#2 Kine

Puz­zles, and all that jazz

Games Master - - Indiemaster -

The breezi­est, boun­ci­est, hap­pi­est trailer we’ve seen in a long time be­longs to Gwen Frey’s Kine, an in­ge­nious new puz­zle game fea­tur­ing a trio of sen­tient mu­si­cal in­stru­ments. “There’s just so much neg­a­tiv­ity in the world that I knew I wanted to make some­thing light-hearted and joy­ful, that makes peo­ple smile,” Frey says. As founder of The Mo­lasses Flood, Frey was at a loose end af­ter the stu­dio’s gor­geous sur­vival game The Flame In The Flood shipped. “I started pro­to­typ­ing and pitch­ing things at work and one of them had this ker­nel of some­thing in­ter­est­ing, which was the way that a char­ac­ter could move in a 3D grid,” she says. “I just liked the way this char­ac­ter moved. I thought it looked funny.” With the stu­dio con­sid­er­ing mul­ti­player for its next project, Frey found her­self in a sim­i­lar mind­set, imag­in­ing a com­pet­i­tive turn-based game where play­ers would try to push one an­other off a plat­form.

That idea didn’t stick, but still there was some­thing fas­ci­nat­ing about this cuboid char­ac­ter with ex­tend­able limbs. “I had these de­sign con­straints, where the char­ac­ter could push off from a limb, but the limb wouldn’t be able to sup­port their weight if the body rolled off the edge of the world. And so that had to look right.” Even­tu­ally, Frey re­alised that an ac­cor­dion matched the shape she was af­ter, but there was one prob­lem: she wanted a jazz theme for the game. “I talked to some of my mu­si­cian friends, and asked them if it was pos­si­ble to have an ac­cor­dion in jazz mu­sic. And they said, ‘Any­thing’s pos­si­ble if you be­lieve!’”

The idea of a jazz-cen­tric game came from a sur­pris­ing source. “I was re­ally into La La Land,” Frey says. So is the yel­low body of these mu­si­cal char­ac­ters in­spired by Emma Stone’s yel­low dress? “It to­tally is!” she beams. “It’s funny you picked that up. But I’ve ref­er­enced La La Land im­agery con­stantly. I thought that was a gor­geous movie.”

Yet still there was some­thing miss­ing. It was only when Frey played Stephen Lavelle’s for­mi­da­ble puzzler Stephen’s Sausage Roll that ev­ery­thing started to come to­gether. “That was the mo­ment when it clicked,” she says. “I played it and re­alised that all I had to do was make the lev­els much smaller. And within this much more con­strained space, it be­came way more fun.”

A year on, Frey has built Kine up into some­thing spe­cial. The game’s struc­ture is like a per­for­mance, with each pro­tag­o­nist em­bark­ing upon a solo ca­reer, grad­u­ally un­lock­ing new lev­els where they can jam with other in­stru­ments. “Each char­ac­ter is build­ing a com­po­si­tion,” Frey ex­plains. “We’re lay­er­ing more and more tracks of a song, and then when you reach the end you hear the whole song and it’s this huge, beau­ti­ful com­po­si­tion that they’ve made to­gether.” Is this the start of some­thing won­der­ful and new? Who knows, but so far Kine seems to be very much our tempo.

A trom­bone’s slide lets one char­ac­ter cross gaps more eas­ily, but ma­noeu­vring them around tight spa­ces is tricky.

The char­ac­ters move won­der­fully, but that’s no great sur­prise: Frey was the sole an­i­ma­tor on The Flame In The Flood.

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