A Tofu Tail Game Mechanics Deep Dive – A Journey Through Space and Time

alchemedium —  January 14, 2015 — 2 Comments

Mr. Tofu has traveled so far, and 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 body. Now it looks like he will have to work his way through the Spacetime Realm’s wormholes.

2 - in space no one hears you plop

We were mainly looking for a new feature that would fit into the “time and space” theme of our penultimate realm, in addition to satisfying our missing puzzle element requirements.

As we progressed through our game mechanic redesign, we noticed that each of the additional puzzle elements were providing more and more constraints on the player. How could we change it up a little bit? What we wanted was a new feature that would open up more possibilities for play without adding more constraints on player movement. How could we do this and still provide new challenges and more depth to the puzzles?

One way to do this – one that we hadn’t used much up until this point – is by employing a mechanic that creates a “perspective shift” on the puzzles. A perspective shift would really be anything that requires the player to think about the problem from a different perspective to find a solution.

To summarize, our goals for this were that the new mechanic should:

  1. Not be a direct constraint on movement
  2. Be thematically relevant to either time or space (or both) in some way
  3. Require a perspective shift in how the player approaches the puzzles
  4. Provide a boost in challenge above the core mechanics and all additional puzzle elements introduced up to this point (an added bonus if the perspective shift could apply to each existing mechanic as well)

We had already been contemplating including some kind of object or tile that would either warp or transport the player to another section of the puzzle. Our main issue with this was that we wanted to avoid just moving the player outright, as this provided no substantial increase in challenge to those puzzles. This concern compounded with the inherent complications of indicating to the player where these warps or transports would actually take them.

After a brainstorming session, we happened upon a simple idea that resulted in our final core game mechanic change – one which enabled us to satisfy all of our requirements for the new puzzle mechanic!

This idea was to provide Mr. Tofu with the ability to warp from one edge of the map to the other – but with a twist. Instead of having these warps be a single-use, as the tiles are traversed and disappear, the warps would move with it.

Weaving this into the narrative as a wormhole allowed us to provide a warp that makes sense in the setting. I mean, what is more thematically relevant to spacetime than a wormhole? We also had a little creative freedom to make some assumptions on how a wormhole actually worked in our world due to the Kitsune’s reality distorting abilities. Win-win, right?

3 - mr tofu goes deeper down the rabbit hole

The wormhole was perfectly appropriate for us for several reasons because it:

  1. Actually provides more freedom of movement than available with even the basic core mechanics
  2. Fits with the time/space theme
  3. Definitely requires the player (and level designer!) to approach the puzzles in a new and different way
  4. Was guaranteed to allow for more challenges, with a new dimension and way of looking at the puzzle

We were really happy with the results – the wormhole added a whole new dimension to play, quite literally! It solved our problem pretty simply, as well. We didn’t really want to introduce the deep complexities of time travel, just a movement mechanic that changes the way that the game-space is defined, that also makes sense with the time/space theme.

So you and Mr. Tofu better prepare yourselves for some of the crazy puzzles that the Time Kitsune and Void Kitsune will throw your way!

Next time we will be taking a close look at the new boss level design and how this has changed the look and feel of the final encounters with the Kitsune in each realm. Pretty soon we will be wrapping up our Game Mechanics Deep Dive, and we really would like to hear everyone’s thoughts and comments below!




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" .

2 responses to A Tofu Tail Game Mechanics Deep Dive – A Journey Through Space and Time


    looking awesome.

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