When the Nintendo Switch launched many early adopters turned to a few trusted early releases - at retail there was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and on the eShop there was a cute Nintendo-published co-op puzzler, Snipperclips - Cut it out, together!. As it turned out the project was created and primarily developed by two brothers and their team in the UK - Tom and Adam Vian had, through their studio SFB Studios, struck gold with their clever idea.
We spoke to the brothers about that process before release, and Nintendo's backing certainly helped the game flourish - especially after launch. Now it's back with more - Snipperclips Plus: Cut it out, together! is out in stores as a budget release, while the on the eShop you can either buy the original with the DLC as a bundle, or pick up each part separately. The 'Plus' adds brand new stages, remixed old stages and some new modes; support for the Pro Controller and Joy-Con Grip has also been added as a free update for all players.
We're certainly keen to get stuck into the Plus content, and we've had the chance to catch up with the SFB Games brothers once again to talk about what they've learned since the original launch, along with their goals when producing the DLC. Beyond that, of course, they talk about why Switch is the perfect home for this most charming of co-op titles.
The original eShop release proved to be a notable early hit on the store. Were you confident it would achieve that success before its launch?
Adam: I was confident we'd made a fun, unique game which was a great fit for the Switch hardware. We were optimistic. But still, you can't be sure of anything.
Tom: This was our first console game, and certainly our first console launch title, so we didn’t know what to expect. The fact that everyone at Nintendo had such faith in us and the game was reassuring though.
What trends did you see in player's reactions to the game, and what did you learn from that feedback?
Adam: I've seen a lot of gameplay videos, I really was curious to see how people were playing and what they were feeling. I noticed all kinds of behaviour, but there was an interesting trend of what we call the “cut me a scoop” - where players would have their go-to “scoop” shape, and solve many levels with it. Even though you can cut any shape you like, players would often attempt to stick to what had worked in other levels.
Tom: I was really pleased to see how much the game got people talking while playing together. Since we don’t have much text, people end up having to come up with their own vocabulary of what they want the other player to do. You can tell a pair is doing really well when they start developing shorthand for some complex shapes!
Can you take us through some of the discussions between the teams at SFB Games and Nintendo after release, and how work on the Plus content began?
Tom: Both SFB and Nintendo agreed that we wanted to add more content, we felt that the game deserved to be bigger. And we knew that we still had plenty of ideas, both those we’d already thought of and lots that we hadn’t!
Adam: We saw pretty quickly after launch that people were really enjoying the game, which reassured everyone that it was something worth going after. We discussed what kind of additional content would players value the most. We decided one development priority should be to expand the “core” 1-2 player part of the game.
What were the key design goals when producing the new content?
Adam: As I mentioned before, we noticed players would often try to solve levels using the same shapes over and over, so I wanted to try to encourage them to cut shapes they'd not thought about before. We wanted the levels to feel new and interesting, but we were careful not to push the difficulty too far. Of course, that's quite subjective.
Tom: We had a design philosophy in the original game that it should be fun to fail – that messing up should often be funnier than the right solution. Watching everyone play the game after launch, I think we found a pretty good balance, and we noticed that the World 3 levels were tricky enough to still be fun and just stay short of frustrating for most people. So we tried to keep the new content on the same side of that line.
Adam: We also wanted both “World 4” and “World 5” to offer a great deal of variety. In World 1, for example, there are three levels about putting different kinds of balls through hoops. Those levels are all different, but they share the same logic, and they look similar. In the new content, there aren't as many levels with multiple iterations like that. Most levels are completely unique experiences.
In terms of the remixed stages, can you give some examples of how these have been adjusted?
Adam: We've added a new feature called Random Shapes. Once you've unlocked the feature, you can go back to levels you’ve completed previously and choose to use Random Shapes. Snip and Clip start the level with randomly selected body shapes, and it'll be a different combination every time you select a level, or restart from the pause menu. The random combinations of shapes add an impressive amount of new gameplay experiences, even for levels the player is confident in. Sometimes the level will be made easier, sometimes harder, sometimes just weirder. I'm not telling you how many random shapes there are, maybe someone can try to find them all and work it out.
Tom: We think it adds some really worthwhile replay value, because it’s not just about completing the level again in the same way, it’s about going back into the completed level and having a new experience each time.
Adam: Oh, and it works for all modes. Thought hockey was a little too fair and predictable? Play random shapes hockey instead.
