The Game Atelier explains how its adorable puzzler SunFlowers takes full advantage of the Vita hardware

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The Game Atelier explains how its adorable puzzler SunFlowers takes full advantage of the Vita hardware
| SunFlowers

For me, one of the most exciting-looking downloadable releases in the pipeline for Vita is SunFlowers. This simple free-to-play puzzler possesses a jovial cartoon quality, day/night cycles, and three difficulty modes.

Yet, despite SunFlowers positively encouraging sharing and trading with others, its developer The Game Atelier has remained fairly tight-lipped about this indie effort. Until now.

I caught up with The Game Atelier's Fabien Demeulenaere - better known as 'Kappa' - to chat about his studio and its latest game.

Pocket Gamer: Can you tell us a little bit about The Game Atelier?

Kappa: In 2009, 'Arcadio' (David Bellanco - Ed) and I decided to create The Game Atelier, an independent video game developer and publisher.

After working for several years for other companies. we developed a strong desire to concentrate our efforts on our own projects, which means, of course, working on non-existing IPs. So, The Game Atelier will only focus on fresh designs and concepts.

Arcadio is the lead developer: he is responsible for the whole technical side of the projects, including gameplay coding, home-made framework, and tools. I'm the technical graphic designer, but since The Game Atelier is a very small company, I also take care of project management, animation, and sound design.

That's not quite everyone, though: we are also aided by many talented folk, who work on the game design, art, and, music for all our titles.

So, what exactly is SunFlowers?

SunFlowers is a very simple puzzle game in which you control the sun and have the power to grow beautiful flowers down on earth. To do so, you just need to aim at the white clouds and shoot a sun ray at them so they will provide rain for the flowers.

But, don't shoot at the flowers directly or touch black clouds: flowers don't like to get burnt. Every flower grown during a game goes directly into your virtual garden, so your objective is simple: collect all the flowers.

It's been described by you as utilising every function of the Vita. How does it do this and why are you so keen for it to do so?

The basic controls, like moving and shooting, are mapped to the PS Vita front touchscreen and / or the rear touchpad. But, you can also use the L/R buttons to shoot sun rays.

Shaking the device rids the screen of dead leaves on the autumn levels, while the Vita's camera is employed to catch the ambient light during specific dusk tropical stages.

The PS Vita has lots of really cool features - more than any other handheld console in history, in fact - so we naturally thought that using all of the available functions would be interesting.

You've decided to make this the first game on the system designed for being played vertically rather than horizontally. Why is this?

When we came up with the game concept for SunFlowers, the Vita hadn't been announced yet, so it seemed very logical for us to use a vertical display for a game like this. Playing games in this orientation is quite common on iOS devices.

When Sony eventually unveiled the Vita at the beginning of 2011, we still thought that SunFlowers played in a vertical 'manner' worked perfectly for this device.

What is the Tropical World that's mentioned in the trailer?

SunFlowers will be a free download. It contains two distinct worlds (Classic and Tropical), each with totally different flowers (160+ per world), backgrounds, and climaxes.

You can play both worlds up until level 5, but to progress further you will have to unlock the remaining levels separately via an in-game purchase. The price for this IAP hasn't been determined yet.

And if the game achieves the success we believe it deserves after its release, we would definitely love to add more worlds featuring different game mechanics and brand-new content.

Your last console release was Flying Hamster, another game with a bright and colourful aesthetic. Is there a reason you lean towards making 'blue sky' games?

Our two graphic designers, Veroni-k and Minanoop, are very fond of Japanese-style cute designs. You can easily sense their influences when looking at the graphics of Flying Hamster and SunFlowers.

However, the flowers' 'character design' is the brainchild of SunFlowers's game designer Dr Lakav, a video game journalist whom we were interviewed by soon after Flying Hamster's debut and with whom we forged an immediate bond. His graphic style looks a lot like the Wonder Boy game series.

He showed us the very first concept for the game; we loved it, so we decided to make it happen. The only flower he didn't create is the sunflower which comes directly from Flying Hamster's first level.

There's a lot to collect and share in the game, it seems - is sharing an important part of the experience?

Yes, it is a very important part of SunFlowers. Every game you play will result in new flowers for your collection. Some flowers are very common and others are less easy to find.

The harder the level, the higher the chances are of finding rare flowers. But, you can also complete your collection by receiving flowers from somebody else.

Whatever the size of your collection, you can share gifts with your friends or even with complete strangers through Near. A very interesting aspect of SunFlowers's gift mechanic is that you can only send flowers, not exchange them.

Giving a hard-to-find rare flower to the one you love will truly show what your heart feels. And people always love to receive beautiful flowers... so, say it with SunFlowers.

SunFlowers will be a free download at launch, and is in "the last stretch of debugging". A release date will be announced shortly. In the meantime, check out the trailer for it below.

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Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.