Minit is an indie adventure game developed by Kitty Calis, Jan Willem Nijman, Jukio Kallio & Dominik Johann. It was released in 2018 and was one of the finalists for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize in IGF 2019. In the game, you play as a creature (perhaps a duck) who is cursed by a sword, giving them only have 60 seconds each day before dying and then reviving back in their home. With the limited time you have each day, you must complete puzzles and help other creatures to unlock new items/abilities and thus new areas.

I actually first played Minit right before writing this blog post, so both the game and my experiences playing it are still fresh in my mind. In this post, I’ll write down my experiences and analysis for Minit using some of Jesse Schell’s lenses, starting with the Lens of the Elemental Tetrad. Do note that the numbering for the lenses follows the numbering in the second edition of “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses” (and also the app, “A Deck of Lenses”).

Lens #9: The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad

1. Mechanics

  • Countdown timer: The unique mechanic of Minit is the 60-second timer. As soon as it reaches zero, you die and respawn in the last home/save point you visited. You still retain the items you have collected, though.
  • Controls: The controls for this game are very simple. You can move in four directions using the arrow keys, and you can use your equipped item (usually the sword) using the ‘X’ key. You can also instantly kill yourself using ‘C’.
  • Puzzles: You progress the game by solving puzzles. Most of the time it involves helping an NPC in the game. After completion of these puzzles, you are awarded an item or a new area to explore.
  • Items and obstacles: There are items in the game that you can collect. Some of them grant you new abilities to explore previously inaccessible parts of the map. For example, in the middle of the game, you obtain the Flippers, giving you the ability to swim. Water areas, which were previously an obstacle you couldn’t go through, are no longer a problem.
  • The goal of the game is to unravel the mystery of the cursed sword and of course, lift the curse. By unlocking more and more abilities you can reach the final location, fight the boss, and end the adventure.

2.  Story

  • The cursed sword: One day the main character finds a sword, which cursed them to live only 60 seconds each day. An NPC tells them to go to the factory to fix the problem.
  • The factory: Apparently, there is a factory mass-producing the swords. The factory’s activities are also causing harm to the environment, as evident from the toxic waters near it. The main character has to destroy the machinery inside the factory, fight the boss, and finally flush the remains of their sword down the toilet.
  • Given that Minit is quite a short game and also focuses more on puzzle-solving than the main narrative, it makes sense that it has such a simple story.

3. Technology

  • The mechanics and design of Minit are actually not too far off from old-school top-down adventure games, like the original Zelda game released in 1986. The in-game timer mechanic has also been done in Majora’s Mask. That being said, it is not exactly innovative in terms of technology. The bright side is that it has a relatively smaller memory requirement (1 GB RAM) compared to other modern video games.
  • Minit is available on numerous platforms: Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS.

4. Aesthetics

  • The game is fully monochromatic.
  • It uses pixel art and a 2D top-down perspective.

It seems to me that Minit focuses much more on its mechanics (in particular the 60-second countdown timer) than the other elements. The story is there to explain why the timer mechanic exists. The aesthetics are very minimalistic as well, pushing the player to focus more on the innovative concept of the timer, and thus not requiring modern 3D graphics technology.

Lens #6: The Lens of Curiosity

  • Early in the game after picking up the cursed sword, an NPC tells you to “drop by the factory ASAP”. The question that this put into my mind was, “What does the cursed sword have to do with this factory?” Apparently the answer to this question is the main plot of the game, so I had to wait until the end, where it is revealed that the factory produces the cursed swords.
  • Some other questions that popped into my mind have to do with the obscure clues provided to solve some puzzles. There are also some areas that cannot be accessed before obtaining the appropriate items, which often left me wondering what secrets those areas could be hiding.

Lens #7: The Lens of Endogenous Value

  • Every item in Minit has an in-game value. Some of the items are active items, which means you can equip them and use them to interact with objects, such as the Sword and the Watering Can. Other items are passive items, which either directly grant you access to game areas, such as the Lighthouse Key, or give you an ability that you can use to solve puzzles and unlock new areas, such as the Coffee, which allows you to push boxes.
  • There are also coins you can find in the game, which you can use to purchase the Fast Shoes from the Sneaker Hut.
  • You can also collect hearts, which is basically how many times you can get hit by an enemy before you die. You start with only two hearts, so having more hearts makes the gameplay much easier.

Lens #8: The Lens of Problem Solving

  • At its heart, Minit is about solving problems. You solve the problems that the NPCs have, and they give you items or progress the story upon completion. You solve puzzles provided by the environment, in order to obtain an item or reach a particular area. The main plot itself is about solving the problem of having the 60-second curse.
  • Some of the puzzle solutions were not obvious and the areas/clues regarding them were quite obscure. I spent a lot of my time in the game running around the map trying to find some secret passage I missed or an item I can interact with to solve them (which means spamming the ‘X’ key on every object in the game).

