EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Fenix Rage Executive Producer Ted Lange

After the success of the really difficult platformer Super Meat Boy, it’s no surprise that other game developers would follow suit. But while the upcoming Fenix Rage — which Green Lava is making for PCs, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 — may be tough, and is made of platforms, in talking to executive producer Ted Lange as I played the game, it seems that this isn’t just Exceptional Fish Girl.

Fenix Rage 01

What is Fenix Rage?

It’s a hardcore platformer in the vein of Super Meat Boy, an homage to games from the NES and SNES days that really punched you in the face to complete.

Where did the original idea come from? Did you see Super Meat Boy and decide to make Exceptional Fish Girl, but then changed the name…

Heh. No, it came from a bunch of different elements. The guys at Green Lava love games like Sonic and Battletoads, classic platformers that were hard to beat but very gratifying.

Also, a lot of the art was inspired by an old cartoon called SWAT Kats. If you look it up, you’ll notice some similarities, especially in the main character of Fenix.

One of the things that makes Fenix Rage different from other platformers, though, is that instead of just having him jump or double jump, he has unlimited jumps.

Right. But the thing is, we give you unlimited jumps and unlimited dashes, so you’ll think this is easy. But then we’re going to throw every obstacle at you to show you that no, no it’s not.

So are there multiple difficulty settings?

No. You get baby stepped in when you start, and there are peaks and valleys when new mechanics are introduced, but the peaks are really steep.

The thing is, the levels keep going, it’s just your character that resets, so you actually do feel like you’re making progress.

Right, because every time I’ve died, I came back instantly where I started, but most of the time I did get a little bit closer to the end of the level.

Right. Which makes it easier for you to get better because you don’t have to restart the game, you get right back into it.

Now what are the little birds hanging around? Am I supposed to eat them?

They’re actually a subtle hint system, one that shows you a possible path. But they only show you one way to go, there’s usually others.

And the light brown bricks that just kind of float in mid-air?

That’s a cookie.

Oh. Wait, what kind of cookie? And why is it square?

It’s called The Legendary Cookie. And I don’t know why they’re square. But if you collect the cookies, you unlock real cookie recipes, one of which is for The Legendary Cookie. And yes, it is actually square. One of the developer’s sisters is a baker, and she created all the cookies for the game. They’re actually themed to all the different worlds in the game.

That’s cool. And what the hell is that big green blobby thing that’s chasing after me?

Oh, that’s a boss. This is one of the boss fights.

Fenix Rage boss

I’ve been playing the PC version, but with an Xbox 360 controller. Can you play it with the keyboard, though?

Yes, you can. But I wouldn’t suggest it.

Though I’m sure there will be some phenom who does it with a keyboard.

So how many different levels are there?

Four: The Red Forest, The Crystal Cave, The Moorsky, and The Birdbone. And they have twenty levels each. Once you beat them, you unlock a dark presence, and then there’s dark versions of those eighty levels. And those are all new levels.

Then, once you beat all one hundred and sixty of those, you unlock Sanctuary, where there’s another twenty levels.

But then there’s Challenge mode for every level. The developers figured out the least number of jumps and dashes needed to complete each level, so that’s all you have. If you use them all, you have to start over, just like if you die. Though it’s just your jumps and dashes, not any normal moving.

Is that unlocked from the beginning?

That’s still being finalized. But there are Challenge versions of all one hundred and eighty levels.

Including the boss fight where that blobby thing was chasing me?

Oy!

And then there’s God Mode, which unlocks after you’ve beaten all the levels. In this, you’re invincible, but there’s a clock, and the object is to kill every enemy and beat the level before time runs out.

And then…

Oh brother.

Heh. In a game like this, you have to make sure the controls are perfect. You want it to be that it’s the player who’s messed up, not the controls. So when the game was being developed, they didn’t worry about the visuals, it was all done with rudimentary blocks to make sure the controls worked right.

So, as you’re going through the levels normally, you’ll see red blocks that are counting down. And if you get to them before they get to zero, you’ll unlock that level in the Fenix Box mode, which are the original prototype versions of the levels.

Now are those prototype levels very different from the finished versions? Or are they the finished versions but with the graphics stripped out?

The levels are basically the same, but you’ll see things that they were testing.

Ah. So it’s it kind of like listening to a demo version of “Stairway To Heaven” as opposed to a demo version of a song that Led Zeppelin never released a finished version of.

I would say for the most part, yeah.

And then there’s some minigames. One of the most fun ones is “Bird Ball,” which is all about keeping a ball up in the air.

So when will Fenix Rage be out?

It will be released on PC via Steam and other digital services on September 24th, and on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in early 2015.

Will there be anything different about the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions when they come out?

That is still up in the air. There are things we’d like to add, both to the console versions and to the PC as DLC. But there’s nothing in stone right now.

Fenix Rage 03

Is there a reason it’s not also coming to the PlayStation 3 and/or Xbox 360?

For now, they’re just focusing on the PC, and then they’re going to focus on the PS3 and Xbox One versions. It’s just a three man team — an artist, a programmer, and a sound guy — so there’s only so much bandwidth. But if it does well on PC and those consoles, and people want it on PS3 or Vita or WiiU or whatever, we’ll consider it.

Now, does this have a level editor? Because it seems like it should.

We really want there to be one. It’s something that we’re looking into. But if we do it, it won’t be until after launch.

 

For more on Fenix Rage, check out this video interview with Mr. Lange at RPad.TV

 

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