Hexodius crosses together two unlikely genres. It takes the twin-stick arcade shooter genre and crosses it with a dungeon crawler. The three-person crew at BrainSlap Studio have crafted a story that sees an AI facility taken over by a malfunctioning security AI. A robot named Fred is the only one who can retake control of the facility, so he constructs a drone called B.O.B – Z.1.0.3 to fight through the labyrinthine complex placed along a hexagonal grid. To learn more about the game, I talked to Pascal Biren, designer and artist for BrainSlap Studio.
“At the beginning we wanted to do a twin-stick shooter with an arcade feeling,” said Biren. “We were inspired by arena shooters as Robotron 2084, Smash TV and Geometry Wars, but we wanted to add a tactical use of weapons and give to the player the choice of his equipment. We started to work on a prototype of the arena phase, and we quickly realized that we needed a separate gameplay phase to collect equipment and progress through the story. So we came up with the idea of a spatial dungeon to explore, each room being an arena. We ended up with a labyrinth, featuring a shop, items to find, locked doors and keys, and boss fights inspired by games like Zelda and Diablo II. It gave an interesting pace to the game, switching between intense shooting phases and less stressful exploration phases.”
As Biren mentioned, B.O.B will need equipment to succeed, so I asked about the game’s gear and weapons. Biren noted that standard weapons, such as shields, proximity mines, turrets, and flamethrowers would be available. However, players will also encounter more unconventional weaponry. For example, Biren points to a Slow Zone, which drops a beacon that slows down nearby enemies, and a Barrel Roll, which allows B.O.B to dash through enemies without taking damage.
Enemies are all mechanical, but they will each feature a diversity of looks, behaviors, and strength. Some will charge straight at the player, others will set traps, and others will launch homing missiles while on a strict patrol path. “Some [enemies] have specific defenses or attacks,” said Biren. “The player has to find how to get rid of them depending on his weapons. For example, there is an enemy that has a shield on the front and weak a spot on the rear ; you can use the slow shot to slow it down and get around it, or you can use an EMP bomb to disable its shield and make it defenseless.”
One of the advantages of making Hexodius a dungeon crawler is that the team can utilize different environments. Biren reveals that the Hexodius complex is scattered across six different dimensions, all of which show off a unique environment. He notes that each environment will yield new threats, such as the flamethrower turrets of the third world. However, players can use environmental hazards against enemies, as well.
While Hexodius appears to be an arcade shooter, I asked Biren if the game would operate like one and send players back to the start once they run out of lives. “The player will have a finite number of lives, but he can save his progress in a world by using a checkpoint cell,” Biren answered. “Each checkpoint can be used only one time and will restore all lives. The game comes with two difficulty settings, the normal mode allows the player to restart a room if he loses all his lives, while the hard mode brings him back to the last activated checkpoint.”
Hexodius has been in development since April, and I asked if the game has undergone any changes since the crew started work on it. “Overall, we kept the initial direction, with a lot of adjustments, of course,” said Biren. “One of the biggest was the exploration phase which has changed a lot during the development. We did not come up with the idea of a hexagonal grid in the first place. We wanted a more realistic representation of the map but we realized that a geometrical grid was more practical and more modular. Also, we liked the board game feeling of it.”
BrainSlap Studio hopes to have Hexodius ready for an early 2013 release. The team hopes to be on Steam Greenlight soon and will also seek to bring the game to Xbox LIVE Arcade.
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