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Interview: InLight Talks Teenage Zombies

Posted by Anthony Dickens

Recently we got the chance to put our questions to Darren McGrath, VP Creative Development at InLight Entertainment about their upcoming DS title, Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingies!

Putting up the rotting, decaying questions for NintendoLife.com was was our very own zombie slayer, Damien "Ghoulash" McFerran.

How did you come up with the concept for the game?
I’ve always loved horror and sci-fi movies – my grandma would always take us to the “Creature Features” on Saturday afternoon. 5 movies for a buck! Lots of Roger Corman stuff I’m sure. What really stuck with me was that some of those unintentionally bad movies can be just as fun as the good ones! Giving a comic book twist to the campy B-movie genre felt like a great starting point for our Teenage Zombies title.

Why zombies?
We wanted something that had both instant recognition and visual appeal. The cool thing about zombies is that they don’t require a lot of explanation. Everybody can get up to speed with them very quickly based on their own knowledge of the genre. We’ve got a terrific group of artists here at InLight! We did hundreds of variations on the characters before settling on the current line-up. I think that the characters a really terrific – they certainly strike a chord with everyone who sees them!

The visuals look suitably deranged and undeniably appealing; do you think it's easier to work in 2D as opposed to 3D?
They both have their inherent challenges and advantages. Not to boast but we’re quite comfortable working in either. The choice to do this game in 2D was simply because it best suited the retro, lo-fi, sci-fi feel of the property.

Humour is obviously a key factor in this game, but will there be enough laughs to make mature gamers raise a smile as well?
I think so – especially if they have a knowledge of the genres that this game parodies.

How does the game make use of the unique features of the DS hardware?
Actually, all of the DS controls are used pretty extensively. In addition to the D-pad, the buttons are also used for attacks, opening elevators, puking (yes PUKING!), gathering power-ups, etc. We also make very good use of the stylus in the between comic Stylus Mini-games and the BBC (Big Brain Challenge). For example, one of the games lets the Player sling-shot one of the zombies, Lefty, into the air to smash alien brains and feed her cohort Fins. In another mini-game, Lefty, a former basketball player, shoots hoops using brains instead of balls! While both use the stylus the play patterns are quite different. So I’d say that it was pretty well balanced from a hardware input standpoint.

Mini-games aside, is Teenage Zombies your run of the mill platformer?
Not really. The platformer itself, is chiefly puzzle based. As such, the platform aspect of it is more of an adventure – consisting of exploring the environment and figuring out ways to get from point A to B while smashing and eating Alien Brain Thingys. I addition there are over 30 gorgeous comic book pages to read, 8 mini-games and the Big Brain Challenge collection of micro-games. All of these elements are encountered during the platform game and move the story forward. That said, the platform game itself is atypical in that you have the ability to switch between different zombies at anytime to achieve your goals. What really stands out during all of these different forms of play is the story and the characters and a sense of fun that goes beyond the constraints of a platformer.

What does it do that we might not have witnessed previously?
I think that this game is quite unique in how it amalgamates the various play patterns into a cohesive single entity. I really like that it offers a familiar looking platformer style presentation, but on closer inspection the Player realizes that it’s more about thinking through the puzzles.

What part of the game are you most proud of?
That’s a tough choice! I’m very pleased with the characters and comic book story elements and think that the game’s look and feel are very unique. The gameplay itself is also unique. This isn’t your typical tiled looking side-scroller.

Did you have any ideas that you had to leave out, and is there the possibility of incorporating these into a sequel?
(Ha, ha) Always. There are always more ideas than cart space! Without giving too much away we built this thinking of a sequel. : )

Teenage Zombies is a pretty original title. Do you think the massive installed base of the DS means developers can take more risks when it comes to creating games?
I hope so. As a developer, it’s pretty satisfying to create something from the ground up with very little in the form of creative constraints. To do that though you really need to be able to trust your team. We have a GREAT team!

What is the DS like to develop for?
We’ve had a blast creating this game! The unique aspects of the DS hardware were really a perfect fit for this title.

Scary stuff from the McFerran - we'd like to thank Darren McGrath and Derek for setting up the interview, cheers guys.

Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingies! will be released in Spring 2008.

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