Barnyard Blast, despite its title, continues to be one of the few games for the DS that we're genuinely anticipating. We were immediately taken with its concept long before Sanuk Software even found a publisher, surprised that the Bangkok-based studio had created something as original and madcap as a cowboy pig caught up in a classically-styled Castlevania adventure.
We sat down with Sanuk Software founder Yan Marchal to find out more about the 2D action platformer and its porky protagonist, Robert Belmart. Will Barnyard Blast use any of the DS's unique features? What sort of creative bosses can we look forward to?
Most importantly, how did a pistol-packing pig find himself shooting his way through spooky graveyards and foreboding castles? Yan answers all those questions and even reveals a new screenshot for us to fawn over past the post break!
What inspired Sanuk Software to create a game based on a cowboy pig? In a horror/Castlevania-esque setting, of all places?
We decided to make an old-school action 2D game as our first project initiated in-house because it would be both a game we would like to play and a project of affordable complexity for us.
How it ended up being an unlikely cowboy pig shooting zombies is, in fact, a story of non-coordination between artists and loose creative direction -- I was busy with other vital issues in the studio while this took place, and the producer assigned on this game was a junior. Our 3D artist likes designing pigs, while our 2D artists are fans of Castlevania and Ghosts'n Goblins. When I took the project back in hand, I thought it would be unmarketable as such, but the timeline was too tight to reshape it before San Francisco's GDC.
However, surprisingly enough, the game got noticed there thanks to its originality, and was identified by most visitors as a spoof of horror games. We decided to bite the bullet. We kept the game as it was, and designed the set and the story accordingly.
How big is Barnyard Blast's development team?
The core team consists of four full-time persons (one designer/producer, one programmer, and two artists). There have also been five additional contributors on a part-time basis.
Barnyard Blast's FAQ states that there will be six levels. Does this mean six levels in total, or six worlds with sub-stages spread out? How long can we expect each level to be?
It is six stages total -- this is a value-oriented title, so we are necessarily limited in cartridge capacity. However we packed them with a fair share of action and tricky monsters to defeat, so that no player should consider [Barnyard Blast] a piece of cake. Also, as an action game, it has a high replay value, therefore its intensity matters more than its length.
[Note: The original Castlevania game for the NES also featured only six levels.]
We noticed a few "mature" details in the screenshots that've been released: cartoon violence, blood, and even crucified corpses. Will you leave these in even if you get a higher ESRB rating in the US (i.e. Teen, or Mature)?
The game's rating will be 12+ in Europe and our publisher is okay with it. If we get "Teen" in US, we should be fine. Otherwise I guess we'll correct some graphics ... As a matter of fact, we didn't integrate these rating constraints upfront because we were not used to them. But as you can certainly tell, our artists were driven by a willingness to create fun, rather than horrendous violence, and the graphic universe is anything but realistic. As the game is now, I personally don't think it would be harmful to children.
Despite cultural differences, Barnyard Blast's FAQ is still very humorous, making various references to past games and gaming clichés. We love how the story begins with Robert Belmart setting off to save his son, Cliffy B, who'd been kidnapped by evil creatures after having tee-peed their castle. Can we expect to see a lot of this humor in the game?
Yes, you will see a fair dose of this humor in the game. I won't give more examples though, in order not to spoil it. We have one American gamer in our team and he wrote most of the story. Other than that, while the general mechanics of humor will work more or less the same way for all humans on this planet, you are right to point out that the gap is hard to bridge when it comes to specific cultural details.
As an example, most team members didn't ever hear about tee-peeing and didn't figure the semantics it conveys. Here, the same kind of tissue is used in restrooms and on restaurant tables for people to clean their face, so ....
Why do you think it is that we see don't more parody games done well?
Well, many games are funny and don't take themselves too seriously in the first place, which reduces the space left for parody. But still, there has been a number of successful parody titles throughout the game history: think about Parodius, Duke Nukem 3D, Metal Slug ....
What are those special "items" that we've seen on the bottom screen?
There's a health regenerator, an item to jump higher, an item to increase weapon power, and an item to run faster. You can conveniently select these items with the touch-screen. You have to use them wisely and save them for tense situations, as they consume the special power points you accumulate throughout the level.
Can you give us a short description of one of the game's bosses?
The first boss you'll deal with is a tree from which zombies fall like rotten fruits. While avoiding falling zombies, you'll have to jump and shoot the tree's eye in the middle of its trunk as soon as it opens. There are many other original bosses -- I will let players experience the surprise of discovering them.
Is there anything else that Sanuk Software would like to share with our readers who're excited about Barnyard Blast?
We had a good time developing this game, despite the pressure of a tight budget/delay. We're not pretending that it will [revolutionize] the 2D action genre, but we hope players will enjoy playing it as much as we enjoyed making it!
Official site: Barnyard Blast: Swine of the Night