You are a lizard person, despondent. You alienated your friends and family trying to sell Cutcorp Knives through an MLM, your human lover left you to become a veterinarian, and your trip to discover yourself has left you stranded in orbit around a culturally conservative desert planet with few lizard-people, a poor interwebs connection, and little variety in cuisine. The only way forward? You must play the most dangerous game called Bounty Hunter Space Lizard.
What is this game about?
Bounty Hunter Space Lizard won’t be mistaken for anything but itself, and that’s a good thing. At the bottom, it’s a turn-based, small-map tactics game in the same vein as Hoplite. Its mechanics, however, draw as much from roguelikes as from class arcade games and Bomberman.
You start each level on a single-screen map with semi-randomized obstacles in the middle. The sides wrap around, like in Pac-Man. This opens up strategies for escaping, shooting through the wrap, being shot through the wrap, or accidentally shooting yourself if you’re very careless. The terrain can be changed with bombs. Black bombs blow up the obstacles while creating flames, which themselves act as barriers to movement and shooting. Pink bombs create a small flock of flamingos, which slow down progress as the enemy must cut through them to get to you. Each flamingo drops ammunition, giving the game a slight crafting angle as you collect and exchange bombs for bullets. The core game loop really comes in through “haste orbs,” which are dropped when you slash an adjacent enemy. Each orb gives you three free turns, and the key to winning is to chain together melee attacks and more orbs.
What Nick is saying about Bounty Hunter Space Lizard?
GamingonPhone had the opportunity to interview Nick of Stay Inside Games and ask a few questions about the game:
GoP: BHSL has been called “bizarre” because of the story. How did you get the idea to base a game on a lizardperson having an existential crisis?
SIG: The idea, I don’t know. Creative ideas are, of course, a synthesis of what we know and what we want to see in the world. We began with the idea of a video game. Video games, to me, are a little bizarre. I play games to escape. And so I wanted something that pulls into the most basic arcade traditions of pew-pew lasers, a sci-fi setting, aliens, and all that. But I also wanted a story that meshes with the other aspects that set a video game apart from a book or a movie, which is interactivity, setbacks, and advancement. The story and the game both, together, mesh to bring the player through the Lizard’s slow and somewhat difficult advancement. Finally, I wanted to present these things in a bit of a subversive light. You need to play through the whole story to see that aspect, though.
GoP: Okay… Well, why did you decide to go with an adorable pixel-art style?
SIG: The same reasons: I wanted to make a very “video game” kind of game drawing from our traditions. Video games grabbed public consciousness and led to many people’s nostalgia in the 1980s, with pixel art.
GoP: The mechanics of the game are quite a hybrid. There are a lot of moving parts! Was it a challenge to make it all work together and stay balanced?
SIG: It was, and actually it took several months of development to make the game fun. We knew that allowing the player and projectiles to wrap around the screen would be an interesting twist on single-screen roguelikes, but it was still not fun to take your turn and shoot, then be shot, then shoot, etc. Traditional roguelikes get around this problem by complexity that did not fit with the simple game we wanted to make. What turned the corner was the idea of adding haste, then making it contingent on melee combat. The sequence of slash-haste-slash gave us our core game loop.
GoP: Mobile controls are tricky. Your tap-to-move and swipe-to-shoot controls work very well, but why didn’t you go with a controller overlay like so many mobile games?
SIG: We wanted the game to take full advantage of its mobile platform. People have their phones everywhere, and many older people especially don’t use it as their primary gaming system. We made it portrait orientation so people could play it during office meetings or classes. We used native controls like tapping and swiping to make gameplay look and feel like normal use of a phone rather than something like a Switch.
GoP: You’ve gotten some good press. What advice do you have for other indie devs trying to break through the noise?
SIG: Push through the despair! It feels like shouting in the desert, but when you finally hear someone calling back, it is sweeter than water.
GoP: Thank you very much!
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