Alice in Wonderland DS

Presentation

Adventure platform – Nintendo DS – 2009

What I did.

  • Map design and characters’ abilities design, Defining main game mechanics with the lead game designer.
  • Game’s global progression since it’s a Metroidvania-like game.
  • Levels’ macro progression, learning and difficulty curves and documentation.
  • Level building and implementation, testing and tuning.
  • Asset’s research and creation for the sound design.

What I learned

  • How to push forward a project not moving forward.


Alice in Wonderland DS is the official game of Tim Burton’s movie. Unlike the Wii version, we imagined a puzzle platform game with a unique visual identity that could adapt to the constraints of Nintendo DS hardware.

The player controls four different characters to help Alice save the Underland.

I was in charge of the level design, but I also helped out with the game design. I also made SFX for enemies and weapons.

With regard to the design of the levels, the game is constructed like a metroidvania game, where parts of the world are not accessible until you have acquired special abilities, objects or characters. But the lead game designer and I decided to push the maze aspect to the top of the map game world. In fact, we have designed a map that is divided into several pieces of puzzle, these are the levels that the player must connect to each other, through the four colors of a deck of cards. For example, one piece of puzzle can be connected to several others, allowing the player to create shortcuts or access hidden places in a level.

It was a difficult process to lock and check all the possibilities, then design each level according to its puzzle shape (mainly the number of doors and their place in the level). It was difficult to keep a fluid narrative throughout the game and keep track of what was going on and where and when it was happening. But the most difficult aspect of this feature was to keep a smooth curve of difficulty that would still work well, with any combination of puzzle pieces.

In the levels themselves, I have defined three types of activities for the player

  • Fighting
  • Puzzles that rely on the special abilities of the characters
  • Common risks (small enemies, holes and jumps)

I especially balanced the levels so that the player always has something to do, while managing the rhythm with these activities, used as a resting phase or peak of difficulty.

As far as game design is concerned, I helped on the combat system and I designed, with the lead game designer, all the special abilities assigned to each character (Mc Twisp the white rabbit, Absolem the caterpillar, the crazy hatter and the Cheshire cat), each of them had to be different and meaningful to use. We also had to design these capabilities with strong constraints in mind from Disney:

  • From a marketing point of view, the game should not be seen as a platform game.
  • From a design point of view, it should only be controlled with the stylus.

Being part of the design process helped me a lot to build a library of level sequences that we could use later on.

Production was difficult, because of late design choices from the editor and buggy tools on our side. However, my only regret would be that the game went unnoticed on the market, despite the popularity of the film, simply because the general perception is that the games, adapted from films, are bad or at best, mediocre. It’s too bad, because it’s a really fun game with a unique identity.

Screenshots

Trailer

Manuel Utsunomiya Bonisoli ⓒNut Island Studio
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