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A Master’s thesis game tops Apple’s and Metacritic’s lists

Shadow Bug, an innovative game for touch screens, is praised across the world.

Kim Valori, Juha Ylimäki and Veli Laamanen, students of Aalto University, designed Shadow Bug for their thesis and have achieved what many game designers can only dream about: their game was featured worldwide by Apple in App Store’s Best New Games section and the game also scored 81 points in the Metacritic service that aggregates game reviews. The game was also selected to the esteemed Indie Showcase exhibition of the Pax East festival.

Apple’s App Store publishes more than 4 000 games every week, and Apple’s curators put Shadow Bug on the first page among the six best games in most countries. A game scoring more than 80 points in Metacritic’s reviews is regarded as a top game by professionals in the game industry.

One can play even with just one finger

One of Shadow Bug’s strengths is the novel game mechanics designed for touch screens.  As Professor Antti Oulasvirta from Aalto University showed in his recent study, action games are often clumsy to play on a touch screen. An innovation by Kim Valori, the programmer of Shadow Bug, combines two classic action platformer game movements – jumping and attacking – into one gesture that works especially on a touch screen, and makes it possible to play the game even with one finger.  Juha Ylimäki’s distinctive characters and Veli Laamanen’s atmospheric soundscapes and music make for a polished game experience.

‘The game character in Shadow Bug cannot jump except when the player taps on an enemy, which makes the character dash and attack even through walls. This way one gradually learns to see the enemies as possibilities instead of a threat. The challenge is to figure out the order and sequence of attacks that enables progressing through the levels. This requires both reason and quick reactions as new enemies appear amidst airborne battle,’ explains Juha Ylimäki.

‘For a student game, there’s an exceptional level of polish and effort in getting the game feel and difficulty curve just right. The guiding principle for good game design – ‘easy to learn, hard to master’– has been implemented wonderfully in this game,’ comments Perttu Hämäläinen, professor of computer games.

The team is now developing more content for the game and has just published the first update with new game levels. The students are also working on the written part of their thesis which follows the ‘post mortem’ format common in the games industry, i.e. describes the design principles and ideals of the game as well as strives to analyse the project’s successes and failures, and what other game designers could learn from the project.

More about the game:

Juha Ylimäki
Tel. +358 44 281 1371
[email protected]
http://shadowbug.com/

More about education in game design and production at Aalto University:

Professor Perttu Hämäläinen
tel. +358 50 596 7735
[email protected]
Master's Programme in New Media - Game Design and Production

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