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Developer Interview: Funky Lab Rat

Posted by on November 29th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Tags: , ,

It is time once again for a PSNStores Developer Interview. This time we sit down with Hydravision Entertainment to discussion their upcoming PSN title, Funky Lab Rat.

Where did the idea for Funky Lab Rat come from?

When the team gathered the first day, the first thing we did was list what would be the features we would love to find in a game. We all grew up with video games and the ideas came from all sides. The most common ideas where physics and 2D-platforms… and the Incredible Machine series. Don’t ask me why. So that was obvious, we had to create a game with platforms, physics and with a touch of Incredible Machine. Hmm… not as easy as it seems. We then worked on a game prototype for a few weeks and Funky Lab Rat was born: a mix of puzzles and platforms… with physics inside! We were all enthusiastic about the idea of creating your own path by building unstable structures. We hope you will be too!

How long has the game been in development? Was it made with the PlayStation Move in mind?

The development was quite short. It took around one year with a small team of game enthusiastic people. We also spent a lot of time to have people external from the company test the game. It allowed us to fine tune the game and rearrange the levels to get a good learning curve. The “Move” feature appeared early in the game’s development, during the prototyping period actually. I still remember when my boss came in the room with a Move prototype he succeeded to get from Sony. He came in and said “Guys, I have got a brand new toy. I would like to keep it for me… but I think you will be able to create a great game with it. So it’s yours!”. And it was just the perfect controller for the game we had in mind!

How are Move controls implemented in the game?

When you pause the time, you have then the ability to move the objects that compose the level. There is no notion of gravity anymore, so you can put this huge crate in the air and see what happens when you resume time. This is a feature we are using in some levels… But let’s get back to your question. The Move is used to grab and move the objects when time is paused. I think the movement feeling is very interesting, much more natural than with any other controllers. You for example don’t have to point at the screen to move your cursor thanks to the colored sphere. It’s a bit strange at first – everybody is accustomed to the Wii Remote behavior – but you get used to it really fast and it is really comfortable and ergonomic.

We also use the Move to control the rat’s flashlight. In the levels you can collect pills. Collecting them allows you to open the following world. But the pills are surrounded by a cloud. To disperse it, Diego (the rat) has to point his flashlight on it, and only when the pill is visible, it can be collected. The player has to orientate the Move towards the cloud to disperse it.

The last feature concerns the sphere. In Funky Lab Rat, the screen color depends on the action you are doing. It has a color when you pause time, another one when you rewind time… We discovered that the Move sphere can also take different colors. We then decided that the sphere color and the screen color had to be the same! It’s not very useful but it is funny!

Is there a limit to the amount of time warping you can perform in a given level?

In the game you can manipulate time in 2 ways: you can pause time (and gravity as mentioned before) and you can rewind time. In each level, the number of pauses allowed is limited, depending on the level. You can also rewind time until the previous pause. The pause management and the way you use them to rearrange the level items is the key to solving puzzles in Funky Lab Rat.

Which do you feel is the better control scheme?

It really depends on the player. The game experience is not really different with a gamepad or with a Move and a Navigation controller. If you are used to playing the game with the Move, then it is much more comfortable than with a gamepad. But if you are using a gamepad, then there is no problem. You get used to the controls really quickly too. But no, don’t try to exchange my Move for your gamepad! I keep my Move!

We have to ask, since the game has Funky in the title, is the music equally “funky”?

Haha, that is a legitimate question. For the game title, we spent a lot of money in marketing research involving thousands of overgraduated people… Well, just kidding. The title came naturally indeed. The little story behind the game title is that the first name was “Junkie Lab Rat” because Diego is collecting pills throughout the levels. (Hey parents, if you are reading this, there is no fear to have, Diego is a cute little guy and the game is PEGI 3 in Europe and Everyone in America. So you can go ahead and buy it!) Then the character was created and animated. And the first animations of Diego walking made us say “That guy is really funky” and the game title became “Funky Lab Rat”. That’s all. Regarding the music, let’s say that the music sounds funky but it’s not pure funk.

There are 81 levels in the game right now, are you planning to release more as DLC?

Well, don’t tell me you already finished the game! There are 81 levels. If you want to finish it 100%, you have to spend around 15 to 20 hours. So you already have many hours of gameplay in front of you! Of course we are thinking about brand new levels with brand new assets for DLC. We are all willing to do so… You just have to convince my boss, so go to the Facebook page for the game and shout it: “I want some DLC for my Funky Lab Rat”. The more of you say it, the better the chance that it will happen! We definitely want to hear from you!

Is there anything you want to say about the game?

Please, buy Funky Lab Rat or I will lose my job. Pleeeease… More seriously, we enjoyed really working on this game. For all the team members, it has been a really good moment in our lives with a lot good laughs. So we hope the players will have as much fun as we had during the development. We would really like to hear about what they think of the game. So hey, players, if you are reading this, you can go the Facebook page of the game and leave a comment. You can even become friends with Diego.

I would like to thank Pierre-Louis over at Hydravision for setting this interview up. The game is out on the European store for £5.49/€6.99, plus there is a demo. It will be coming out on the North American store tomorrow for $9.99. We should have a review for the game up sometime this week, if school stops kicking my ass.