You've created 30 new stages; can you talk about these and give some examples of new ideas and features you're excited about?
Adam: World 4 is called “Cosmic Comics”, it's visually themed on vintage comic books, but the levels are about all kinds of things - from magic, to pirates, to space exploration. There's a level about a flying broomstick and a witch's cauldron that I'm quite fond of.
World 5 is called “Toybox Tools” and features a level about building a house for a little wooden chicken to sleep in – of course. The special “star” levels in World 5 are probably the most unique and interesting levels in the entire game, so watch out for those.
Tom: We also added three new multiplayer Blitz modes, and expanded the Dojo mode too! Plus there are 6 new Party levels to be unlocked. With all that, there are now over 100 levels in the game.
The Stamp mode seems like a nice creative addition for players, what inspired you to produce that?
Adam: We actually had this idea at a very early stage in development. (It even pre-dates the Hockey mode, which shares the same control scheme) We always felt we'd like to give players a chance to relax and play around without having to worry about completing objectives. The game has a theme of creativity and freedom, so it was a natural fit. It's fun to see what kind of art you can make within the limitations of the system. I think people will be shocked by what's possible – please everyone, share your Stamp mode screenshots on Twitter so I can see!
This'll be the first Nintendo-published retail game on Switch that was initially on the system's eShop, can you talk about the decision to bring this Plus edition to retail?
Tom: That was a decision made by Nintendo, but of course we think it’s a great one! We’ve seen a lot of people enjoying the digital version, so we’re really excited to see what happens when it’s on store shelves as well. To have a physical release with an actual box in stores has been a lifelong dream for us at SFB!
For those that have already played through the original download game already, what do you feel are the key selling points for the DLC?
- More levels, especially in the core 1-2 player part of the game. Those levels are super varied and unique, so it's quite likely you'll find some new favourites.
- Random Shapes add layers of new experiences to all levels and modes in the game, encouraging re-visiting stages, or perhaps playing through again with a different co-op partner.
- We've added three new games to Blitz mode, and we've expanded Dojo mode too!
- There are new 2-4 player levels in Party mode, featuring new challenges in the World 4 and World 5 themes.
- And finally, Stamp mode is a real change of pace, but maybe you'll find yourself spending hours in there, working on a masterpiece.
With development having continued beyond the initial launch, how has the relationship between SFB Games and Nintendo evolved in that period?
Adam: I'm not sure it's changed in any particular way since the initial launch. SFB proved what we’re capable of by getting the game done on time, which was reassuring to everyone at Nintendo, I'm sure. Over time we've all learnt a bit more about how to communicate effectively, give the most helpful feedback, things like that.
From your perspectives, how important was the link between Snipperclips and the Switch hardware concept? Do you feel Snipperclips would have achieved such success on any platform, or were its ties to the Switch console and its capabilities key to its reception?
Tom: I don’t think the game would have done as well on any other platform. Games that focus on local multiplayer usually have a higher barrier to entry – you need at least a second controller and to convince someone to come round and play it with you! But on the Switch, the two controllers are built in, and you can take it with you to find someone to play it with.
Adam: We began development with no knowledge of the Switch, but once we learnt about the Switch hardware, especially the two Joy-Con controllers, it seemed like the game and the system had both been designed with each other in mind – even though they obviously hadn't.
Finally, what have been your personal highlights from the process of developing Snipperclips and then Snipperclips Plus on the Switch?
Adam: Visiting Nintendo to have the Switch disclosed to us was a highlight. Just being there was exciting, but being let in on this massive secret so early on was completely unreal. Another highlight for me was the Switch preview event we attended in London, which was the first time we'd experienced Snipperclips being demoed in a public environment. As for the development of Snipperclips Plus, I really enjoyed developing the two new world themes, especially Cosmic Comics. I felt like we were really adding something unique to the game.
Tom: For me, it was watching the game spread and be played all around the world, on a scale we’ve never experienced before! The feedback was largely positive too, which felt great after a very intense year and a half. I’m looking forward to the same thing hopefully happening with the retail release, perhaps on an even bigger scale!
We'd like to thank Adam and Tom for their time, and Nintendo for setting up the interview. Snipperclips: Cut it out together! is out now as a full download or retail release. Those that already own the original eShop game can buy the Plus DLC separately.