Pop the red fur balls. Save the blue ones. Seems simple enough — until you start really digging into the depths of Aiko Island, a physics-driven iOS puzzle game that challenges your mind almost as much as it exercises your thumbs.
There’s a serious glut of physics puzzle games on iOS, mostly thanks to the immense popularity of Angry Birds. Aiko Island rivals the furious avians in both addiction and accessibility, offering some challenging levels and a bouncy physics engine that two-man indie developer IceFlame took quite a while to create.
“We spent quite a while tying [the physics] down, making things feel about right,” developer Jonathan Shaw said to Wired.com. The pair only started designing the game’s levels once the engine felt perfect.
Aiko Island, released earlier this month for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, is an adorable, addictive puzzler that gets harder and harder as you play. It’s solid for both short subway rides and extended gaming sessions.
The gameplay is heavily inspired by the Flash game Red Remover. You pop various obstacles on the screen in an attempt to wipe out the evil Red Aiko without accidentally killing any of the friendly blue ones. To do this, you have to drop the Red Aiko off the screen or plunge them into spike pits by manipulating each level the correct way, making sure to keep each blue fur ball safe. By the latter stages of the game, you’ll be playing with a variety of objects, including swings, sliders and moving cradles, in order to save your little blue buddies.
Both of Aiko Island’s developers are industry veterans with credits in big-budget games. Shaw was an animator for TT Games (Lego Star Wars) and David Deacon worked on a canceled Star Wars project at Free Radical Design. They say the challenge of creating their own game was a far different beast.
Development on Aiko Island took nine months, during which the two developers each did a little bit of everything. Deacon primarily handled programming while Shaw worked on animation, but as the only two people on the project, their roles constantly overlapped.
About a month ago, we said, ‘We can’t work on it anymore.’
“That’s the really interesting side of it,” Deacon said. “Usually, you work in the industry, you have a set job. Doing Aiko Island, we found that we could mix and match different roles all the time, take on side roles and discuss lots of things.”
Even with the reduced scale of the project, it was a stressful time.
“About a month ago, we said, ‘We can’t work on it anymore,’” Deacon said. “We were working 24 hours a day…. We both became shadows of who we were.”
Despite, or perhaps because of, the workload, IceFlame is ultimately pleased with how Aiko Island turned out. And the two developers have even bigger ambitions for their next project, which Shaw calls a “massive undertaking.” They won’t say much more about it, though they plan to work together once again. Deacon and Shaw have been friends and collaborative partners for many years now, and neither expects that to change.
“Unfortunately, we can’t get rid of each other,” Shaw said.