Interview: CLeM Dev Talks About The Inspiration And The Game’s Art Style
CLeM is the most recent addition to the Psychotic Adventures by Mango Protocol. It improves upon the studio’s previous titles and promises to deliver a compelling story with a “dark twist.” CLeM deviates from conventional narrative-driven puzzles thanks to its “puzzle-vania” concept, which is a mix of Metroidvania and puzzles. To understand the inspirations behind the game and get more insights into its art direction, we spoke with Jordi Garcia, Game Designer and Animator of CLeM, over an email interview.
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on CLeM.
Hi, I’m Jordi Garcia, and I am Mango Protocol’s Co-Founder and CLeM’s Game Designer and Animator.
The puzzle adventure genre has many notable titles, many of which come from an indie background. How would you say CLeM sets itself apart from them, and what’s something that players can look forward to seeing only in CLeM?
Garcia: The first thing that comes to mind is the “puzzlevania” concept. We’ve tried to bring these mechanics that revolve around unlocking new skills and revisiting previous locations and puzzles with the new skill perspective. I think it is not common in a puzzle adventure to have new abilities pop up as the player progresses or a house that expands as you gain access to previously inaccessible areas in a way similar to what you would find in a Metroidvania game.
Secondly, CLeM is a fully gamepad-centered game, and we hope that players from a console or more young PC background will feel super comfy playing it and very welcome into the puzzle adventure world. We also think that old-school point-and-click players will come to appreciate the more intuitive interactions that can be achieved in some puzzles.
Thirdly, we’ve created a surrounding voice system that simulates someone talking into your head, all of which is achieved through some beautiful voice acting from our Art Director Mariona, which I promise will give you chills if you use headphones! Our soundtrack complements this perfectly and leads to a layered system that evolves with the game and changes depending on your location.
And last but not least, let me stress the gorgeous Psychotic art that Mariona has crafted for CLeM. It really brings to life the cuteness and creepiness of the story and is definitely a step up in our art production, which we try to improve with each game inside the Psychotic World.
Is there a particular reason you added magic-based elements as a form of puzzle-solving?
Garcia: Yes, magic and alchemy, in particular, are essential parts of the narrative development of the game and the existence of the character the player controls, so it was the way to go in designing the tools and skills involved in puzzle-solving.
That being said, we always try to design our puzzles and solutions with a sense of logic and context in mind, so you won’t find any “because magic!” moments in the puzzle solutions as we’ve tried to avoid any narrative fissures.
How many developers are actively working on CLeM, and since when has the game been in development?
Garcia: CLeM has taken 3 years to develop, and 5 people are (mainly) responsible for its contents.
Mariona Valls has been in charge of art direction and producing all the visual assets in the game and the voice acting. Javier Gálvez has been our Narrative Director, Programmer and Producer. I (Jordi Garcia) have done the game design and the animations. Pau Damià Riera composed the music and sound effects. Adam Levi produced the English localization and coached Mariona’s English voice acting.
Of course, there are many more people involved, and you will be able to check everyone’s name on the credits once the game is released, but I just mentioned the people who were involved in producing assets for the game from day one to the gold version.
Are there any particular titles that you took direct inspiration from? Whether it be the art style or the puzzle mechanics.
Garcia: Well, there’s a lens of truth in the game, so there’s that 😀 The whole Zelda saga lives rent-free in our subconscious minds, so I am sure there’s plenty of inspiration there. Other than that, I can’t think of any direct inspiration for the puzzle mechanics.
I think Mariona’s art for CLeM has received much more inspiration from the real world than from other games, and this has contributed to the environment’s richness and the sense of familiarity when you explore the house.
Just to add some more context, I’d like to say that CLeM has received a ton of inspiration from other mediums outside of video games. Just to name a few, KoRn’s Issues cover inspired the appearance of the rag-doll that the player controls. Most of the environments are based on a real XIXth century manor from Mariona’s hometown. Some of the puzzles were inspired by things as random as a Simpsons episode or some old monk’s secret alphabet. And there’s a visual and narrative influence from works such as Hollow Knight, Fullmetal Alchemist, the Mysterium board game or one of the dozens of escape rooms we’ve played together.
Is there anything specific that you wanted to add to CLeM but couldn't do when you were finalising development?
Garcia: The first thing that comes to mind is multiple solutions for certain puzzles. It’s not really something that was deleted in the final stages of development but rather an idea that was there from the beginning but was quickly dismissed when we started production and saw the size of the scope. What really helped here was a longer and better-planned pre-production stage.
Speaking of hardware, is there a reason why the game won't be released on Xbox or PlayStation consoles?
Garcia: No, there’s not! In fact, it will be released on Xbox AND PlayStation consoles. It’s only that prioritizing PC and Switch made more sense from a logistics perspective. Just wait a bit more, and all the versions will be there!
Since the game seems to be heavily narrative-driven, could you tell us whether we can expect a complete story in this title, or do you have plans to add more to the story in the future with a potential sequel?
Garcia: Yes, expect a complete and self-contained story. We are super proud of how the game has come to be and feel it will be a very satisfying experience. There’s no intention of adding any more in the future, but, as with all the other Psychotic Adventures, players can expect to find characters and references from CLeM in our future projects.
If I'm correct, Mango Protocol has released 3 titles in the past decade. Was there anything specific you learned from those titles that you have improved here?
Garcia: Yes! Or at least we like to think there are some things we have improved. We try to keep innovation on a leash. That means we always try to make a game with some things we’ve never done before and some that we know we are good at. I think CLeM has a very good balance in that aspect, and I hope this is something we continue to perfect in future games.
On the narrative side of things, I think CLeM manages to tell a rich and deep story without the need for long dialogues and tutorials. It speaks through the environment, the music, the pace or the difficulty curve. This is something that I think does better than previous games.
This will also be the first title from Mango Protocol that is not self-published. Could you tell us why you decided on the change?
Garcia: If I’m being honest, self-publishing has not always been our first intention, and it has been more the consequence of not finding the right partner. With Iceberg, we think we struck gold. They are the first ones to see the potential of the story we are trying to tell and be able to put the resources we need to reach a bigger audience on the table. We are so happy with what they’ve done so far.
Anything else you would like to share with the readers?
Garcia: Just that I hope you find CLeM interesting enough to give it a chance. If you do so, be aware that you will support us as independent creators and the idea that small, meaningful stories have a place in this industry. THANK YOU ALL.
I’m an avid gamer turned content writer, my hobbies include but are not limited to different forms of content creation. Not a complicated person, I play games and write about them. Currently attending university for Data Sciences. My favorite past-time is trying to different challange runs of Soulsborne and Souls-like games in the goofiest way possible for my own amusement. You can check my Gaming Profile on Steam And Xbox!