Lens #27: The Lens of Time

  • Minit is a rather short game. According to, the game should take around one and a half hours. In reality, it took me much longer (around two and a half hours) because I spent a lot of time trying to find something I missed to progress the game. As I’ve mentioned, some puzzle solutions are quite obscure, and it was quite frustrating to spend so much time being stuck, not knowing what to do next. That being said, I believe that Minit has the optimal length because if it were shorter it would really be too short for a full game, and if it were longer there would have been much more of the “wandering around” overhead in my playthrough.
  • Other than the length of the game, time is a very essential element inside the game itself, given that the main mechanic is a literal timer. While none of these puzzles involves the countdown timer itself, the timer forces you to solve the puzzles in a very limited amount of time. While it is an interesting mechanic, though, it can get annoying at times, especially when you die just before reaching a save point.

Lens #55: The Lens of Visible Progress

  • Progress in Minit can be seen from the number of areas you get access to. At the beginning of the game, it is difficult to get anywhere because you cannot cut down trees or cross through water. The more items you obtain, the more areas you can access, and thus the more progress you make in the game. It is difficult to keep track of the progress this way, though, because there is no in-game map that shows the locked/unlocked areas, and the game only shows you the number of areas you have visited.
  • Another way to measure progress is in terms of the collectibles/items in the game. Not all of them are required to complete the main story, though, but it is a good gauge of progress for completionists (players who want to complete the game 100%).

For me, Minit is a short, simple, yet unique game. While the dying-reviving mechanic can be quite tedious at times, it really makes you appreciate the time that you have. Every second counts in each run, and while dying is not too much of a problem, it does create a one-of-kind experience. If you’re searching for quick light-hearted adventure games, Minit should definitely be on the list.

Uma Musume: Pretty Derby

Promotional video with brief introductions to the various mechanics

Uma Musume: Pretty Derby is a Japanese mobile game developed by the game developer Cygames, Inc. for Android and iOS platforms. The game takes place in an alternate universe where actual real-life horses are replaced by girls known as uma musume (lit. “horse girl”) with horse ears and tails. Within the context of the game, the horse girls are based on real-life Japanese racehorses, and the player takes on the role of their trainer to train them for races that are also based on real-life Japanese horseracing events. Website

Home screen. The player can tap on their horse girl to hear her various voice lines.

The Elemental Tetrad


A turn during a training run showing the 5 options the player can choose. 6th one (top right) is the skill page.

The core mechanic of Uma Musume: Pretty Derby consists of selecting a horse girl you have and entering her into a training “scenario” or run. Each training run lasts for a total of 72 turns. During each turn, the player can choose to train one of their horse girl’s core attributes, participate her in a race, let her rest, go on an outing with her, or send her to the infirmary (only if inflicted with a negative status). Training and racing use up the horse girl’s energy which can be recovered by resting or going on an outing. Training and racing can also reward skills points which can be spent to acquire skills that temporarily boost speed, acceleration, stamina recovery etc. when triggered in the middle of a race.

As for the core attributes, each horse girl has the following:

  • Speed – how fast the horse girl can run in a race, training this gives a small bonus in power
  • Stamina – how long the horse girl can maintain her top speed before slowing down, training this gives a small bonus in guts
  • Power – how fast the horse girl can reach her top speed, training this gives a small bonus in stamina
  • Guts – how fast the horse girl drains her stamina, training this gives a small bonus in power and speed
  • Wisdom – how likely the horse girl will trigger her skills mid-race, training this gives a small bonus in speed
Training scene with speed training selected.

These are barely scratching the surface of the complex system of mechanics that this game has, but they already provide an engaging experience during each training run. Often, I find myself in situations such as debating whether to let my horse girl rest up and forgo a training with incredibly high stats bonus but high failure rate (if her energy is too low the training may fail and inflict a negative status), or to take the risk and possibly gain a huge increase in stats. This is not even going into the support cards and inheritance system, all of which provide different synergies with different horse girls during each run and heavily engages the player as they figure out how to best complete each training run.


The main story arc linearly follows the player as the trainer of Team Sirius, one of the racing teams in Tracen Academy (horse girl training academy based on a real-life Japanese racehorse training centre). On top of the main story, each horse girl has their own unique storyline on how they met the player character, and regular game events also each has their own accompanying storylines. Despite being limited by my N4 Japanese ability, I always find myself engaged by the stories enough to spend the time to slowly go through each scene, trying to understand the dialogue with what little Japanese I know, before plugging them into a translator. With many horse girls yet to be implemented and many more game events to come, the game has way more than enough story content to keep the players engaged for a long time.

Mejiro McQueen tearfully apologises to the trainer and rest of Team Sirius after losing a race, the exact same race her real-life counterpart lost in 1991.

One thing I love about the game story is that apart from the horse girls having designs heavily based on their real-life counterparts, the story also accurately portrays them going through the exact same experiences their real-life counterparts went through. For players who are already followers of Japanese horseracing and its history, this is a nice touch. As for those who didn’t follow Japanese horseracing, well I have to say after starting this game I found myself reading up a lot more about it.


Fully animated 3D race scenes in real-time.

When it comes to aesthetics of Uma Musume: Pretty Derby, I can find no better words to describe it other than phenomenal. From the character designs, voice lines and music to the 3D assets used in story scenes and races, everything just seems so passionately crafted on the part of the designers. Character designs are often so well done that non-fans who have years of horse racing experience can correctly guess which horse girl is based on which racehorse. Fully-voiced, 3D animated story scenes make the stories come alive. Race events during training runs are 3D animated and shown in real-time with actual horseracing camera angles. Additionally, after each race the player has the option to view a “winning live”, where the horse girls carry out idol-like performances of specific songs, reflecting the “winning run” in real life that jockeys often do with their horses after winning a race. I believe all these contribute to a fully immersive game experience of playing as the trainer for the horse girls.

