Enter Boro-Toro

March 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

For the most part the BAFTA Video Game awards played out exactly as everyone expected them to. LittleBigPlanet got itself the ‘Artistic Achievement’ award, not surprising given said game’s unique style, and Spore took home the ‘Technical Achievement’ for its ground breaking animation techniques. A less well known award, the ‘Ones to Watch’ award, went to DarkMatter Designs for their 2D platform-puzzler ‘Boro-Toro’ in which “either a ‘Boro’ named ‘Toro’ or a ‘Toro’ named ‘Boro’” – even the team themselves aren’t sure – solves his (its?) way across half a dozen levels of physics based puzzles.
Boro-Toro was nominated for the award following its runner up status in Dare to be Digital , a competition hosted by Abertay university in which university graduates in teams of five compete to create a game in the space of ten weeks. Boro-Toro then went on to impress judges at the ProtoPlay event held in Edinburgh to become one of the three runners up to be put forward for the BAFTA. Although there is a cash prize in it for the three winning teams the competition’s focus lies in giving graduates the contacts to get their foot in the industry’s door, as well as the confidence and experience needed to succeed.

It was with this aim that DarkMatter Designs struck out to create what eventually became Boro-Toro, but where did the design originally come from? According to Graham Ranson (who incidentally takes no credit for the game’s inception, insisting that that should instead be placed firmly in the womb of Adam Westwood) the game stems from a desire to “take the possibilities allowed in such physics sandboxes as Phun and Crayon Physics and then combine them with Point and Click games such as Samarost and Monkey Island.”

The result is something which feels instantly familiar and yet wholly different, thanks in part to its innovative use of the WiiMote and Nunchuk. Contrary to what you may believe, the technical side of implementing the WiiMote wasn’t actually the hardest part of using it, the challenge coming instead from the design side of things. “The hardest part of developing with the Wii Remote was really just making sure we used it properly and played to its strengths rather just ‘adding waggle.’”

It’s really the puzzles in Boro-Toro that take centre stage however. Using the WiiMote, you manipulate the objects on screen in order to reach your objective. Puzzles range from simple bridge-building exercises to complex giant rotating grids of death, all of which completely interactable. What’s interesting however is how your Boro named Toro (or Toro named Boro) is never safe from harm whilst interacting with the environment as other protagonists so often are. Indeed often it becomes part of the challenge to keep the little guy safe as you perilously alter his surroundings, something which caused many problems during development, as it gives the player the ability to stand on an object and then carry themselves through a level. Luckily this was a problem easily overcome, as Graham explains: “At first we thought this was game breaking but were able to make various design decisions such as self-contained levels and well placed barriers that allowed us to leave it in as just another way a player could solve a puzzle.”

With its charming art style Boro-Toro was always going to remind us all of Sony’s seminal platformer, but as anyone who’s played it will tell you it certainly isn’t as one YouTube comment poster put it; “a wii version of little big planet” though it seems DarkMatter will ultimately always be fighting an uphill struggle on this point, albeit exclusively with people who’ve never touched the game. Therein lies the solution: If you have a free moment then I strongly suggest you head over to their site where Boro-Toro can be criminally grabbed at no cost whatsoever.

All that remains to be asked of the developers is the age old question, cake or pie? “As much as I love cake, there are just too many possibilities for pies for it to be beaten,” he replies and isn’t that – insert metaphor here – ?

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