Review Fix chats with “Santa’s Journey” Executive Producer and Game Creator: Karl Dunkelman, who discusses the game and why its one you can enjoy throughout the year.
Review Fix: How was this game born?
Karl Dunkelman: Originally, I planned on writing a book about Santa Claus but one day it came to me that a retro-inspired video game app would be a fun approach to my Santa creation.
Review Fix: What was your role in the game?
Dunkelman: I am the Game Creator and Executive Producer which entails everything that went into the game other than the sprite designs. I worked with Jason Perry who had some existing Christmas themed sprites and we came up with additional ones that are featured in the Santa’s Journey game. I did extensive research on Santa and Christmas, came up with the game theme and levels, learned how to compose digital music and created new versions of Christmas classics, worked with Jason’s artwork to bring it to life, developed the game testing different iterations and released it in the
Apple App Store.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in the industry?
Dunkelman: I’ve always had a passion for video games since the mid to late ‘80s. I started out my career working at a digital agency and became the go-to producer for making Flash games for household brand names. I later became the lead producer for making apps for sports and entertainment companies. However, I had never made a video game app or any of this on my own without a team. This curiosity to do it myself lead me down the path of creating my own game.
Review Fix: What was development like?
Dunkelman: Development was a challenge since I had never developed a game by myself before but I really enjoyed learning from it. I had worked with designers and mobile developers and been in TestFlight in the past for Beta testing but had always been in a producer role.
Review Fix: What makes this game special?
Dunkelman: The game is classic in the sense of no odd twists on Santa, just clean Christmas fun for all ages. The learning curve of the controls and gameplay are super simple so even young kids can play it. The time-based element I created leaves the user with the goal of reuniting Santa with Mrs. Claus after completing the 25 levels (for the 25 days of Christmas) by Christmas morning.
Review Fix: What games influenced this one the most?
Dunkelman: The game itself came to me on its own accord but looking back on it, the design reminds me of Nintendo’s earlier Zelda games, and since it’s a dungeon style game that is retro gaming-inspired, there are some underlining tones there. Playing video games for 30 years is most likely the answer. A friend of mine said it reminded him of Dig Dug which is another retro video game.
Review Fix: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Dunkelman: I have quite the collection of books on Santa now so next Christmas will be quite fun. I would like to thank my wife for letting me work on the game on nights and weekends to make the dream of creating Santa’s Journey come true. I made it for my kids and they love Santa’s Journey so that’s the most rewarding part of the experience. I hope other kids and families enjoy it as much as we do.
Review Fix: What were the major lessons learned?
Dunkelman: I taught myself a lot during this process from design, development, composing music, it was pretty much anything you could consider when embarking on creating a video game. If I were to offer advice, it would be to not give up and keep trying.
Review Fix: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Dunkelman: In the case of this game it was important to preserve a retro feel while also making the game accessible to all ages. Kids can learn from the simple mechanics of this game like training wheels for other more advanced games. However, as an adult it’s a nice throwback to experience such simplicity.
Review Fix: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Dunkelman: I remember waiting in line with my mother for the release of Super Mario Bros. 3. When the store opened, there was a mad rush inside and some lady even pushed me, but I got a copy. It was a proud moment as a young gamer and that game’s release felt monumental to the game industry. Nintendo had already established itself but Mario 3 was a whole new world for me.
Review Fix: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Dunkelman: I want to bring Santa to life in a way that all ages can enjoy. The game doesn’t have to just be played during the Christmas holiday season but I understand that’s when it will likely get the most play and enjoyment. I hope that children can fall in love with Santa’s Journey in a way that got me excited about video games.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Dunkelman: There are lots in store for 2020. The iOS version of the app was released in January this year so this Christmas will be the first year for iOS users to enjoy it. Santa always has other fun surprises in store. HO HO HO!
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Dunkelman: Check out www.santa.app and make sure to follow the game on Instagram and/or Facebook. Links to social media can be found at www.santa.app. Make sure to keep the Christmas spirit alive all year long!