Winning live.


The game was developed in Unity for Android and iOS, but a desktop version is also available through the DMMGamePlayer. Accounts can be synced between the mobile and desktop versions, allowing the player to access their game almost anytime and anywhere. Full-body motion capture was also used for the 3D character models, giving them natural and realistic body movements and thus providing an immersive game experience.

The Lenses of Game Design

Lens 1: The Lens of Emotions

Uma Musume: Pretty Derby certainly is a game that plays with the players’ emotions, especially during race events in a training run. As a race progresses, the player gets slowly pushed to the edge of their seat as their horse girl tries to position herself in the race. Depending on how the race unfolds, the player may either feel a sense of relief and achievement as their horse girl overcomes a bad start and breaks through the leaders to cross the finish line first, or a sense of defeat as she runs out of stamina and slows down before the finish, allowing others to take the win.

Lens 38: The Lens of Challenge

The A-rank block. When will I get an S-rank?

The greatest challenge of Uma Musume: Pretty Derby is perhaps to attain the highest possible training rank in the game. After each training run ends, the run is evaluated and given a score based on the horse girl’s final stats, skills acquired and number of races won. From this score, a letter rank is given.

However, due to the unpredictability of each training run, it can be very difficult for a player to break through a certain range of evaluation score. The challenge then lies in trying to improve the synergies between support cards even better for subsequent training runs to increase the chances of breaking their record.

Lens 79: The Lens of Freedom

The player is given plenty of freedom on how to carry out a training run. Depending on how they pick the support cards, they can focus their run on training a horse girl specialising in preferred stats.

The game also includes a special section called the Live Theatre, where unlocked song performances from winning races can be viewed again. Here, the player is free to choose which horse girls in their team to perform the song. With over 60 different horse girls and more to be implemented, the same performance can be viewed multiple times each with a different experience.

Lens 85: The Lens of Avatar

In Uma Musume: Pretty Derby, the player plays as a trainer for the horse girls. The player is free to choose any name for their player character, along with their desired gender. Other than that, the player character has no other defining traits. I believe this can be appealing to many players as the player character can take on any form that the players desire them to be, even projecting their real self into them to make the game experience more immersive. One small detail worth noting is that some of the horse girls address the player character differently depending on the chosen gender, such as calling the player “onee-chan” (Japanese for “sister”) instead of “onii-chan” (Japanese for “brother”) if the player chooses female. This can be a nice departure from other games with the run-of-the-mill “one male surrounded by many females” setting.

Pixel World

Pixel Worlds is a free to play online MMO social sandbox indie game, developed and published by a small indie game studio Kukouri Mobile Entertainment from Finland. The game won the awards of “Best Indie Game Developer ” (Global Mobile Game Awards 2019) and “People’s choice award” (Game Connection Paris 2018). As the indie game studio consist of around 5 ~ 8 people when the game was first developed, it is surprising how a small studio is able to create, publish and manage an MMO when it is a norm now where the majority of the Mobile MMO game on mobile have a separate developer and publisher.

Official Youtube Channel:

Steam Store Page:

Pixel World is a social sandbox game with many different features. These include dungeons, farm, trade, PVP, parkour, jet race, fishing, mining, battle cards, building your world and many more. The content that attracts me the most in this game is the parkour/platformer aspect of the game. It provides me with a sense of nostalgia as a 2d platformer game. There is surprising lots(more than a thousand) of fun and unique parkour world created by players to explore. The following shows a few of the parkour you can enjoy in the game.

Elements Tetrad

  • Mechanics – Pixel world is a 2D side-scrolling, MMO social sandbox game. As a sandbox game, there is numerous amount of different mechanics allowing the user to explore. The following is the core mechanics of the game.
    • User-generated content – User can build their world. Each world has a buildable size of 80 x 57 blocks. The user can build various types of world. The type of world includes parkour, trading, farming, hangout, story, pixel arts, PVP, fishing and clan world.
    • Dynamic worlds – are farmable contents developed by developers. The majority of these contents involve procedurally generated maps. There are 3 procedurally generated dungeons (Netherworld, Mine, Secret Base) and 2 procedurally generated race/platformers (The Black Tower and Jet Race).
    • Farming – The majority of the resource obtainable in the game require farming. Unlike other sandbox games where the player can design their level without any constraint, building worlds in pixel world require the player to obtain the building block by themself.
  • Aesthetics
    • Pixel World is done entirely in 2D, with high-quality pixel art. The following is an interesting video showing how the developer derived the current character art after multiple iterations.
    • As the game is inspired by retro 2d games such as sonic the hedgehog, the music used in the game is relatively retro, giving a classic feel to the game(sample soundtrack).
    • The game provides building blocks, allowing the player to create their world. The following is the screenshot of the world recently created by players, showing the different types of aesthetics the user can create using the given blocks. More world showcased by players here:
  • Technology
    • The game is developed in the Unity engine. It is cross-platform across PC(steams), IOS, and Android. As such, the user interface is designed such that it works both on mobile and PC.
    • As a 2D game, it is battery friendly as a mobile game because of has low system requirements.
  • Story
    • As a sandbox MMO, there is little (some quest) to no storyline. Since the game provides freedom to the user to do whatever they want in the game, the storyline is not important.

