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Week in Mobile: Zuki’s Quest is a gravity-flipping ‘turn-based platformer’ that’s perfect for mobile

Welcome to Week in Mobile, where the topic changes every week. Send feedback to @GameZoneOnline or @wita on Twitter.

The term "turn-based puzzle-platformer" sounds like a contradiction. Platforming is about brute action — we think of it and picture the rush for coins in Super Mario Bros. or the panic of wall-jumping and narrowly avoiding deathtraps in Super Meat Boy. But the word “puzzle” slows us down, and that’s what makes turn-based play such a natural fit for a game like Zuki’s Quest.

Zuki's Quest 2Zuki’s Quest asks players to pause and consider as every action has different consequences. That may be odd for a platformer on consoles, but on mobile, it makes sense — popular games like Cut the Rope and Angry Birds are all about slimming a puzzle’s solution down to the fewest possible turns, the most graceful execution, to achieve mastery.

“In my opinion, [new] ideas can only happen if you work with something you know and explore its inner parts,” Arnold Floeck, one of the two developers at Berlin, Germany-based Tinytouchtales, told GameZone. “I'm a classically educated designer who believes that an interesting solution is the problem itself but taken apart and then reassembled. In the example of Zuki's Quest, it was the problem of having a very limited way of interacting with the game but taking this problem, disassembling it, and using its constraints to build an interesting mechanic.”

That mechanic is helping the red-headed Zuki and her pet hummingbird, Pico, solve puzzles by “flying” in the midst of gravitational shifts. Swipe in any direction, and Zuki zooms accordingly, flipping the tides of gravity to move anywhere. Traps like poisoned spikes, falling blocks, and ghosts are all obstacles that can make one wrong gravity switch her last.

“I was always interested in making a game where you would passively move the character instead of having direct control over her,” said Floeck. “Something like Lemmings, but in a different way.

Zuki's Quest 3“The gravity-changing mechanic evolved through several prototypes that I developed. What made the difference in the end is the fact that the player input is reduced to a minimum of four directions, and all puzzles are built around this very simple input mechanic. Similar games have been made — for example, Quell — but the whole ‘gravity changes environment’ mechanic is hopefully something new that we can present to our players.”

While Floeck is the brains behind the gameplay, half of what makes Zuki’s Quest unique comes from illustrator Wiebke Rauers, who looks to comics and animated films for inspiration.

“This can help to create very fresh graphical designs that not a lot of games use,” said Rauers. “When I create my designs, colors are strongly influenced by the theme and the mood that the game should communicate. In Zuki's Quest, we have this nice contrast between the different themes or moods of the temples. Each interior tells a different story and communicates the mood of every world with its color scheme.”

One example is the Jungle Temple, a “wet and sticky environment," said Rauers. "Here the main color is green and gray for the wall tiles. It's very organic, and you can feel how old and dangerous this place is.”

All of Tinytouchtales’ games pop with color in this way, and they’re all different, from Matchagon to Super Zombie Tennis to Muffin Munch.

“My desire is to explore different types of games and not stick too long with one thing,” said Floeck.

Zuki’s Quest is free for iPhone and iPod. It contains in-app purchases: 99 cents gets you the Ice Crypt and Desert Tomb, and paying $2.99 unlocks both worlds and any future levels.

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Stephanie Carmichael Twitter: @wita
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