Ninja Theory’s upcoming side-scrolling brawler for iOS and Android devices, Fightback, is both an homage to 1980s action films and an opportunity for the studio to challenge itself by developing for platforms it has never worked on before, according to creative director Luis Gigliotti.
Speaking to Polygon, Gigliotti said that after completing DMC: Devil May Cry, the studio wanted to challenge itself with something completely different, which is why Gigliotti signed himself up to work with a small team within the studio to make Fightback.
“As a designer, I love challenges,” he said. “These touchscreen devices are fairly new for these types of games, and there’s a massive design challenge there which made me think, ‘What better way to push yourself than to really challenge yourself?’
“I also saw this opportunity to do something that could really have some depth and impact in this space.”
According to Gigliotti, one of the most important things for the studio to achieve was to make the game experience appropriate for the devices on which they would be played. He said that part of the challenge for developers who have traditionally made games for PC and consoles is respecting the touchscreen device and the experience it can offer. “They’re inherently different things,” he said, “and as a designer, as soon as you remove a D-Pad or a mouse and keyboard from people, you have to respect that.”
“I also saw this opportunity to do something that could really have some depth and impact in this space.
Fightback achieves Ninja Theory’s goals by optimizing all its controls for the touch-based interface. The game is a brawler where players control a hulking character who has to ascend through levels in a skyscraper to rescue his kidnapped sister. Players have to fight off waves of thugs by controlling the angle of the characters kicks, swiping to punch and chaining together combos to knock back each wave of enemies. The game’s design also uses predictive behavior, so the game anticipates what a player wants to do based on how they swipe the screen. In a demo of the game Polygon played, the touch controls were responsive, allowing us to dodge attacks by swiping down and countering attacks by swiping up with no frustration.
The game’s theme draws inspiration from 1980s action films, and Gigliotti says Fightback is an homage to the period, as opposed to a parody.
“You could look at a character and go, ‘I get them.”
“When you look back at those movies, they seem kind of silly in retrospect, but if you really analyze the character development in those films, they were actually really well-developed and they didn’t need dialog to explain everything about them,” he said. “You could look at a character and go, ‘I get them.’
“The anti-hero was born in the 80s, and that concept of the anti-hero wasn’t done through clever dialog — it was done through costuming and relational positioning within a scene and lighting. It was more theatrical.”
The team at Ninja Theory has adopted elements of films from the 80s so that when players pick up the game, the visual cues in the environtal designs, the character’s costuming and the way the game is lit and presented tells them what they need to know without bombarding them with a screen full of text.
Fightback will be Ninja Theory’s first mobile game. It will release this summer on iOS and Android devices as a free-to-play title.