FLEA is a brand-new, ‘hard-as-nails’ retro platformer for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Created by Lowtek Games, the brain child of Alastair Low, a games artist based in Dundee, Flea has already reached it’s funding goal of £4,000 on Kickstarter.
The game promises players the opportunity to traverse inside and outside a ‘great beast’, collecting blood, meeting other – presumably tiny – characters and avoiding grisly death. Flea jumps continuously, and Alastair says the game will be perfect for speed runners.
He’s also planning to create actual cartridges for higher level backers, enabling retro gamers to play the game the way that god (and Shigeru Myamoto) intended, on an actual NES console.
Flea is still live on Kickstarter. While’s it’s reached the initial goal, there are still opportunities to back the game and pick up on the stretch goals, Alastair is now promising, including more music, (loads) more levels and more bosses.
We sat down and spoke to Alastair, asking him, well, what the HELL?
Scottish Games Network: Hi Alastair, thanks for talking to us. So, first of all, WHY give yourself the constraint of making a game for a device as old as the NES?
Alastair Low: Working with constraints is always fun because I think it’s easier to know when you need to stop. It’s like working with cheap oil pastels, when the page doesn’t take anymore you are done. The NES was the first console I ever owned so it has a special place in my heart. There is also a new game engine called Nesmaker which has a lot of good examples that can be modified to suit your game idea and Flea would not have been made without it.
SGN: Why FLEA? Are platformers your thing?
AL: I was looking for something that jumps to fit the experiment I was working on and I liked the idea of intelligent flea colonies living in and on the back of some kind of large undisclosed beast.
It came from a project I made in 2010 when I was deconstructing popular infinite runner games. They automated your motion forward and the user decided when they jump. I flipped this by automating the jump and allowing the motion to be controlled by the user.
SGN: What’s the basic premise of FLEA? What makes it different?
AL: In flea you automatically jump when you hit the ground. You have to collect blood for the refu-fleas whilst uncovering the secrets of the beast.
SGN: Why go to Kickstarter?
AL: Kickstarter is a really good place to fund niche projects like this and it’s also really good at promoting them too. There have been a few new NES games on there in the past and they usually get funded and very recently there has been quite an influx, with 4 nes projects live in the month of February.
SGN: What’s your background, where do you work, what’s your job role?
AL: I studied computer arts at Abertay University, graduated in 2013, got a job as a 3D artist at Ninja Kiwi. I’ve been making games in my spare time since I was in primary school. I have run and participated in lots of game jams over the years but am only just beginning to make games people can actually buy.
SGN: What other games hav
e you released?
AL: I’ve released A Familiar Fairytale Dyslexic Text Based Adventure on Android and Steam.
A game that puts the player in the shoes of someone with Dyslexia. It attempts to simulate the frustration of the condition and raise awareness of the struggle.
SGN: What are your plans for Lowtek Games?
AL: I plan on making more challenging and puzzling games that may be a bit out there and arty. I’m very dyslexic so one of the other key goals of the company is to make dyslexia-friendly games, with little to no text or games that focus on dyslexia awareness.
SGN: What are your favorite games (ever and in the last 12 months)?
Mario 3 and Zelda are some of my favorite games ever and there on the NES so I have been excited to work on a game for the console they were released on.
Celeste is a very good game of recent times and it pays homage to Mario 3 on one of the secret rooms which I really appreciated.
Unfinished Swan is my favorite underrated gem that explores a range of art styles and interesting game mechanics.
Cuphead, Shovel Knight, Ori, Shio, and ittle dew are other recent-ish honorable mentions.
SGN: Why should readers back your game?
AL: If you like retro style hard and nails platformers you will like this game. It’s frustrating but so satisfying when you beat a level.
SGN: Who’s your hero in the games industry (if you have one)?
AL: Shigeru Miyamoto. I’m sure most people have to pick this guy too. So many genre-defining games under his belt. I like good puzzle games and Jonathan Blow’s The Witness is another one of my all-time favorites.
Thanks to Alastair for his time. Flea will be on Kickstarter until March 30th 2020.