1-bit Ninja is one of those ideas that has been at the back of my mind for a while. Some of my favorite early gaming memories are of Game + Watch and Gameboy and I wanted to create a game that tipped its hat stylistically to this important aspect of my gaming past. This naturally merged with another desire of mine which was to design a traditional side scrolling platform game specifically for touch screen, with controls that didn't suck.
Through scientific research (read: playing lots of Super Mario Bros, Canabalt and games with touch screen virtual controls), I concluded a few things. Firstly, touch screen controls do not intrinsically suck. Tapping/pressing a touch screen is no less responsive than physical buttons, however changing button presses without consciously looking at them is inaccurate and frustrating. Secondly, platform games can be distilled to just 3 buttons; back, forward and jump. Of those 3 buttons, 1 of them, the back button could be considered of lesser importance when the player's goal is always to the right.
By giving the player just 2 buttons the need for inaccurate on-screen controls disappears, your left thumb is button A and your right thumb is button B. With this control scheme in mind levels can be designed that not only work within the restrictions but take advantage of them. Level elements such as springs and moving platforms can be used to redirect the player creating alternative routes and subtle puzzles all in the while keeping the essential parts of the genre - exploration and precise jumping.
With the control concept in place, I started to build and as I had been working on an iOS Minecraft engine I decided to merge elements of that. 1-bit Ninja's levels appear 2D however at any time the player can drag the top of the screen revealing the world as 3D. The 3D element provides 2 advantages to gameplay; enabling the player to see further into the distance allowing them to decide their next move and revealing hidden paths that can't be seen in the 2D view. I also think it also looks rather cool.
1-bit Ninja is almost complete and will be launching towards the end of May 2011, tell all your friends!
* stylized engine: 1-bit animated sprites and tiles, blended with color, shading, 3D. Nostalgia with extra spice!
* designed around 2 buttons for precise, invisible control
* lots of hand crafted levels all with multiple paths, secrets and collectables
* high scores and best times
* recorded replays, so you can show off how you achieved the above
* play at a casual pace or try 'traditional' mode, everyone's invited!