Len# 52: The Lens of Economy

There is two forms of currency in the game, Gem(Premium, Untradeable) and Bytes(tradeable). Both currencies are obtainable in-game. As a sandbox MMORPG, the economy in the game is fully controlled by the players. Trading is a huge aspect of the game as that is where the materials required to build a world came from.

One of the key elements that keep the game economy going is seasonal limited-time items. As these items will no longer appear in the future, collecting these rare items become one of the goals of some players. There is 6 seasonal event in the game every year and all these events provide some limited-time item that appears only once.

The developer has been consistently updating the game. There is a minor update every month or two and two major updates every year, providing new content for the player to consume. The regular update kept the economy of the game flowing as new items flooded into the market regularly.

Lens# 37: The Len of Fairness

The lens of fairness is often related to the lens of the economy in a free to play MMORPG. In a free to play MMORPG, it is very often that it is pay to win. Either by having a cash-only weapon or pay/time walled content/bonus. In Pixel World, the only currency that the user can buy is Gems, and Gem is also obtainable inside the game without any daily or weekly cap. This also means that players can obtain all items in the game without paying a single cent, as long as they put in a sufficient amount of effort. This mean player will not feel disadvantage for not paying.

Len# 74: The Lens of Obstacle

Unlike other common sandbox games where the player can design their level without any constraint, building worlds in pixel world require the player to obtain the building block by themself. Furthermore, blocks placed in the world will not be retrievable. The player has to make careful consideration before placing their block, especially the rarer one that is hard to come by. The player will have to go through the effort of collecting different materials required to build a beautiful world. As there is a cost in building a world, the user will spend more time considering what they will be building.

Len# 32: The Lens of Goal

The player can have many different goals in the game. So, what is the goal of a designer who went through the painstaking effort of collecting the blocks and building a beautiful world? Those who spent lots of effort into building a world often aim for the World of the Week (WOTW).

WOTW is a system that exists in many sandbox MMO games, where every week, the developer will select the best world and add it to the WOTW world chart, where the world will be permanently showcased in the game. The developer also makes it easy for the player to participate in the WOTW selection by using Instagram. The user will simply have to take a screenshot of their world post it on Instagram using the tag #PWWOTW. Pixel world currently has over 250 WOTW for new users to explore.

Players who won the world of a week will receive a trophy with their player name engraved on it. Collecting the WOTW trophy become the goal of many players in the game as a form of honour. Some players aim for the WOTW as they will be able to sell their world at a higher price.

The WOTW system is the source of many new high-quality worlds created in the game every week, giving players an endless amount of fun world to explore(as long as players aiming for the WOTW exist).

Len# 98: The Lens of Community

Pixel World is created as a social game, as such, having a good community is crucial to the game success. The game studios had hired a community manager who also works as a game developer. The community manager does a weekly live stream on the game, where players can communicate with the developer themself. During the live stream, there will be Q&A, Give-Away, Update leak, and visiting potential WOTW suggested by the viewer. Having a game developer does live-stream frequency allows players to feel close to the game where they will be able to interact with the developer directly.

As an indie studio, it is hard for them to be responsive to grieving and other in-game abuse. As such, the game studio has decided to choose moderators from the veteran players in-game. (there is a surprising number of them who is willing to help moderate the game free of charge considering one of the requirement is to be at least 16 year old) These moderators span from a different timezone, allowing them to respond to in-game abuse quickly. While it is impossible to catch all the in-game abuse in real-time, the report system in the game is pretty effective as the majority of the reported player (with evidence) ended up getting banned. Repeated offences will end up with a longer ban sentence.

The community in the game is well managed. While the game is not popular, it has maintained a constant player-base throughout its lifespan. This can be seen through the steam chart.


The game has provided me with a sense of nostalgia as I used to play retro 2D platformer. Different from other platformer games, this game revolves around the community. There are new worlds to explore weekly. Loitering around and socializing with other players is also a key aspect. Building of a world is often not done alone but with clans mate or friends you found in the game. One of the surprise factors of the game is its player demographics. There are plenty of players in their late 20s, 30s or 40s who are playing this game out of reminiscing of the retro game they had used to play in the game.


Warframe is a cooperative-focused, third-person shooter online game developed and published by Digital Extremes. A free-to-play game, it has been released on Windows, PlayStation 4, X-box One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S and remains in perpetual beta.

Set in a science fiction setting of a distant future, players play as members of the Tenno race, an ancient race recently awakened from centuries of slumber on Earth, only to find themselves embroiled in the war within the planetary system amongst different factions. Utilizing their powered warframes as well as an arsenal of huge variety of weapons, players are sent on missions and pitted against various enemies in a bid to reunite the scattered colonies throughout the system.

Game’s website Link:

Game demo:

Elemental Tetrad


The game utilizes very immersive graphics that really makes you feel like you are in a different world. With a theme of Sci-fi, there are a lot of futuristic-designed and alien-like game assets (i.e. Infested enemies, warframes, space stations). Warframe makes use of the game’s setting to produce many designs that are highly unusual and unique to the science fictional setting within the game, which makes it memorable for many players.


