Today brings the release of Bulb Boy to the eShop in North America (due on 13th July in Europe), which is certainly a unique arrival for Switch owners to consider. It blends point and click gameplay with a quirky style and surreal storytelling, certainly setting itself apart from the console's download library to date. We gave it a hearty recommendation in our Bulb Boy review.
It's the work of Polish studio Bulbware, and to line up with its launch we spoke to Szymon Łukasik and Artur Mikołajczyk, the two figureheads of the small development studio. We wanted to learn more about the inspirations behind such a peculiar but interesting game, and how they came to bring the title to Nintendo Switch.
First of all, can you introduce yourselves and Bulbware to our readers?
Hi all! Bulbware is basically two guys - Artur (code guy) and Szymon (art guy). We're located in Krakow, Poland.
At some point in 2013 we decided to make a demo of our dream game and give Kickstarter a try in 2014. It was made entirely after-hours around our jobs. It turned out that one of our Kickstarter supporters, Felix Kjelberg - aka Pewdiepie - liked the weirdness of the game so much that he became our sole backer.
So, once we got funded making games became our main work.
Before we get into detail, can you give an overview of Bulb Boy for those that are unfamiliar with the game?
Bulb Boy is a horror adventure game where you play as a young boy (with a light bulb instead of head) who realizes one day that his Grandparaffin and Mothdog have disappeared. You embark on an adventure where you need to solve puzzles and face some crazy monstrosities in order to survive and help your loved ones.
People sometimes call it 'Adventure Time on drugs'!
Going back to the start of development of Bulb Boy for platforms such as PC, can you outline the initial ideas and sources of inspiration behind the concept?
In terms of other games sources of inspiration included Machinarium (for its absence of language) and Gobliiins (using several characters to solve one puzzle). In terms of art style Szymon was inspired by Junji Ito manga, mainly Uzumaki and Gyo. That's why we made a little tribute by putting a Japanese translation in the Bulb Boy logo.
Bulb Boy clearly has its own distinct style; how difficult was it to design the look and approach of this game?
With such a small team (2 core designers, 2 outsources - sound designer & part-time programmer) and one year to deliver (we set this goal ourselves) we needed to find an approach that could make production of the game possible. That's why we had to cut corners a lot, keeping the quality of work as good as possible. Szymon invented some rules for himself to take a minimalist approach to art creation - only 2d art, only simple shapes, no color, no gradients or effects. If readers are interested into getting deeper into this subject, there are some interesting posts on our blog here.
At the same time we weren't totally mistake-proof as we had to rework some of the levels several times. It turns out that not every idea which looks nice on paper plays well.
One thing we're really proud of is that even with those limitations and tight schedule our work gathered much appreciation, winning a Google Indie Masterpiece title and Intel Best Character Design award at PAX West, just to mention some.
What are the biggest strengths of point-and-click games, in your opinion?
We were raised in the era when point-and-clicks were mainstream games. We wanted to conjure this old-school charm again, keeping in mind that all the puzzles and gameplay should be intuitive because the way people play has shifted a lot through time.
Can you give some examples of how you utilise point-and-click gameplay for puzzles and fighting enemies?
In one of the rooms (the restroom) you are fighting your own possessed poop. We used to call her 'The Poopess'. If you try to approach her directly she starts shrieking, which could break your glass head.
So the only way for a player to get rid of her would be to walk around the loo and look for items and clues. For instance you can stun her by using air freshener and then flush her, which is one of the ways to hurt her.
The Nintendo Switch has various control options, from the Joy-Con to the touch screen and more. Can you clarify what control options are available for playing Bulb Boy on the Switch?
We decided to use the analogue stick to control characters, so it feels more like a platformer than point & click. We were looking into the touch option, however eventually decided on keeping one way of control to not confuse the players. Various Nintendo Switch setups are supported - TV play, handheld, desktop gaming as well as Pro controller.
At what point did you decide to bring Bulb Boy to the Switch, and can you talk about the experience of working with Nintendo to be registered as a developer on the system?
Nintendo has irresistible charm and it's our personal platform of choice. It felt like magic when it came to us that we are really going to be able to see our game on this platform. Porting from PC to Switch was a wonderful trip and we have to say, we were the first Polish developers that had a chance to release a game on this platform. So it's officially a historical event!
Can you talk a little about working on Bulb Boy for consoles, and the challenges that creates?
We're bringing Bulb Boy to Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PS4 and we are getting experience as we proceed. What we can say so far is that console-oriented development asks for additional effort to acquire devkits, age ratings and separate store pages for different regions, however it does get easier when testing comes into play.
Do you think that the Switch is particularly well suited to games like Bulb Boy?
We think it could be a really charming experience to go on a hiking trip this summer and have a chance to play our little horror game when you're alone in the tent at night.
There were no compromises in the looks of the game and the screen of Switch is huge, so it's basically the most immersive mobile experience you can have with Bulb Boy.
Not diminishing the value of TV play, however only Switch can do both.
Do you have big hopes for Bulb Boy on the Switch? Do you believe it'll connect well with the system's audience?
We strongly believe that the Switch audience will appreciate the spirit of Bulb Boy. It would be the first time for us to connect with the Japanese audience as well, so we look forward to learning how things will turn out. Fingers crossed!
Finally, how do you feel about releasing your debut game on Nintendo hardware, and do you hope to bring future projects to the Switch?
Today is our release so there are plenty of mixed feelings in the air. We hope that people will like our shiny little child. We definitely want to bring our future project to Switch as well!
Thank you all people at Nintendo Life for being super nice to us. May light shine upon you!
We'd like to thank Szymon Łukasik and Artur Mikołajczyk for their time.