Last week, Norwegian indie developer Sarepta Studio announced that they would be bringing their debut game to the Wii U eShop. Shadow Puppeteer is a co-op puzzle adventure game where you play a small boy who must work in unison with his shadow to manipulate light and dark. They are in pursuit of the titular Shadow Puppeteer in a bid to save all of the shadows which he has stolen.
Instantly intrigued by the dark premise of this game, Nintendo Enthusiast\’s indie nut Andy got in touch with the team and Sarepta. Speaking with Manager Catharina Due Bøhler and Project Leader Marianne Lerdahl to find out more about the game\’s inspirations, gameplay mechanics and why they felt this game belonged on the Wii U.
Who are Sarepta Studio? What were you raised on — favourite games and consoles?
Catharina: Sarepta Studio is a small studio with two departments: Consulting and Game Development. I was raised with the NES and SNES systems from when I was 3-4 years old, playing the Zelda, Mario and Castlevania series. I was lucky having a great brother that played a lot of games with me and my sisters. I did make the transition to PlayStation when I got older because of the Final Fantasy series, but I still have to buy every Nintendo console that has a Zelda title.
Marianne: I grew up with the NES and later moved on to PS1 and PS2. I played a lot of Mario 1 and 3, Crash Team Racing, Spyro the Dragon, Tomb Raider, Tekken 2. One of my definite favourites is Jak & Daxter for the PS2. I\’ve been replaying it as a yearly tradition since 2007. These days, I enjoy playing on my PS3 and 3DS.
Your website doesn\’t feature video games but instead 3D visualisation tools — is this Sarepta\’s main business?
Catharina: Game Development is the larger of the two, focusing on games for the PC and console. Consulting is business-to-business-focused and offers solutions within 3D visualisations and interactive applications. They exist in sync, supporting each other. We have chosen to let Sarepta\’s webpage focus on consulting at this time, as our game titles naturally should have their own individual sites.
What is Shadow Puppeteer? How long have you been developing the game and its art style?
Catharina: We are very excited to have Shadow Puppeteer as our debut title. The game has been in production since our company was started in 2010. All in all, I would say that we have spent close to three full years on it. The art style has been through a lot of iterations since the concept was pitched for the first time. The main mantra has been that the style needs to be \”gloomy, cartoony, with a twist of weird.\” The vision just seemed to fit a weird world where your shadow could come alive.
Marianne: We’re suckers for everything dark and gloomy and love games like Limbo and the works of Tim Burton. It might come with being Scandinavian. This is easily visible especially in the grim area of the Fishing Town, which is based off of typical Norwegian towns along the north coast.
Does story play a critical role in the game and what kind of experiences should players expect?
Catharina: We wanted to make something that played with shadows and twisted perspectives, a thought process sparked by games like A Shadow\’s Tale. While playing around with the idea of living in a shadow world and what it would be like to be someone\’s shadow, we realised that making the game about two players would give it a lot more depth and room for experimentation. The dynamic and relationship between the two players, the Boy and his Shadow, quickly became the base from how the gameplay and story would be developed. A lonely boy sitting awake at night suddenly hears a curious melody; using a magical instrument, the “Shadow Puppeteer” awakens and steals the shadows of the island villagers. No creature can live without their shadows. The newly separated Boy and his Shadow realize that their village has been rendered helpless and chase after the villain to stop him. The players follow the characters on a journey through different environments and discover new abilities as they learn to work together.
What kind of variety, scale and difficulty can we expect? Is there a co-op mode or any multiplayer options?
Catharina: Shadow Puppeteer features five different worlds. In each world, the player will be introduced to new elements that they need to master. The game’s main challenge lies in the cooperation between the two players and the ability to understand each other’s challenges. Shadow Puppeteer will also have a single-player mode, which in many ways will be more challenging. Here, the player will have to manage both characters at once.
Will there be boss battles and of what kind?
Catharina: There are several bosses in the game, shadow monsters that the players will have to overcome by using the skills and tools that they have mastered throughout the game.
As mood plays a central role to the game\’s atmosphere, are there any special plans for the game\’s soundtrack?
Catharina: Our music is created my classically trained cellist and composer, Ragnhild Haugland, with help and guidance from veteran composer Peter McConnell (Grim Fandango, Psychonauts). On our audio team, we also have award-winning sound engineer Jory K. Prum.
Have you considered making use of any of the Wii U\’s unique features such as asymmetric gameplay?
Catharina: We are thrilled to be bringing Shadow Puppeteer to the Wii U, but we are not ready to release any details about unique Wii U features at this time. We can, however, tell you that we will focus on features that may enhance and improve the gameplay experience.
Why did you choose to bring the game to Wii U and did Nintendo\’s deal with Unity play any role in your decision?
Catharina: We have wanted to bring Shadow Puppeteer to the Wii U for a long time. It offers us new possibilities, both as a system but also regarding audience. We love that we will be able to bring Shadow Puppeteer to console gamers, in addition to PC. We have been developing the game with Unity3D since 2012 and are very happy with the opportunities this has given us. In the beginning, the development was focused towards creating our own engine to serve our particular needs for light and shadow rendering. In the end, we found that a transition to Unity would both serve our needs and improve the quality of our graphics.
When do you anticipate the game releasing and do you have a pricing bracket in mind?
Catharina: Details regarding release date and price are not ready and will be published at a later time. But we anticipate a 2014 release.
How easy did you find the process of becoming an approved Nintendo developer?
Catharina: We applied to become developers with the Nintendo Developer Registration Form. A good and simple process. The Nintendo representatives have been wonderful and extremely helpful every step of the way.
What\’s next for Sarepta Studio? Would you consider developing for the Wii U again or maybe the 3DS?
Catharina: After the completion of Shadow Puppeteer, we have several options, depending of the reception of the game. There are several potential projects that might be moved into development. There might even be a sequel to Shadow Puppeteer, but nothing has been decided yet. Hopefully, there will be more titles for the Wii U and the 3DS in the future!
Well, there we have it, folks — yet another indie Wii U eShop game on your radars. Excited? Tell us in the comments below, because I know I certainly am! Thanks to both Catharina and Marianne for taking the time to answer our questions. You can follow Sarepta via their website, Twitter, or Shadow Puppeteer\’s own site.