IG: Kale can ride about 90% of his adversaries. They are balanced between usability, gameplay advantage, and ease of capture. My favorite is the cloud, just so it stops hassling me, but I rarely can get on it.
J: Enemies with spikes and bosses can’t be ridden. It’s pretty clear that Kale would have trouble riding them anyway, but this was to stick within the limits of the original game.
The dogs are favorites, for sure! They are the first enemy you meet in Dinoland, and the most fun to use. The monkeys come in a close second because their AI make them tricksters – when you try to jump on one, it can swing away quickly and dodge. But then they come back to hit you!
The Game Boy had two action buttons to work with – ironically more than are used for many iOS games – and of course these carried over to Kale. What can the player do with them, exactly? Do Kale and the rides all have a jump and a special action, or are there certain cases where the player can only use one of the buttons?
IG: One button is for jumping, and the other is for tossing a coconut. Many have questioned our inclusion of up and down on the D-pad. These will be used for controlling some of the enemies, as well as aiming up and down in some situations. When on an enemy, Kale does not control much else than the direction, so the two buttons always retain their functionality. The enemy will move characteristically, which was probably the fun of Kale. Many times you trade control for protection, or take risks to gain mobility.
J: The coconuts allow players to eliminate enemies. In order to ride an enemy, one jumps on top of it. In order to get off, one uses the same button, again jumping. So there are no special actions save for the movement of the enemies themselves. Usually this means agility and the ability to overcome environmental obstacles. For instance, birds allow Kale to travel in the air. Rocks crush enemies below them, but aren’t very useful, often serving as obstacles.
J: We’re still thinking about that. Levels are very short and connected in Kale, so level ratings don’t make sense. Achievements are a good possibility. Leaderboards for points also don’t apply, because you could theoretically just stay on a level forever and rack up 999999 points; the score is only there (like in the original game) to provide lives along the way. Although now that you mention it, I think we should consider adding a speed-run leaderboard, because there are warp areas in the game. If someone knew where all of these warps are, they could use them to bypass the first five bosses. It’s been a while since I’ve used the warps myself, but I believe the game could be beaten in ten minutes’ time, if one knew what they were doing.
There’s another reason to not have them. In porting Kale, we want to stay as close to Game Boy game design as possible. This means no modern design influences. Today, many if not all iPhone games utilize at least one of the features you mentioned. But the Game Boy didn’t have outside reward systems. Every reward was built into the game.
Finally, do you see replicating the Game Boy experience as The Rotting Cartridge’s modus operandi going forward, or do you plan to revisit other systems in future projects?
IG: TRC will continue as long as there is money to be taken.
J: Kale is just the tip of a very large iceberg. And our next few releases will fill the part of the iceberg sticking out of the water. The Rotting Cartridge is the tons of ice underwater.
iFanzine’s thanks goes to the elusive “J” and “IG” for taking the time out to explain their Game Boy-centric design theory in such depth! We’ll let them sneak back to their top-secret studio to finish Kale in Dinoland, but while you’re waiting for news you can keep an eye on The Rotting Cartridge’s website, Twitter account, and Facebook page!