s the one with the staircases running up walls and ceilings, and people happily walking around at all angles in this mixed-up room.
We wanted to make a game that would let gamers play around in such twisted spaces, and really tap their 3D problem-solving.
ND: Why does Flip’s Twisted World make the most sense on Wii? Why not develop the game for any other system?
Douglas Gregory: The Wii targets the right kind of demographic for a family-friendly, whimsical 3D platformer like Flip’s Twisted World. But more importantly, the Wii’s gesture controls give us an amazingly intuitive interface for twisting the world.
Our initial prototypes for Flip’s were actually for the Xbox 360. There was a marked difference in the feel of the game once we moved to the Wii, though. Now, we could literally put the world in the palm of players’ hands, and let them twist it in true 3D.
ND: Will Wii Remote motions be required to flip the world in the game? If not, will the Classic Controller be supported?
Douglas Gregory: Flip’s Twisted World requires a Wii Remote and Nunchuk to play. However, players don’t have to use the gesture controls to twist the world. They can also use the analog stick if they prefer, without having to set an option in a menu anywhere.
ND: Many platform games rely solely on mechanics, with the narrative being more of an afterthought. How important is the story in Flip’s Twisted World?
Douglas Gregory: In respect to players who just want to get to the action, Flip’s Twisted World doesn’t heavily force the narrative on players. You’re never tested on how well you’re following the story, so if you grasp the mechanics, you can safely skip the dialogue. In our opinion, you’d be missing out, but some people prefer to play that way.
For those who dig story, we’re very proud of the storytelling in our game. There’s hilarious dialogue, and narration by Anthony Stewart Head, most famous for playing Giles in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
ND: A problem 3D platform games run into rather often relates to the camera. How will players control the camera? And in what ways does the camera dynamically change as you constantly flip the perspective of the world?
Douglas Gregory: Players can rotate the camera using the D-Pad, and zoom in and out using the + and – buttons. Our camera system is designed to respect a player’s choices as much as possible, maintaining the vertical angle of the camera as the player runs and jumps about.
In the case of obstacles, the camera tries to zoom in to clear the obstacle while maintaining its direction, rather than jarringly zipping off to the side somewhere.
We tried to be very sparing with situations that lock the camera, saving them only for areas where moving the camera freely is likely to obscure important action, or where we expect the player to be too busy with a challenge to adjust the camera themselves. At all other times, we let the player have as much control over the camera as possible.
ND: In videos for Flip’s Twisted World, the main character is constantly picking up coins. What is the purpose of the coins?
Douglas Gregory: You can buy items like health potions to save you in a pinch, or save up for one of Flip’s alternate costumes. Many of the costumes have special powers and effects, but you’ll have to find the carefully hidden silver coins to get them all.
Also, it’s just fun running through the coins to pick them up. In our office and in playtesting, we all find we want to pick up the coins, even without any plans to spend them.
ND: How was working with Tommy Tallarico on the audio design of Flip’s Twisted World? Did collaborating with him influence or alter any gameplay aspects of the title?
Douglas Gregory: Working with Tommy Tallarico was absolutely phenomenal. We asked him to evoke some of the catchy sound of classic console games like Mario, Sonic, Mega Man, and Zelda, and he delivered spectacularly with every track.
While I don’t think any mechanics were directly influenced by working with Tommy, I think his music was a key inspiration to us in building our worlds to their present scale, as well as to the overall tone of the game.
ND: What was the biggest challenge working on the game with such a small team?
Douglas Gregory: Our biggest challenge was the sheer amount of content we needed to produce. Each of the six worlds contains easily hundreds of assets — from textures to 3D models, animations, sound effects, camera cues, event triggers, materials, and particle systems. To do it all with such a small team, we were working long hours for most of the two years of development, even with some of the asset creation outsourced. Learning to squeeze all that content into the Wii without slowing it down was yet another challenge.
Flip’s Twisted World hits Wii on Sept. 21 for a MSRP of $29.99.