We’re in a unique position here in New Zealand because there are very few big players in the games business over here. As a result, the indie scene has grown dramatically over the last few years with the industry hitting $100M dollars in revenue in 2017. What makes New Zealand’s game development interesting is the focus on creativity, so a lot of the games are original IPs. Most studios self-publish, as we have with Samsara. Having the opportunity to develop such a distinctive and enjoyable puzzle game has been a highlight of my career. NZ is a great place to make games!
For fans of puzzlers out there, Samsara is a unique 2D puzzle game set across two reflective dimensions. Players guide our character Zee safely through puzzles by manipulating reflective blocks within the different dimensions to reach the exit portals. We’re excited to bring Samsara to Xbox One as playing the game on a full HD screen is a fantastic experience – the atmosphere of the different dimensions really comes through and visually it’s a beautiful game. The puzzle mechanics and controls are very fluid which makes for an enjoyable experience, even if the puzzles themselves can leave you scratching your head!
We’re lucky to have worked with a fantastic animation and art team based in the UK. They totally understood the style we were aiming for and the contrasting moods between the reflective dimensions. We wanted the upper dimension to be relatively normal – I say “relatively normal” as we do go slightly Salvador Dali in later levels! However, by contrast, the lower dimension shows a darker, more ominous tone, where environments are dilapidated and eerie. It was fun to play with those ideas, showing the contrasts between good and evil, light and dark. The team surpassed our expectations on what we could create as we kept pushing and challenging each other.
We worked hard as well to make sure that the puzzle elements within Samsara are suitably enticing. Solving puzzles where you must get Zee and Zee’s inversed echo to multiple portals while swapping dimensions can be quite the brainteaser and adds so much complexity. It will get people thinking but can require some perseverance, without ever being frustrating. In addition, the game may get people thinking in other ways too, as it indirectly references the meaning of Samsara in Buddhism – the endless cycle of desire, death, and rebirth. The game symbolizes the rebirth through the six realms of existence and eventually nirvana, which is the true insight into reality. I find cultural philosophies very intriguing and being able to adapt them to a different medium for people to experience is cool.