The main game-play is to complete various types of missions in different areas of the planetary system, with different areas providing different type of maps, monsters and features as well as rewards. Players have the ability to customize their warframes and weapons with varying mods depending on their style of game-play and the details of the mission they wish to undertake. Successful completion of missions lets players can acquire new mods and resources which can then be used to further expand their arsenal and builds for harder content in the game.


There are story-specific missions in the game which players can choose to progress at their own pace. Progress on these story-lines helps players explore the setting and history in the game’s verse, better immersing them as the Tenno they play. Unlike normal missions, story-specific missions have a more immersive design that include different music, unique level-maps and cut-scenes to better draw the player into the story.


The game engine used by Warframe is the Evolution engine, developed by Digital Extremes (DE) to better support their games and newer consoles. Some features of the Evolution engine include modern rendering techniques like PBR (Physically based rendering) and Deferred Rendering.

Lens of Chance (36) & Lens of Reward (46)


A huge part of the game is dependent on one’s luck in acquiring rewards from completing different missions. Better rewards have low drop rates and require some luck on the player’s part to acquire.

  • Different missions have different drop tables of rewards, with each reward have their own drop rate.
  • Higher level missions have a chance to drop higher quality rewards or a higher drop rate for certain rewards.
  • In-game mechanic ‘Relics’ which drop components of higher-end versions of in-game weapons and warframes that cannot be acquired through normal missions but require more resources and luck for specific items.

Lens of Simplicity/Complexity (48)

The game has a lot of basic components that players can utilize, but also a lot of variant and customizable components that they can try if they want to.

  • Each warframe and weapon can be further customized to fit the player’s needs (via forma, mods).
  • Basic mods can help boost basic (i.e. Health) stats .
  • More complex mods (such as rare/vaulted/veiled mods) lets players shape their own build by weighing the pros and cons of the mod’s effect (i.e. Greater increase in range but reduction in damage).
  • Players can construct their own weapon and pets with customs stats, attacks and abilities (i.e. Moa, Zaws).

Lens of Expression (97)

Apart from customization of their equipment for mission purposes, players can also customize the aesthetics of belongings that they own, allowing them to express themselves when they play.

  • Warframes and other equipment’s appearance can be customized to have different skins and/or colored components.
  • Player have their an Orbiter that they are free to decorate and customize the appearance of.
  • Companions can be built/bred to have custom appearance (i.e. Kavat Breeding with DNA template).
  • Player Guilds own a Dojo that can be decorated and customized to have a unique layout of rooms, design and decorations. Best decorated Dojos can be visited be any player in the game.
  • There are instruments (i.e. Shawzin) in-game which players can use to play music in-game to other players.

Lens of Freedom (79)

Besides the freedom provided to the player to customize a lot of elements in the game, the players are also given freedom of choice in the kind of game-play they wish to experience.

  • Basic in-game missions which is the regular game-play experienced by all players such as extermination mission, defence mission, etc.
  • Open World exploration with other activities such as mining, fishing and catching animals.
  • Special game-play (Railjack/Archwings) missions which utilize different game mechanics of combat in space.
  • PvP game-play (i.e. Lunaro) where players can partake in competitive team-based mini-games against other players to achieve various objectives for rewards.


One could say that the Essential Element of Warframe is their chance-based reward system and the creativity of the rewards they provide, but the freedom afforded to players regarding customization of in-game elements play a big role too. Till this day, Warframe is still producing new equipment, mods, warframes and other in-game elements that differ from those currently in the game. Players are not required to get these new items, but if they want to, they can put in the effort for it and then customize it for whatever they desire. The realm of possibilities that Warframe provide is equal to all players new or old, and the possibilities will only increase with the amount of effort players put into the game.

Such equality amongst players and consistency of game dynamics over time was the reason why I enjoy playing Warframe, for even if you leave the game for a time, it feels like you have never left at all when you return to it later.

The Secret Of Monkey Island (Special Edition)

The Secret of Monkey Island (TSMOI) Special Edition is the remastered version of the classic LucasArts point-and-click adventure game – Monkey Island 1. The series follows the goofy yet at times sassy Guybrush Threepwood on his way to becoming top-dog in the pirate world in the made-up Caribbean during the ever so romantic age of piracy. If you are a fan of one of the following: pirates, comedy, laughing, having fun or point-and-click adventures, then you should definitely pick this gem up, RIGHT NOW.

