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Rubber Bandito - classic 2D platformer by ColdDish

10-30-2012, 01:34 AM
Joined: Oct 2012
Location: Southern California
Posts: 11
Rubber Bandito - classic 2D platformer by ColdDish

Hello Touch Arcade!

I'm the designer on an upcoming iOS / Android game, Rubber Bandito, and wanted to talk about our game on a forum where there are a lot of people who are big mobile gamers and know the classics.

We tried to capture the essence of defining platformers like Mario and Sonic, but shrink it into a distilled, concise mobile experience. Something that plays well in little chunks but still has the depth of experience (exploration, twitch, precision, completionism, traps, puzzles, etc) of those classics. There is a lot of 'off path' exploration and challenge, which is hugely influenced from Mario 3. The combat reminds me of Sonic 2, in that you often 'pounce' on enemies as they meander around the environment.

You control Bandito, a Native American shaman that returns to his village to find that a steampunk Imperial army has taken over. It's basically a Charles Bronson "Death Wish" story from that point.

The controls are conceptually simple and something everyone's now used to- the slingshot. We wanted to avoid virtual buttons at all costs, but still be able to have precise input. Since you can only double jump and have no air control (that's a big deal and affected the level design a lot), you are required to really focus on your aim and make sure you're taking a 'good shot'. The double jump can get you out of some trouble, but if your jump is bad enough there'll be nothing you can do and you'll die like Sonic bouncing repeatedly off spikes. The game is often very unforgiving, but I usually feel like a death is my fault. It generates about the right amount of frustration for me (this is a delicate thing to mess with).

Our parts bin is stark, made up of 7 enemy types and 2 hazard types, and of course moving platforms. We wanted to milk them, exploit them in the ways that classic platformers have. Every level was designed around a unique gimmick, or specific setups. We have all the classics; a 'ride the moving platform' level, a maze filled with traps level, a sinking platforms into lava level, a climbing the side of a mountain level… Basically all the tricks that you're used to, but reduced to their bare elements. It's surprising, really, how much gets done with so few parts.

Another thing that was distilled down was how the game rates your performance. Your score and life are the same thing, and your goals are to complete every level (avoid running out of health) and getting a perfect rating (collecting and killing everything, never taking any damage). The line between these is carefully balanced, and you may find yourself doing very well one moment, but after making a mistake it all goes downhill quickly until you're at a point where you can't afford to take another hit. We really wanted to create a game that recognizes true mastery.

The art is high rez, but really abstract. When we asked our art guys for 'retro but not pixel art', this is what we got. It reminds me a lot of Donkey Kong Country, and surely the art is technically similar (prerendered sprites). You don't see a lot of the detail on an iPhone, but on larger screens and tablets the characters look fantastic. The environments are classically abstracted (it's a bunch of squares! No it's not, it's a trainyard!) and very textured and look great on Retina devices. Our parallaxing code is from scratch, there is definitely a certain artificiality to depth in true 2D games that can only be captured in this way.

The music is one of my favorite things about the game. The composer created some very nostalgic yet modern music. Again wanting to avoid the 'standard' retro palette, he avoided chiptunes and created something that captures the melodic nature and looped structure of 16-bit music, but integrates modern production values. Functionally, the music is also a caricature of the classics, with a super-loud 'level complete' song, and a 'dun dun dun' death jingle (I think I played the Castlevania death jingle for him way too many times).

Thanks for taking the time to read this Tim Rogers-like rambling diatribe! I really hope you enjoy our game, which is truly a labor of love and our ultimate homage to our favorite games.


Here are some screens and a playthrough video:

Last edited by Red1; 10-30-2012 at 01:46 AM.
10-30-2012, 03:27 AM
Joined: Jan 2011
Location: England
Posts: 11,346
Looks great but slingshot controls seem a bit risky for a 'classic platformer'? Would personally prefer virtual buttons as they work best on platformers.

Be interesting to see a gameplay video in the future
10-30-2012, 05:43 AM
Joined: Oct 2012
Location: Southern California
Posts: 11
Originally Posted by psj3809 View Post
Looks great but slingshot controls seem a bit risky for a 'classic platformer'? Would personally prefer virtual buttons as they work best on platformers.

Be interesting to see a gameplay video in the future
Definitely risky, and so controls are a big deal for us. We have attempted to make the most responsive, accurate platforming interface possible on a touchscreen.

I agree that huge characteristics of classic platformers are the twitchy controls and air control and that an interface with buttons (preferably a controller) is pretty much the only way to get them. Bandito's pace is a bit slower and instead of performing a lot of in-air corrections like in Mario, the player adjusts their aim while mid jump (as you can see in the playthrough video at the bottom of my first post) with the assistance of a short arc line. I'd say it's a bit like shooting something at almost point blank range in Angry Birds. The arc definitely matters, but it's not like golf or anything.

I have definitely played other platformers with slingshot controls and found that most of them made one or more of the following mistakes:
-requiring the player to touch the character to pull on the slingshot (player moves around the screen so you may touch and drag and nothing happens)
-pulling the slingshot forward as to obstruct your view of where you want to land
-a swipe gesture instead of pulling back and holding to aim (insufficient granularity and accuracy)

In Rubber Bandito, the player can touch the screen anywhere so that they are not obstructing their view and so the slingshot always activates. Then, they can rotate the arc completely around the character and release whenever they want.

But still our character is different from a traditional platforming character, for sure. Our goal is to have the best touchscreen platform interface, and although we don't have air control twitch, we have the aiming precision and I think it definitely has the same feel of skill as Mario or Sonic. It's really challenging, but the slingshot can be mastered and wielded with flair and confidence. Bandito is often moving (sliding along the wall or ground) or in mid-air when the player is aiming and releasing. The pace reminds me a lot of Super Meat Boy (love that game).

Regarding virtual buttons, they definitely are faithful to a controller in a lot of ways and allow a very literal translation of a platfomer, but the lack of tactile feedback really kill the granularity and precision (IMO). If only you could feel the moments of activation and release, and the resistance you get right before the button is pressed, then you could have them. Maybe I just haven't gotten used to them yet.

(sorry again for the long posts)

Last edited by RubberBandito; 10-30-2012 at 05:47 AM. Reason: forgot to mention something
11-16-2012, 05:30 AM
Joined: Oct 2012
Location: Southern California
Posts: 11
Hey again,

I wanted to post another video, which is a 'perfect playthrough' in which the player can take no damage and must collect everything and defeat all enemies.

Currently, I'm testing an achievement that's granted when you get a perfect rating on all 25 levels, and even though I built all these levels it's still been super difficult, and I'm not gonna lie, a little trying at times!

So if you love challenging games, and games that recognize your skill, Bandito will be for you.

Youtube link | Pop Up

Last edited by RubberBandito; 11-16-2012 at 06:16 AM. Reason: typo