A Tofu Tail Game Mechanics Deep Dive – Mr. Tengu

alchemedium —  October 17, 2014 — 3 Comments

Now that alchemedium is back and settled in from the Boston Festival of Independent Games, it is time to roll back into the creation of the magical Kitsune realms [ ‘o’ ]


But where to begin?

Let’s start with a question: Have you ever played (or made, even) a game that had some enemy, or game mechanic, or even a main character that just made you say “Why is this even here?”

Yeah… we all have seen this.

Why does this happen? Are we just bad game designers? Are we so lost in our own world of development that we miss very obvious inconsistencies?

I think there could be many reasons why these things make their way into a game; but for now let’s take a look as to why this happened to us with the tenacious Mr. Tengu.


One piece of the experience that we had been feeling was weak, or missing some level of solidity with what we currently had built (even before the recent gameplay redesign) was the function of the tengu character.

Our initial thought (and folly) with this character was to incorporate some facet of Japanese folklore to fit the narrative. The reason we failed here was because that was our only thought with this mechanic. We thought it would be cool to have these guys flying around the level pestering Mr. Tofu. Their initial function was to stun the player upon collision, and hence punish the player by increasing completion time.

Through playtesting, however, we noticed two things:
1. Players were not much hindered overall
2. It was very difficult to see where collisions would take place and accordingly plan to avoid the hazard

We originally tried fixing this with a longer stun period, arrows to show when and where the tengu would attack, and more tengu per stage. Unfortunately, we still had a problem with how much complexity this added to the gameplay – especially on larger levels. Our ability to balance this became exponentially more difficult the larger the level was.


With the redesign, we knew we had to scrap this idea and figure out how to both add a new mechanic, as well as reuse the art and animation assets that had already been created for the tengu.

We additionally needed to keep with our defined goals for the revamped design, which meant a simple new puzzle aspect that enhanced the core color-based mechanic.

His new role was to flip Mr. Tofu through the air to a new location a couple of tiles away. This idea added a new layer to the puzzle, while still adhering to the design goals we had set aside.

After playtesting this one with users at BostonFIG, we felt confident that this was a solid new aspect to the game. Mr. Tengu himself was simple and added no new functions for the player to perform or remember – Mr. Tofu here can still only plop to an adjacent tile – but could provide for some interesting puzzles and situations, and he was a much more territorial forest goblin to boot!


Mission accomplished!

So…. down the foxhole it seems we must go into more changes to the design of A Tofu Tail! In our next post, we will take a look at Mr. Oni and his new role as a bouncer at a Kitsune night club!

Until then, friends, keep on ploppin’!




Indie game developers from Pittsburgh, PA. We are dedicated to bringing you unique audio, visual, and gameplay experiences. Currently developing the story-driven puzzle game "A Tofu Tail" .

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. A Tofu Tail Game Mechanics Deep Dive – A Journey Through Space and Time « alchemedium - January 14, 2015

    […] he is so close to his goal, but what challenges yet remain for him to conquer? He has trumped the Tengu, overcome the Oni, found companions with the Kappa, and survived having his soul separated from his […]

  2. ATT Progress Update; How Do You Design Puzzles? « alchemedium - December 30, 2014

    […] Most of these are in the beginning sections of the game, built around the supporting characters: Mr. Tengu, Mr. Oni, and Mr. Kappa. Granted, most of them need playtested, but it is refreshing to see our […]

  3. A Tofu Tail Game Mechanics Deep Dive – Mr. Oni « alchemedium - October 31, 2014

    […] redesign, we needed to come up with some new design, goal-adhering, puzzle element. We already had Mr. Tengu – which added non-player controlled movement of Mr. Tofu – so what could we do to add a […]

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