#9 Lens of the elemental Tetrad


  • In a point-and-click adventure game, players move around by clicking their mouse/ pressing a button on their controller. Where the character goes or what they interact with is governed by the cursor’s location on the screen.
  • As with many other point-and-click adventure games, TSMOI offers the option for players to move around, initiate dialogues with NPCs, use items from the inventory and interact with objects in the scene.
Actions available in the game
  • While the base mechanics are generic, TSMOI is unique in its usage of these mechanics for its heavily themed minigames and puzzles. For example, TSMOI has managed to incorporate sword fighting – an essential part of pirate life, seamlessly into a game that only allows point-and-clicking. To avoid spoilers, I will only mention that this particular minigame requires the mechanics of a dialogue tree solely, yet, done so in such an ingenious way that it has become the most memorable part of the game among many fans. The minigames and puzzles will get more complicated over time, and the players will have to combine many of the basic point-and-click mechanics to make progress.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition | A Force for Good : classic  PC gaming
Example of a dialogue tree in game
  • There are also some notable mechanics improvements in the remaster. Firstly, pixel-by-pixel hunting is no longer in the game: the player will no longer have to slowly search every single pixel for a way out of a puzzle. This change is good design; puzzles will actually be puzzles instead of an eye test. 
Pixel hunting was popular in older games/versions
  • Secondly, surprising deaths are not in the game. Most LucasArts point-and-click have never “condoned” deaths in their game. The death mechanic (in other point-and-click adventure games) used to scare players off exploring areas and dialogues or force them to be saving their games every 5 minutes of playtime. In either case, the mechanic imposes a terrible experience. In the former case, players would have missed out on so much fun content, and your (game designers >:( ) work have gone to waste for no reason! In the latter, stopping to save regularly causes boring downtime and disruption to the story’s immersion. The absence of these 2 mechanics in TSMOI adds to its attractiveness for point-and-click adventure games.

Aesthetics + Story: 

  • The game uses 2D graphics with beautifully drawn backdrops that give an illusion of a “depth” in the scene. In some scenes, the characters can navigate “into” the screen, an illusion caused by simple minimisation combined with walking animation. 
A scene that utilises “3D” illusion
  • Scenes are coloured vibrantly, partly to help with puzzle-solving and partly to help with the romanticisation of the story, similar to the style of Pixar movies. 
A vibrant illustration of what would have been a bar filled with filthy pirates!
  • The story is deemed “prescripted”, and you may think only the first playthrough is worth it. On the contrary, the animation and writings are done so elegantly that they always entice players back for a replay. Compared to the classic VGA version, besides the smoothening of polygons for a “HD” experience, this version has also cleaned up the user interface to better enjoy the drawn scene.
  • A returning player who wants a blast from the past can switch to the endearing classic graphics at the pr­­­ess of a button!
Refined polyons!
256 colors classic VGA pixel sprites

Technology: TSMOI has come a long way from 16-colour floppy disk support to 256-color CD-ROM support to now being shipped across many modern platforms and devices. With more storage space and modern hardware, the remastered version could insert beautiful voice acting and improved controls and audio. Players can now enjoy the story in many settings:

  • Play and finish it on the PS3 with your best friend over a weekend sleepover (recommended!)  
  • Isolate yourself in a dark cosy room on your PC (WARNING: Sleeping schedule in danger!) 
  • Simply lean back on your vacation chair with the Ipad ($$).

#94 Lens of Atmosphere (atmosphere)

  • The newly added voice acting has taken the writings of the dialogue to a new level. Characters personalities used to be subjected to the players’ interpretation through visuals. Now, the characters talk to the players with different pronunciations and tones. Pirates now sound more piraty, grumpy old man appears even grumpier, and Guybrush Threepwood sounds even more clumsy.
  • The contrasts between the volumes of background music and the various pace at which each is composed trigger extremely effective perspective changes when the player enters scenes with different background tracks.
  • The game relies heavily on interleaving cutscenes between puzzles as a mark of progress and a storyteller. With the cartoonish cinematics, the player will find themselves almost watching an interactive Disney blockbuster animated film.

#6 Lens of Curiosity

  • TSMOI story isn’t profoundly creative, but there is always that lingering, annoying question that players will be pushed to finish the game: What on earth is the secret of the Monkey Island?
  • Another contributor to curiosity is the massive bank of witty responses in the dialogue tree.
  • Every character (to my knowledge) holds some kind of in-jokes or pop-culture references, and it is absolutely hilarious to find out what they have to say. 
  • The game is comedic, but the writing is so smartly fused with the story’s theme that the player doesn’t feel distracted. Instead of being tired by the humour, players look forward to seeing what the next new punchline will be.
  • The curiosity to find out which actions work on which items, and the satisfaction when something finally gives, is what all TSMOI players subconsciously feel throughout the game.

#8 Lens of Problem Solving

  • Since there are no “dead ends” compared to some other point-and-clicks, TSMOI’s puzzles are freer, more forgiving, and somewhat more manageable.
  • The difficulty is well balanced and not utterly illogical that players still feel extremely accomplished after solving one without getting stuck for the whole day.
  • The game ships with a “hint” function to help impatient players or simply for players to clarify that they have not encountered a bug. (Also, this is kind of the “easy mode”)
  • The usage of the hint function is strongly discouraged personally. If you got your game legally, there is most certainly no bugs. 
  • In addition, there are no words for the feeling of finally realising the small details that you missed to finish the puzzle. You would probably feel so relieved and think to yourself, “Good one, LucasArts”. This is the essential experience that all TSMOI players should get.
  • After solving “major” puzzles, players are rewarded with a cutscene, or various unforgettably majestic instrumentals marking their current progress in the game.
Track 18 should give you an impression of how good the music is!

