Bossa: Twelve A Dozen will do for sums what Surgeon Simulator did for eye transplants
Counting numbers instead of giblets
Twelve A Dozen's cute twelve-faced character may seem like an odd choice of follow-up to Surgeon Simulator for Bossa Studios.
It's a game that takes place inside the microworld of a calculator. Levels are decorated in digital green and silhouette; it's a severe aesthetic, marked with gothic fences, spikes, and broken lightbulbs.
This world didn't always look as decrepit as this. It turns out that the ruler of this world inhabited by numbered denizens is, by decree, the current highest prime number.
A super computer at the heart of the world works endlessly to find the next highest prime number. Seeing that it's getting close to finding it - and therefore dethroning her - the current ruler destroys the computer so she can continue with her reign.
Mechanical parts scatter across the land, destroying homes and lives in the process. This is where you enter, as Twelve, a plucky lass from Dozenopolis.
She starts out by rescuing people caught in the debris, including her family. In doing so, she discovers something that seemingly no-one has before her: she can change her face number.
She learns this after using the powers of the operations that the computer has scattered: addition, multiply, divide, and so on. Yes, this means that the puzzles involve doing simple maths. Twelve A Dozen is, partly, an educational game.
It's this element that Bossa Studios co-founder Imre Jele tells me is, not only intrinsic to the game, but was the spark that caused it to exist.
"We wanted to create a game that was more than just entertainment. Maths is good for that - maths is poetry and maths is puzzles," Jele told me.
"But a lot of people hate maths. So the question was how can I make maths loveable and approachable?"
Jele didn't want to fall into the trap that many other educational games have, though. He didn't want the game to be boring, nor did he want it to work as a game without the educational aspect - as just an "educational theme".
This was solved by taking inspiration from Edwin A. Abbott's novel Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. It's a story about a world inhabited entirely by 2D shapes. Hence, Twelve A Dozen is a narrative inside a world of numbers and maths.
Bossa also teamed up with Amplify, which specialises in creating educational software for teachers to use with students. It was necessary as Bossa has no experience in educational games.
As Jele put it: "Amplify provided the educational bit, while [Bossa] put in the creative side." I'm told that one of Bossa's creative achievements in Twelve A Dozen is the inventory.
The numbers and operations that you use to solve puzzles don't go into a bottomless pocket as with many adventure games. They follow Twelve, meaning that the resulting conga line is your inventory inventory. You can drag and drop these followers to use them.
Some of them, however, are tied to certain places or can only be used a limited number of times. Different numbers also have different powers: four gives strength, while a nine offers extra jump height.
You can also combine numbers to stack up powers. So, in this example, having 49 would make Twelve strong and extra springy.
The numbers in Twelve's face are used to represent different values in the game, too. Jele used the example of a bridge that needs to be crossed but has a limit on the weight it can hold.
In this case, the numbers on Twelve's face act as a measurement of weight that you'll need to reduce through maths sums.
These are all simple puzzles in the game, and Jele made it clear that they would become much more complex later on in the game. However, the target age of the game's design is 10 to 14 year olds, so it shouldn't go beyond that age group's capabilities.
Despite the targeted age range, Jele is keen to communicate that Twelve A Dozen is meant to be universally enjoyable. Part of this comes from the writing provided by Anna Pickard, who previously wrote browser-based game Glitch.
One of the ideas Pickard came up with inside Twelve A Dozen's world tickled Jele's penchant for puns. I'll admit myself that it's pretty clever.
There are zombies in the game (because of course there are) but they are zeroes. They carry around multiplication signs and use them to multiply other numbers by zero, thus making them zero (a zombie), too. A lovely maths-based spin on zombies, there.
Struck by the richness of the characters in Twelve A Dozen, I wondered whether Jele would ever consider creating toys based on the game, or otherwise expanding it to other multimedia.
"Ask me that in a month's time," he suggests.
Jele revealed that he asks for character designs at Bossa to be ample for turning into a plush toy or an animated series, perhaps. However, the likelihood of that transition happening depends on the popularity of the game.
The rule is no different for Twelve A Dozen. I got the same "depends on how popular it is" answer when asking about releasing the game on other platforms as well.
Currently, it's releasing for iPad on September 10th. However, if it proves popular, Twelve A Dozen could also be coming to iPhone and Android. It also works with controllers, so PC and console are further possibilities.
What is certain is that Twelve A Dozen will be supported with DLC further down the line, regardless of its popularity. In fact, expansions onto the game's story are already in the works.
For now, all you need to know is that Twelve A Dozen will be available for iPad on the 10th. It will cost you £2.99 / $4.99 and there will be no micro-transactions in sight.