Review Fix chats with Fledermaus developer Michele Caletti, who discusses his upcoming retro adventure game, “The Waste Land,” set for a September release via Digital Tribe Games. Inspired by the classic T.S. Eliot poem, “The Waste Land” features classic 8-Bit side-scrolling gameplay that fans of “Metroid” and “Castlevania” will instantly appreciate. Discussing everything from the game’s origins to its goals, Caletti gives us an inside look at the upcoming game.
Review Fix: Can you discuss how a poem played a key role in the inspiration for the game?
Michele Caletti: Well it’s got two sides. There’s the intellectual side, the poem’s central themes of cyclic loss and rise and fall of culture, civilization. That influenced the overall plot and basic game idea. But then there’s the emotional side: the initial part of the poem is a description of a barren land, where solitude and despair are almost tangible. Then more complex feelings develop, when human characters appear, but the underlying theme remains.
Review Fix: The visuals are uber murky and dark, what was your mindset during the development cycle?
Caletti: It’s not completely true because later in the game levels change a lot, but what remains is a strong feeling of menace, from the environment and from all the living things. It’s the same feeling that games like old “Castlevania” and “Metroid” brought- you’re alone, facing the unknown.
Review Fix: What were your main goals during development?
Caletti: Making a game that I would enjoy. Initially this was meant to be a private project, I missed so much the lack of such a game in recent times. When you work for yourself you cannot take compromises, and if you have fun doing so it’s even better.
Review Fix: Why did you go for the eight-bit style for the game?
Caletti: I love the style, partly because the first games I’ve played were NES and Master System titles and partly because I like the challenge of being expressive with a limited array of colors and with a low resolution. Sometimes, deciding a single pixel can take a long time. Also, such a style leaves some room for the imagination, where flashy 3D games don’t. And it ages quite well since it’s born old.”
Review Fix: Who do you think will enjoy this game the most?
Caletti: Hardcore players, Castlevania and Metroid fans, retro gamers. The game can be hard, but the most important thing is that sometimes it leaves you clueless about what’s next, intentionally. Players of corridor-style games with an arrow pointing to the exit, beware.
Review Fix: What did you play as a kid and how did it affect this game?
Caletti: As I was saying back in NES times, at the end of the ‘80s there was a bunch of very influential titles: Castlevania, Simon’s Quest (Castlevaina II), Metroid, Lord of the Sword, Spellcaster. Those super hard 8-bit platformers that had already an open world.
Review Fix: What makes this game special?
Caletti: You’re alone. You’re free. There’s a mystery. There’s a huge world to explore. There’s an unknown enemy to be found. Go, find your way, talk to the people, unfold the secrets and rise again. Enough?
Review Fix: Currently the game is scheduled for release on Steam, but considering all the retro-inspired games on the PlayStation 4 now, is that something you’d consider?
Caletti: Yes, but porting games takes time and my first goal is having fun doing them. So, temptation is to passthat idea onto another title, a thing that i’m already doing, but if i’ll have the chance to do so, why not. Also, this game was made in my spare time, mostly on train travels back and forth to the office, but porting on console is a different thing. We’ll see.
Review Fix: How do you want this game to be remembered in a few years?
Caletti: A game crafted with love. A living fossil – games like this aren’t made any more.