Vitamin Girl will have players fighting to cure people of a cola-based virus, cleansing the world by rushing through it on foot or on a variety of vehicles. By collecting sodas and rushing through each stages, players can help heal this ailing populace of its cola problems, although going super fast when there’s traffic and hazards about can cause some difficulties.
Siliconera caught up with Emmanuel André Leguizamón, developer of Vitamin Girl, to learn a bit more about this seemingly Pepsiman-inspired experience, only to find that elements of Star Fox 64 had also had a heavy influence on the drink-based runner.
Vitamin Girl seems to be a clear nod to Pepsiman. What made you want to make your own silly soda-based runner?
Emmanuel André Leguizamón, developer of Vitamin Girl – Pepsiman was the initial inspiration, but it ended being it’s own thing. Pepsiman was one of my favorite games when I was a teenager. I remember playing it many times, but never finished it back then because it was really hard and I wasn’t really a good player back then, either.
This may sound bizarre but Star Fox 64 was the other big inspiration for Vitamin Girl. It was fun, memorable, and every run lasted 1 hour exactly, and it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk, especially if you wanted to 100% the game. It awakened my inner completionist. I wanted to make a game like that – an arcade game that never gets old when you replay it, a game that challenges you to complete it and feel rewarded by doing it.
Why Soda-based? Because today’s endless runners and their lack of level design are disappointing, so I made it in honor of those types of games (Pepsiman, Sonic Adventures). Runners with good level design are not dead!
What elements of Pepsiman shaped the way Vitamin Girl came out? How did you want to deviate from what that game did to make Vitamin Girl unique?
Not much really, basically the runner type of game with challenging and funny level design.
It all started with the idea of "I want to make a simple game with cute anime girls.". So I drew a sketch for the protagonist (named Speedy Star, initially), and I started playing with colors. Orange, that’s her color. But it doesn’t go well with Soda, right? It goes better with orange juice! That’s where story started taking form.
Also, there was always the thought of "What if there was Cokeman and it was the enemy of Pepsiman?", so I created the story and characters based on that idea. I made the whole story based on Soda heroes and villains. It’s a comedy, it has it’s own aesthetic, and it has characters designed with my style. It’s Vitamin Girl, not Pepsiman 2. I can proudly say, this is my baby.
How did soda help you shape what Vitamin Girl would be, as a game?
It kind of ended being a message for good health rather than soda propaganda. After all, Vitamin Girl is immune to soda; that’s why she can cure the people with overdoses of Koko Cola. Basically, I wanted Vitamin Girl to have a purpose rather than just "run to the end of the level".
Level design seemed to be very important to you as you created your running game. What sort of things work well with a game where players are always running/driving forward? What was important for you to get right with each stage?
The level design for on-rails games that are always going forward is really challenging; the key is variety. If there is something in common with endless runners, it’s that the obstacles are always the same – even if they come at random, there’s really not much variety aside from the preset obstacles. So, my goal was to surprise the player on each corner.
How do you make those same levels fun to explore in the game’s various other racing/free roam modes? How did the speed/racing style change how you would approach a level’s design?
Every level can only be played in the specified mode she’s in. Basically, what VG‘s modes are: this is a runner level (Vitamin C), this is a bike level (Vitamin A), this is a skate level (Vitamin E), this is a free roam level (Vitamin D). It is like how, in Star Fox 64, you have your airship levels, tank levels, submarine levels. Every mode has things other modes can or can’t do. I try to center the level design on the things every mode specializes.
What drew you to add multiple modes to the game? Why create different ways to race?
At the start of the project it was going to be just a runner (known as Vitamin C mode today), but I found it monotonous so I decided to add variety to the game. Yes, I think variety is the key word for the level/game design of the entire game.
You claim your game is quite challenging. How do you work to make sure that challenge doesn’t turn into irritation, balancing out difficulty with fairness, in a racing game like Vitamin Girl?
I decided to make an adaptable difficulty design. The player chooses if he/she wants to play it the hard or the easy way. The hard way is going for 100%, as trying to get all the cans in every level is really difficult and it will require you to retry the levels a lot. The easy way is just avoid all obstacles and reach the goal. Obviously, it’s not THAT easy if you just want to finish the game, otherwise it’s not going to be fun.
Then there’s Nightmare Mode that is unlocked after finishing arcade mode for the first time. This mode is straight-up unfair, and is only for those who are masters at the game or who seek the challenge, but I wonder what is awaiting at the end? I hope you all have fun with Vitamin Girl!