Whether you’re a casual gamer or you use the term “hardcore” to describe yourself, you’ve probably seen the YouTube video for Wiiwaa. It’s been shown on nearly every video game web site with comments ranging from, “What a clever idea” to “WTF? WII IZ 4 KIDZ.” However, no one seems to have taken the time to actually learn more about the game. Until now.
I like weird games. I like things that are so outside the box it makes a person pause even if the game plays like crap. From Steel Battalion to Pokemon Channel, if it’s outside the norm, I either own it or have at least played it. So from the first time I saw the Wiiwaa video, I knew this was going to be a game I had to play, just because it was so off the wall. Now the good thing about being Editor-in-Chief of a decent sized gaming site is that now and then I can go to our head of Public Relations, DJ Tatsujin, and say, “DJ, can you get me an interview with Developer XYZ so our readers (and myself) can learn more about this game?” In this case the company was Zoink Games and Klaus Lyngeled was the man I had the opportunity to grill about this strange puppet-based video game. Klaus was only too happy to answer my questions and below is the result.
DHGF: So Wiiwaa. Tell us a little bit about the game. What type of game IS it exactly?
Klaus Lyngeled: Wiiwaa is an action-adventure game that mixes in some mini-game elements and caretaking elements. It is similar to a Tamagotchi, but mainly it’s a story driven adventure game.
DHGF: Who came up with the idea of a puppet/stuffed animal based control scheme? Can you describe some of the ways you’ll be using the character in regards to gameplay?
KL: I came up with the idea. I actually wanted to do something similar for the PS2 a long time ago. I wanted to attach a character to the analog joysticks, but it just didn’t work very well. With the Wiimote, it was a lot easier. My own kids often play out their games with toys after they have been playing a videogame. They would pick up Lego characters and pretend they are Mario. You know, jump around with them; that kind of thing. So I thought, “Why not merge the two things?” I hope with Wiiwaa play time and game time will merge together.
The idea is to use the character is kind of like a puppet. If you want the Wiiwaa to walk, you make walking movements. If you want him to jump, you make jumping movements. If you want him to sneak on his stomach, you put the toy on his stomach and tilt him back and forth slowly. Most gameplay moments are quite natural. Then there is also the interaction between the human and the puppet. For example, in the game we have a really tall character called Tina-Tall who picks Wiiwaa up and carries him on her head. You, the player, are then asked to do the same, by carrying the plushie on your head. By tilting your body with Wiiwaa, the Tina-Tall character will react just as you do and can then avoid obstacles as she walks forward. Then, of course, we have the famous rubber band ears. Wiiwaa’s ears can shoot out of his head to catch onto things and so the plush Wiiwaa has retractable rubbers band ears which you can bounce him with. Kind of like a simple yoyo.
DHGF: What all comes with the game? From the trailer, it looks like you have a resistance band for your stuffed animal, the game, the Wiiwaa character itself and the big, white bag.
KL: The resistance band is actually the rubber band ears, and they actually retract back into Wiiwaas body. The bag is probably not going to get into the package as it takes too much space and doesn’t add anything to the game. Actually, at the moment, we are designing a packaging which will also be interactive. So hopefully it won’t just be normal plastic box which all other toys usually come in, but a packaging that will be of a purpose in the game.
DHGF: What’s up with pinning buttons to your stuffed animal? Is it a sign that the player made it through certain levels or checkpoints?
KL: Yes, the game comes with a set of pins. For every mission you complete, you are allowed to put on a new pin. The pins are also designed in a way so kids can’t hurt themselves. It’s a cool way to show off to your friends how far and how good you are in the game.
DHGF: This is a bit of a silly question, but if the Wiimote is inside the Wiiwaa creature, what happens when you need to pause the game?
KL: Ooops! Didn’t think of that …. Just kidding! The wiimote is inserted so when you press his stomach you access the A button. This is used in different ways in the game and for the pause function as well.
DHGF: At one point your website mentioned that you would be selling different Wiiwaa puppets. Will that make the game cost prohibitive? What about obsessive collectors who may want more than one?
KL: Yes, we hope to sell different styles, versions and collector editions. In the Wiiwaa village, there is a shop where you can style your Wiiwaa in different ways. For example, you give him pink fur. This then opens up for you to order the same version of the plush toy.
No, this won’t affect the cost of the game. If anything, it might make it cheaper, since we will make money on the plush toys too .
DHGF: The game obviously seems geared towards children. What about older gamers? Will they be able to have fun with Wiiwaa? What will be the appeal for them?
KL: Wiiwaa is a simplistic game, with simple fun. It can be understood by a young player easily. We are trying to design the games so they adjust to the player. It sounds complicated, but think about Tetris. My son can play it and enjoy it, but I can also play it and enjoy it. I just play on a much faster speed than him. We are also putting a lot of energy into making a nice and enjoyable world and I think that can be appreciated by any age. Like a great Studio Ghibli movie.
DHGF: As an independent Swedish development firm, have you lined up a publisher for this or The Kore Group yet? Can you tell us what’s like to try and do so for a smaller company like yourself?
KL: The Kore Gang is pretty much finished and we are looking for publisher for that title. It’s a little strange with Wii. There are so many consoles out there and still publishers seem to have a hard time selling games. I think at first everyone just bought the Nintendo titles, but now they are starting to look around for more games to play. Eventually there will be going to be demand again.
Wiiwaa is obviously very different from the usual Wii title. It’s more like a great accessory/game than just an actual game, like Wii Fit and the balance board.
Zoink isn’t a traditional game development company. We are much more into designing new ideas and creating IP’s. Zoink also has a daughter company called Zoink Animation (www.zoinkanimation.se) were we animate short movies, commercials and music videos.
DHGF: Is there a likelihood of Wiiwaa or The Kore Group coming to North America? I would hate for this to be a European exclusive.
KL: Of course. The publisher we are discussing a publishing deal with at the moment is, in fact, a US company. Same goes for The Kore Gang.
DHGF: Finally, what do you think the Japanese market will think of this game?
KL: That is hard to guess. I design games that I would like. I hope they will like it too.
Swedish culture is supposed to be similar to Japanese in some ways, so maybe they will really love it. Then again, I am properly very influenced by American story telling from all the movies.
Well, I’m happy to hear it looks like Wiiwaa is North America bound! If you’d like to learn more about Zoink Games and WiiWaa, you can visit their Facebook page, their website, or keep checking back here at Diehard GameFAN in the weeks and months to come.