VGB Feature: Mekazoo Interview with The Good Mood Creators Creative Director Jarrett Slavin

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Inspired by genre classics from the 16-bit era like Donkey Kong Country and Sonic the Hedgehog, Mekazoo is a gorgeous, high energy 2.5D platformer coming up for PC, consoles, and eventually even portable devices from indie developer The Good Mood Creators. As the studio’s debut title hops and bops toward a projected summertime launch, Creative Director Jarrett Slavin kindly answered some of our questions about the game, and also provided a few exclusive concept artworks we are now happy to be able to share with you. A big thank you also goes out to Katherine Fan of TriplePoint PR for helping coordinate with The Good Mood Creators on this interview!

VGBlogger: It doesn’t seem like much has been revealed about the game’s story yet. So what’s the general plot setup to the game?

Jarrett Slavin: From the beginning, we wanted to minimize cutscenes and explicit backstory in favor of implied narrative via gameplay progression and environments. The player starts as the armadillo in a glass chamber alongside four similar, but empty chambers, each when an icon representing the Mekanimal currently missing. This is all the narrative we give from the outset — the implication that four animals are missing, and the armadillo is alone for now. At the end of each world you encounter a gigantic, angry, previously unseen Mekanimal, and upon defeating it, it transforms into a small, friendly version of itself, unlocking it as a new playable character.

VGB: Watching the trailer definitely gives off vibes of classic platformers like Sonic the Hedgehog, Klonoa, and Donkey Kong Country. Are those the type of games you were inspired to throwback to with Mekazoo?

JS: Sonic and DKC are certainly influences, and the 16-bit iterations of those games are some of our favorite childhood games. We wanted to make a game that had the nostalgic appeal of those classics, but felt fresh in terms of gameplay using 21st century technologies to our advantage. While aesthetically Mekazoo may appear similar to those classic franchises, players will quickly notice that the gameplay feels quite unique.

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VGB: For those hearing about Mekazoo for the first time, can you introduce us to the cast of playable Mekanimals and the unique characteristics each brings to the gameplay?

JS: Each Mekanimal uses one button to perform its action, with another button to transform between your current pair of characters.

The armadillo rolls around in a ball and handles curves and slopes with ease. By charging / releasing the action button it can quickly boost forward as both a dash and an attack.

The frog can flick its tongue to attack enemies and/or use it to swing on posts. It moves via small hops and can acrobatically flip off of walls and ceilings.

The wallaby bounces off of everything and is in constant motion. The action button causes him to “power bounce,” which concurrently destroys enemies while increasing the height/distance of the bounce.

The panda is by far the largest character. He can destroy certain walls, traverse across the ceiling and destroy enemies with a powerful airborne butt-stomp.

The pelican can fly in any direction gracefully gliding through the air, and has a corkscrew attack that can chain through many enemies in a row.

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VGB: From what I understand, the game lets you play as animals in pairs that can be switched between on the fly. Do you get to choose your animal pairings or are they preset for each level?

JS: A huge emphasis for our design was to keep the player in flow and not bog the game down with any sort of inventory management or menus, so the animal pairings are pre-set. The pair of animals available are optimized for each level section, and there are “switcher” checkpoints placed throughout each level that change your pairings as the level demands. Each of the Mekanimals have limitations that necessitate switching between them on the fly — the Panda can’t jump off the ground on its own, only the armadillo can dash up a curved slope, etc. Additionally, after unlocking all the Mekanimals, you’ll find inaccessible areas in past levels are now accessible with the new characters.

VGB: The Mekazoo website indicates that new powers are unlocked from bosses. How does that work exactly? Is it like Mega Man where each boss has a unique ability that is transferred to the player upon being defeated?

JS: It is sort of like Mega Man in that regard. Each boss is the big, evil version of the next Mekanimal you are about to unlock. Instead of simply unlocking a new weapon however, you are unlocking a completely new character with a new mechanic that dramatically changes gameplay, especially as the new Mekanimal combines with the others you’ve unlocked.

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VGB: How many bosses are there? Can you provide examples for some of the boss encounters?

JS: As stated, the bosses are all giant, evil versions of the playable characters. There is initially a frog boss, a wallaby boss, a panda boss, a pelican boss, and an armadillo boss, but those aren’t the only bosses you’ll face. We really liked that idea of keeping bosses as variations on playable characters to create this kind of self-contained Mekanimal world where you are your own worst enemy.

VGB: What was the conceptualization process like as far as picking the animal species to base the Mekanimals on? Was it tricky to find the right grouping of animal types to balance each other out?

JS: We wanted each of the animals to feel totally unique, and every combination to necessitate switching to conquer each challenge. We wanted to choose animals that had unique kinaesthetics, and we didn’t want any simple “run and jump” characters like seemingly every platformer ever made. So developing our character roster with a sort of unity in mind, where they all need each other and they all feel uniquely complementary — rolling, swinging, bouncing, climbing and flying — naturally spawned the final group we have now.

VGB: Were there any other interesting Mekanimal concepts that didn’t make it into the game for whatever reason that you can tell us about?

JS: There was a 6th animal that didn’t make the cut only for reasons of scope, but we hope to eventually release it as DLC, so I’ll keep it under wraps for now.

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VGB: How many levels exist within the Mekanasphere and how is the overall world design structured? Is there a hub or Super Mario World-style overworld map to connect everything?

JS: Each of the five worlds has a fully-traversable hub overworld that plays just like the normal levels, and you access each level from there. Each world contains roughly 6-7 levels.

VGB: Do you plan to provide any replay elements like speedruns/time trials, boss rush, 100% collectible runs, unlockable extras, etc?

JS: Yes, there are plenty of unlockables such as a bunch of new skins, concept art, BGM, etc., which are unlocked by collecting hidden diamonds in each level. There are also several medals available in each level for things like speed-runs, eliminating all enemies, never dying, beating the level in co-op mode, finding secret switchers, and more. Each level requires a certain amount of medals to access, so playing well and mastering each level is certainly rewarded.

VGB: Who’s working on the game’s soundtrack? What are some of the themes and inspirations behind the music for the different environment types?

JS: MJ Quigley is our incredibly talented and dedicated in-house composer/sound designer, and he is an absolute fanatic of traditional video game music as well as music in general. Each world has its own theme and genre of music, with a totally original track for each level that matches the aesthetic, the environments’ tone, and gameplay. Everything from big band, swing, hard rock, EDM, and jazz are represented — all with a nostalgic, yet fresh videogame vibe.

VGB: Is Mekazoo still planned for PC and consoles? Are all platforms expected to launch simultaneously?

JS: Mekazoo will launch simultaneously on Xbox One, PS4, and PC — WiiU version shortly thereafter. Portable versions are planned down the pipeline.

VGB: Are you able to confirm any other launch details at this time, such as release date, pricing, system requirements, etc?

JS: We plan to release Mekazoo in August.

As you can probably tell from the trailers, it’s a visually beefy game with huge environments that contain a lot of assets, and smooth gameplay is absolutely essential to the experience. We are working hard on optimization to allow it to run smoothly on as many PCs as possible.

VGB: Thanks for taking time away to tell us more about Mekazoo, Jarrett!

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!