#86 Lens of Character Function

  • Every character has a role, even the “background pirate A” archetypes.
  • Expectedly, the “background” characters have less critical dialogues with more emphasis on jokes, while the more critical looking characters’ conversations are more developed and branched out.
  • Most players will miss out on their first playthrough the hints/foreshadowing cleverly hiding behind the seemingly innocent humour of a “background” character. Every time you come back to the game, you notice more and more of these little details that you oversee due to frustrations from doing the puzzles.

TSMOI have managed to merge modern entertainment trends with contents written before most of us were born, creating a magical work of art that even the most cynical critics will close an eye on any mistakes found.

Every time you sit down and start the journey with Guybrush Threepwood, deep-down, you secretly hope to get stuck at a puzzle again; you wish the game would never end. You remember the dumb mistakes you make on the first playthrough, you see vividly what the developers have fascinated about the era of pirates, and you want to be part of that fantasy. Most importantly, you crave for the sequel so much that you can’t help replaying during the wait, and that, is what I call good game design.

Genshin Impact


Genshin Impact is an action role-playing game developed by Chinese gaming company miHoYo and was published in 2020. Players get immersed in an anime-like open-world setting and fight by casting elemental magic as well as character-swapping. It is free-to-play and its gacha system is its main source of monetization.

Genshin Impact takes place in a fantasy world called Teyvat. It is divided into seven nations all with different elements and their respective gods. The player, who is the traveler, is in search of his/her lost sibling alongside with a companion, Paimon. Throughout the journey, they have also involved themselves in the affairs of Teyvat’s nations.

Website Link:

Lens of Elemental Tetrad


In the game, each character has their own unique damaging abilities. Some characters inflict physical damage using their normal, charged and plunge attack, whereas others inflict elemental damage. By attacking at a certain altitude, normal attacks are converted to a plunging attack. Charged attacks are stronger than normal attacks, hence a stamina system is implemented to limit its usage. Stamina recovers over time when the character is not depleting it.

There are seven elements in the game, namely, pyro, hydro, cryo, electro, geo, dendro and anemo. Each character is associated with one of the seven elements which corresponds to the elemental damage that they are able to deal with their elemental skill and bursts. The elemental burst is significantly stronger than the elemental skill and hence there’s an energy system for it to prevent spamming. Cooldowns are also applicable to both skills and bursts. By mixing two different elements, powerful reactions called elemental reactions will inflict a status effect, deal more damage, lower damage resistance, and etc.


Each character has their own unique background story and development throughout the game. The development of each character has yet to be concluded as it is still being written and the game is actively being developed and improved. These stories can be accessed by finishing quests and chatting with NPCs to learn more about the game’s lore.


The visuals and graphics of the game speaks for itself from the trailer and it is really appealing given that it’s free-to-play. Each character has their own unique outfit and look to complement their behavior and personality. The game’s original soundtracks compliment the environment and scenario that they’re in which includes neutral soundtracks and battle soundtracks.


Genshin Impact is developed in Unity and it supports multiple platforms which currently includes Android, iOS, Windows, PS4 and PS5. They are working towards releasing it on Nintendo Switch as well sometime in the future.

Lens of Emotions

Dialogue from a story quest
  • Great individual character development and storylines that brings out certain emotions.
  • The original soundtracks composed by Yu-Peng Chen greatly accentuate the emotions escalating it to a whole different level.

Lens of Venue

  • Each nation has its own unique designs and themes to create to right atmosphere.
  • It has nation-specific mechanisms required to reach certain goals and rewards.
  • Some areas are more challenging as you are constantly inflicted with a status effect such as in Dragonspine where you get inflicted with Subzero Climate taking continuous damage after an extended period of time without a heat source.

Lens of Curiosity

  • Each character has their own unique set of voice lines that remains locked until it reaches a certain friendship level. These levels can be increased by gaining friendship exp via quests.
  • Each character has an untold background story that is still being told.

Lens of Endogenous Value

  • Story quests and events give lucrative rewards to players necessary for character progression
  • In order to progress through the game, certain battle power milestones have to be reached unless the player is mechanically good and patient. Artifacts, which are pieces of equipment, can be obtained via Domains, which are dungeons, to power up each character further. Weapons can be obtained via chests or their gacha system. Upgrading these require resources scattered around the world of Teyvat.

Lens of Problem Solving

  • Challenging puzzles are scattered throughout the world of Teyvat while players venture around the world where promising rewards are awaiting them.
  • Certain areas require piecing together fragmented information and observation of the environment in order to reveal or unlock, e.g. a cannon utilized in a separate quest (there are actually 3 cannons in total) can actually be used to break open a cave that leads to a hidden domain, no clue was given whatsoever.
    p.s. I actually looked up the Internet for this.
Cannon required to unlock domain
Close up of Domain in the cave


Overall this is a great game and it is still being actively maintained and developed. If you have the time and like anime RPG, I would recommend trying this out as their cutscenes are just phenomenal. Gameplay mechanics are well thought-through, the art style is visually pleasing, amazing soundtrack arrangements and so much more.

Life is Strange: True Colors

Life is Strange: True Colors delivers a more down-to-earth and human experience than what one might expect from a game classified as a AAA title. As a graphic adventure game with its gameplay focused on player choices, the most famous of its genre likely Telltale Games’ ‘The Walking Dead’, the bulk of its draw is in its storytelling and narrative and its ability to deliver emotional impact to players. On that front, True Colors delivers, winning Best Storytelling at the Golden Joystick Awards 2021 and Games for Impact at The Game Awards 2021.

