Exclusive Interview: “To-Fu Fury” Producer Darren Anderson & Executive Producer David Holmes

Heroes in video games are usually strong and sure, steadfast in their resolve, as well as tough. All things you can’t say about the titular hero in To-Fu Fury, a puzzling, side-scrolling platformer for iPhone, iPad, Fire phones, and Fire tablets that features a spongy piece of bean curd. But in talking to the game’s producer, Darren Anderson, and Amazon Games Studio executive producer David Holmes, it seems being squishy and flexible can have its advantages.

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Let’s start with the basics: What is To-Fu Fury, how do you play it?

Anderson: To-Fu Fury is an action packed puzzle game with a satisfying mix of combat action thrown in for good measure. Players are required to Fling and Ping — the name of two of the basic To-Fu moves — their way around hazardous levels in search of the Fortune Kitty, avoiding spikes and traps while they do. Some levels see To-Fu engaged in furious martial arts combat against the henchmen of the Hoshi Brotherhood. The Hoshi are a group of ne’er-do-wells who are hell bent on taking down the Guardians Of Chi. The Guardians just happen to be like family to our flexible hero, so you know, it’s personal!

What games do you think To-Fu Fury is similar to, and what makes it different from them?

Anderson: Super Meat Boy is clearly an influence on the franchise, though we’re a little bit kinder to the player in To-Fu Fury. The game also inherits a thing or two from Angry Birds, giving the player the freedom of flinging To-Fu everywhere within the context of more traditional platform game environments.

To-Fu, the hero of To-Fu Fury is squishy and malleable. What does this give the game that having a more solid hero wouldn’t?

Anderson: To-Fu’s stretchy powers allow him to soar around levels without being hindered by gravity. To-Fu is also sticky so he can really make use of every part of the environment to show off his skills.

To-Fu Fury is the third To-Fu game, following To-Fu: The Trials Of Chi and To-Fu 2. When you made the first one, why did you decide to call it To-Fu instead of Jel-Lo or Jel-Li or Boo-Ger? Even Blac-End Temp-Ah would’ve been better than To-Fu. Or is this just another example of the elite liberal media pushing a pro-vegetarian agenda?

Anderson: Ha! I am a vegetarian but there’s no agenda, I promise. There were several factors that led to the name. To-Fu is a martial artist so going from Kung-Fu to To-Fu wasn’t much of a leap. Despite what you may think, it’s not that To-Fu is the antithesis of Super Meat Boy.

How often do people not get the connotation of the name and think it’s about a marshmallow?

Anderson: Around 1 in a 100. Most people are way smarter than that.

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So when you started working on To-Fu Fury, what were the things you wanted to add, change, and improve from the first two games, and why did you feel they needed to be added, changed, or improved?

Anderson: Significant additions for gameplay are the new moves, combat, and boss battles, which add a completely new layer to the To-Fu Fury experience. In terms of upgrading the franchise, we’ve taken the game from 2D to lustrous, opulent 3D environments, which are very, very pretty to behold.

Are any of the levels in To-Fu Fury ones you had originally made for To-Fu: The Trials Of Chi or To-Fu 2, but couldn’t get to work? Or variations on levels from either of those games?

Anderson: No. We did consider enhancing some of the original levels for Fury but, in the end, it proved a challenge to pack all of the new levels into the game. All the levels for To-Fu Fury were designed specifically with the new moves and combat in mind, which we think worked out better in the long run.

To-Fu Fury originally came out for the Fire Phone, but is now also on the Fire Tablet, iPhone, and iPad. First, is there anything different about these new versions verses the Fire Phone one?

Anderson: One of the key features of the Fire Phone version was the way we used the Dynamic Perspective feature to make the environments feel more 3D and physically real. For the latest release, we’ve mainly responded to user feedback to streamline the tutorials and tweak the gameplay in some of the levels to give a more enjoyable experience.

And is there any difference between the Fire ones and the iOS ones?

Anderson: No, there are no differences between the two versions in terms of gameplay and user experience.

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In terms of money, To-Fu Fury is only a couple bucks, but there are in-game purchases. First, why did you decide to go with a pay-to-play model with microtransactions, as opposed to just pay-to-play or a free-to-play model with microtransactions?

Holmes: We think of To-Fu Fury as a premium experience that our customers can enjoy from beginning to end without having to spend a dime after initial purchase. That said, we also recognize that many of our customers like the option of being able to accelerate their acquisition of additional content, so we provide a way for them to do so.

So what kinds of things can people buy in To-Fu Fury?

Anderson: You can use the currency to unlock challenge levels, which are like proving grounds for To-Fu and his ninja like abilities. Boosts are also available which can enhance your abilities making levels easier to complete. You can also buy a variety of cosmetic items for customizing To-Fu, whether it be an Elvis hair-do or a Kiss-style makeover. There’s a huge variety of looks to choose from. All these items can be acquired through normal gameplay, but you can access them faster by getting your hands on packs of in-game currency.

A lot of games that feature microtransactions, especially ones that are free-to-play, have been criticized for being too aggressive in making people pay for stuff. What did you do to make sure To-Fu Fury wouldn’t be a pay-to-win game?

Holmes: By completing levels, To-Fu Fury players earn in-game currency used to unlock personalization options to change the appearance of To-Fu, special powers that enhance the game experience, or challenge levels that provide different experiences from the main game. Customers will never have to purchase anything except the main game to unlock any of this content, but they can spend real money to accelerate their acquisition if they like.

Given that Fire phones and tablets run what’s basically a modified version of Android, why isn’t the game also available for Android phones and tablets?

Holmes: We strive to deliver the best customer experience possible each time we release a version of one of our games. We have chosen to focus on the iOS and Fire OS versions of To-Fu Fury right now to maximize our ability to successfully deliver great product to our customers with this release.

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Finally, are there any plans to bring it to consoles or computers?

Holmes: We listen to our customers. Customer interest and demand has guided our plans in the past and will continue to guide our plans in the future.

 

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