You've probably never heard of the name Hipster Whale, but you may be familiar with the developer's work. Hipster Whale created Crossy Road, a mobile Frogger homage that became one of the most popular titles on the App Store and Google Play in 2014. Now the studio is back with another look into gaming's past.
Hipster Whale's new title is Pac-Man 256, an officially-licensed Pac-Man game based entirely on the series' map 256 glitch. The old glitch was due to the fact that the game was stored as an 8-bit integer. That means the highest value it could count to was 255, so upon reaching 256, things got screwy. The entire right side of the game screen turned into a mess of characters and colors, making the level unplayable.
Pac-Man 256 is an endless runner based on that glitch. Pac-Man has to avoid ghosts, eat dots, and stay far way from a wave of garbled characters that threatens to swallow him up. Played from the isometric perspective, the question is how long can you avoid the glitches? There's also a host of new power-ups (Freeze, Laser, and Bomb) to help you in your quest, alongside new ghosts to hold you back.
"I think [Bandai Namco] enjoyed what we did with Crossy Road," Hipster Whale co-founder Matt Hall told Polygon. "We had a few people ask us if we'd like to collaborate on projects, but a Namco-branded Pac-Man was a pretty easy 'Yes' for us. We wanted to have it feel different as well. We wanted the game to be much longer."
Hall points to Spelunky as another influence on Pac-Man 256. You can purchase a single continue for any run in the title and Hipster Whale is hoping this makes gamers value their best runs more. Hipster Whale does allow players to outright buy infinite credits - essentially buying the game - to play without worrying about the free-to-play aspect, but even without that purchase every player will value their playtime without diving into their wallets every few minutes.
"Spelunky has been a really big influence on this title," added Hall. "You can only continue once. We're trying to aim for retro gamers. We want to have an experience that hardcore gamers will be completely comfortable with. Having a one-off purchase also gives us the ability to potentially take this to Steam, PS4, or Xbox One. Hopefully, if the game does well, we'll be able to do that."
This is the kind of utilization of older IP that needs to happen, especially with companies that don't feel the need to handle internal development. There's a number of indie developers with great ideas on how to expand on classic games like Bomberman, Castlevania, or Dig-Dug. Reaching out to these developers and giving them an official license is a great compromise and feels like a win for everyone involved.
Pac-Man 256 is coming out this summer for iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire. The full video interview with Hall can be found at Polygon.