Leo's Fortune is 1337 and Senri's bid to create a console-worthy game for the mobile space.
In Leo's Fortune, players control Leopold, a dark-teal ball of fluff gliding across the world in search of his missing gold. Leo believes it has all been stolen by someone close to him — one of his eccentric, equally fluff-ball relatives — and they have left it scattered "like a trail of bread crumbs," as he says, across the world. Now players must guide Leo through a handful of different and dangerous environments, including a pirate cove and mines, in order to get it back. Leo will have to solve some puzzles to open doors, like moving blocks onto a weighted elevator or pressing switches hidden in the walls, on his quest to regain his cash.
Swiping and holding on the bottom left of the touch screen will move Leo forwards or backwards, while sliding up on the right side will make him puff up similar to a blowfish so he can jump, float through the air or put pressure on switches hidden in tight places. This is it for Leo's move set — but how players use them will determine how well they do. And there is no tutorial — players are thrown in headfirst, shown which way to swipe their fingers, and pushed out the door with very little fanfare.
"That's the general approach we wanted to take — we didn't want to do the tutorials in your face, describe everything, because people don't want to read text and usually they just figure it out after a little while," Hejdenberg explained.
The mechanics may be simple but can be used different ways to solve different situations as stages rise in difficulty. Each stage has a theme, like the aforementioned mines and pirate cove, and at the beginning and end players are treated to short cutscenes detailing Leo and his relationship with his relatives.
"The story is actually something that we wanted to do something different with, and for the simple reason that in a platform game, no one expects anything serious to be discussed," Hejdenberg said. "So the story is really something that is very close to our hearts that we wanted to convey. The story is definitely not what you would expect, and it becomes really interesting towards the end."
If players score enough stars on each stage — a maximum of three — bonus levels will unlock. These bonus levels each have a challenge with a specific goal, such as doing as many laps around a track as possible or collecting as many hourglasses as possible within a time limit.
As for what quantifies a game as "console-quality" Hejdenberg said it's not just about the graphics or story, in the size of the package. As it would turn out, the tiny 2.5D game isn't tiny at all.
"Why shouldn't you be able to play a game like [Leo's Fortune] on whatever device you have?" he said. "There's a lot of content and there's story, there's voiceover. And all of the levels in the game, every pixel is unique.
"When we said console quality, it's also that we find that a lot of the titles on the App Store that are console, they tend to dumb down things and have like, 'yeah, it's just one button, you'll be fine,'" he added. "And we wanted to have a control scheme that allowed you to actually move around your character as you would on consoles.
"There's no tiles, and we had to come up with some really clever compression methods to get it as a really small package, because when you download it, it's just 100 megs, and with 25 levels of 60,000 pixels each."
The developers built their own engine from scratch to fit Leo's Fortune onto mobile devices. Each level, Hejdenberg explained, is one large picture; nothing has to render when the level starts, players just begin breezing through a picture. 1337 and Senri used different compression methods for different textures, color, grayscale — and a separate one for sound.
"We started out with tiles and we felt we could have a corner piece tiled together with something else with some third thing," he explained. "But then it was like, could we do it with just one big image? And it turns out with the right compression you can. It doesn't look compressed and on a retina screen the resolution is so high anyway that compression artifacts don't show up the same way they do in low resolution. So we could actually compress everything down, and no one's really done that before because no one's been maybe foolish enough to do so — making unique art for every piece of the game, it is time consuming, especially when there's a small team like this.
"Luckily we have tech-savvy programmers who are really into new technology, and it's brought this package down to a size that's easily downloaded to your device," he added.
Leo's Fortune will launch later this month for iOS, with an Android version to follow. The title will also support the Steel Series iOS 7 game controller.