I took a long overdue holiday earlier this month. It was fun and very relaxing, but naturally, by the time I got back home, I’d fallen woefully behind on the goings on in the world of iOS gaming. While trawling through iFanzine’s Facebook and email inboxes to see what I’d missed, I came across a message from a developer introducing us to his new game, an intriguing sounding puzzler called Sara and Death. I downloaded it and instantly fell in love. The game was such a weirdly unique experience, I figured there must be an interesting story behind it, so I got back in touch with its creator, Rocco Salvetti, to ask a few questions. Here’s what he had to say…

Let’s start off by finding out a little more about you and your background. Can you tell me how you got into game development, and why?

When I was a kid, adults around me used to think that being a gamer was kinda the same as being a drug addict. I was told: “Video games make you stupid!” Well, I am 32 and video games gave me a career in IT. Nerds win!

After my studies in Philosophy I moved to the UK, learned C#, Unity and coding skills, which got me a career in the apps market. I am now combining my studies in philosophy and game design.

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Your latest game, Sara and Death, is almost indescribably strange. How would you yourself sum it up in a nutshell? 

Sara And Death is a poetry driven puzzle game.

Sara plays my alter ego and talks with Death about love. Death here works like a mirror because the game is about narcissistic love. It represents part of my life and doubts about love. Sara is about to die but she is like the fruit who doesn’t know the seeds it is concealing inside.

The gameplay is simple, the first fifteen minutes can appeal to casual gamers as well. After that I did everything I could to make sure every level feels different despite its few rules. There is a bit of a gamble but strategy can always make the difference.

Apple featured Sara And Death here in the UK. I believe that making it personal paid off. This game is the greatest thing that happened to me in a year where I released The Rolling Stones official app.

Sara and Death obviously pays homage to Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, but where else did the inspiration for its characters, story and gameplay come from? 

Sara herself! She does exist and, in a later stage of the development, I hired her as illustrator. She did a stunning job because she shares my same doubts and we were kinda mirroring each other. The game itself mentions mirrors quite often.

The game was designed three times at least and the same goes for the writing. Sara inspired such changes with her drawings.

The game was also inspired by Sappho, Emily Dickinson, Akiko Yosano and Hegel.

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I’ve seen it said elsewhere that you intended Sara and Death to be sort of antithesis or antidote to crassly commercial mobile games like Candy Crush. Can you expand a little on that?

Only this year I was asked to develop a clone of Clash Of Clans three times. Screw that! Everything feels the same on the mobile market. Nowadays we don’t lack in technology, we lack in beauty. What is the difference between Candy Crush and Monument Valley? One is inspiring, the other one is not.

Who is responsible for Sara and Death’s eerily beautiful art and music? And is there anywhere that I can check out more of their work?!

Sara Bodini for the illustrations. She doesn’t know she is freaking good and she has no website. Drop her an email if you want more: sara.bodini@gmail.com

Marc Dos Santos is the musician. He is so good! He is working on more tracks for Sara And Death right now. He is a professional yet he wanted to work for free on this one. He is on Soundcloud as Molo.

With Sara and Death — and its precursor Clockwork Clara — now under your belt, is there any particular advice you would offer to budding indie game developers out there who may happen to be reading this?

Be into something else, not just games development. History, poetry, engineering, theatre, whatever. Arts are always about something else.

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If I’m not mistaken, your next game is going to be a little something called Trump in the Sky. Do you mind sharing some details with me about it, or would you prefer to keep things hush-hush for the time being?

I develop casual games to learn about marketing and train friends who want to get into games development. Trump In The Sky is one of them, just like Clockwork Clara. My next personal project will be London Decadence, a game inspired by Loom and Tokyo Decadence. It is going to be about London and sexuality.

And that’s a wrap! Rocco, thank you so much for taking the time for such a fascinating interview.

Sara and Death is available now on the App Store and Google Play for free.