High Voltage Software is developing a game based on Secret Saturdays. Yes, this is a licensed video game, but instead of picking something current they based Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun off Bionic Commando — just to clarify, we’re talking about the original one.
We spoke to Josh VanVeld, Producer of Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun, about the decision and what he believes consumers want in a licensed video game. If you ever wondered about the world of licensed video games read on!
Was the concept for the Secret Saturdays game inspired by Bionic Commando?
Josh VanVeld, Producer: Yes, we were playing Bionic Commando Rearmed when we were initially pitching the concept for the game to D3Publisher. The Claw allows Zak Saturday to grapple (amongst other things), so that kind of mechanic seemed like a perfect fit and gave us the opportunity to try out a new 2D/3D hybrid camera system in our engine.
Why did you pick Bionic Commando?
Most people agree that Bionic Commando was a tough, unforgiving game, which was normal for that era of game design. Our approach was inspired by that game’s grappling mechanic, but we created something much more accessible for kids. Zak’s Claw is extremely versatile, allowing him to grapple, fight, and control Cryptids. While our grappling is challenging, it doesn’t punish the player for mistakes and is really easy to pick up and play. We never want a player to get to a section of a level where they just have to give up completely because they can’t execute the timing of a particular jump or swing.
Wii owners have been quite vocal about wanting a Bionic Commando game… Can Secret Saturdays satiate them?
I really hope so. The grappling elements are the core of the gameplay and I think they’ve been executed extremely well in this title. It’s fun and satisfying to swing your way through each of the levels and we have set up special timed challenges set up for players who want to push themselves further. At the same time, the game offers more than just grappling and combat. Players can take control of literally dozens of other characters, all of which have unique play styles.
Doyle is another character we’re particularly proud of, he has 2D and 3D areas where players use his jetpack and rockets to defeat enemies and open up areas for Zak to platform through. I’d venture to say that there is more variety of gameplay here than in any of our previous titles.
Do you think successful innovations spread to licensed games?
Absolutely! The team that worked on The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun also worked on Ben 10: Protector of Earth, which had brawling gameplay inspired by God of War. Platformers and brawlers have been around forever, but being a licensed title shouldn’t mean that those genres shouldn’t be executed with the highest possible production values and with the latest design concepts.
These licenses are geared towards younger audiences, so we tailor the gameplay mechanics to suit the appropriate skill level and incorporate as many elements of the license as we can. Kids won’t be fooled by a bad game just because it has a brand they like attached to it. We strive to make sure that even someone who isn’t yet a fan of the show will find the game fresh and fun.
Do you think consumers want familiar gameplay elements in respect to licensed games?
Licensed games probably aren’t an avenue where developers should be trying avant-garde design concepts. When consumers think of a brand they like, they have certain expectations for what the game should be. We knew going into Saturdays that Zak would be the focus of the game, but the variety of characters and sense of adventure found in the show had to be there as well.
Even the story-telling and cinematography had to seem like it was pulled directly from an episode of the show. Licensed games need to meet the brand expectations that fans have and also create a truly fun and compelling game. We hope that fans of The Secret Saturdays will agree that we’ve met those goals!