As the third installment of the Life is Strange series of games, the series differentiates itself with its thoroughly normal settings, its games are set in representations of the world we live in with a single difference: the protagonist has a superpower. In True Colors we follow the story of its protagonist, Alex, who has the power of empathy, being able to read and feel the emotions of others, as she finds herself adjusting into a new life in the quiet mountain town of Haven Springs.  Perhaps the game’s greatest strength is its ability to address themes and issues that resonate with its players, struggling to fit in, dealing with grief and loss, and mental health issues just to name a few.

Gameplay Video

Lens 9: The Elemental Tetrad

The sun gleams on the mountains and forests of Haven Springs, as the river surges under the evocative Bridge of Flowers.
The gorgeous yet down-to-earth setting of Haven Springs
  • Aesthetics
    • As a AAA title, the game is without a doubt visually stunning. The graphics captures the beauty of the game’s setting and masterfully delivers a sense of calm and serenity that can just as quickly evoke anxiety and tension as needed by the story.
    • The aesthetics are further reinforced by the game’s stellar soundtrack with music that perfectly complements the themes and feeling of the game.
  • Mechanics
    • The primary points of player interaction arises from making decisions within dialogue and utilizing Alex’s powers of empathy. These core mechanics strengthen the theme of the game in emphasizing emotions
    • The mechanics of the game are kept simple so as to not detract player attention away from its story and aesthetics
  • Technology
    • Dealing with human emotion being the game’s biggest theme, motion capture technology was used to fully translate the breadth of emotions that can be captured by facial expression into the character models. This produces characters that look and feel incredibly real, strengthening the empathy players have with them.
  • Story
    • As a game with a narrative focus, its story is its strongest and most important element of the four in the elemental tetrad.
    • The story is crafted to showcase the consequences of the player’s decisions (mechanics) while emphasizing its core themes.

Lens 1: Emotion

In a sculptor's studio, Alex watches as a red emotional aura crackles around Charlotte's head. Charlotte is clearly upset.
Alex’s power of empathy in action

Emotions are what makes this game so incredibly memorable. As I played through the game, I could empathize with each and every character, their emotional journey being beautifully captured and written in such a believable and relatable manner. Every big decision I had to make heightened my anxiety as I agonized with what was the right choice (sometimes there is no right choice). The game, true to its theme, delivers in making its players feel.

Lens 6: Curiosity

Throughout the game, compulsory cutscenes give us glimpses into the lives and intricacies of the inhabitants of Haven Springs. While not an ‘open world’ game, True Colors encourages exploration within the bounds of the story chapter or scene, with dozens of little interactable objects, some of which you can even utilize Alex’s powers to see a memory associated with these objects. Together all these little details paint Haven Springs as vibrant and full of life and allowed me to discover the intricacies of its characters only hinted at in mandated dialogue.

Furthermore, aside from its main cast of named characters, there are little subplots that we can discover and affect that could easily be missed but are incredibly satisfying for the curious explorer, ranging from bringing together two lovebirds to helping a sad soul find his dog.

Lens 73: Story Machine

Making choices

As a game whose core mechanic is about making choices, it is clearly important that the choices makes the player feel like they have affected the narrative in some way. As with many games of its kind, True Colors suffers from the ‘Combinatorial Explosion’ problem. In a game of branching choices, it is infeasible to create a truly branching narrative. The game essentially reaches its climax and ends the same way regardless of the choices I made. This was somewhat mitigated by the weaving of the choices not with the plot itself but the way the characters react to you in the game’s climax.

Perhaps a way the game could have strengthened the impact of choices could be to utilize its epilogue cutscene to show the how you had affected the lives of each of the characters.

Lens 89: The Character Web

Frequently, I see games where character interactions are focused between the player character and NPCs. In True Colors, it is easy to see that the effort placed in building the relationships between each of the town’s inhabitants. It strengthens the sense of Alex being an outsider to the town and makes Haven Springs feel real and alive and not just a place in a video game but filled with people who love and hate each other.

Link to Game Website

Ultimate Party Platformer

Ultimate Chicken Horse is a party game that plays out as a platformer game (think Mario). The aim of the game is simple, get from the starting point of the map to the endpoint and make sure no one else does it. No points are awarded if all the players are able to complete the course. To do so, players are given the choice of various platforms and traps that they can put on the map before the start of each round. The player who has the highest number of points at the end of a set number of rounds wins the game and is the ULTIMATE ANIMAL!

Link to steam page:

Lens 9: The Elemental Tetrad

COVID19 and the subsequent closures had introduced us to a slew of party games ranging from Among Us to the Jackbox line of games. Ultimate Chicken Horse however proved to be a fresh of breath air compared to those as the game is simple enough such that there was no real need to overthink each and every one of your actions. As a party game, I would put it to be closest to something like Mario Party minigames where you have to achieve a simple objective before the rest of the players do.

As far as mechanics go, the game is alike most generic platformers – you could jump, spring to gain a higher vertical height and wall jump. However adding the ability to modify the environment as you play more rounds adds a whole lot more dynamism to the gameplay. One round could be simple, needing only to jump on platforms to reach the goal. Suddenly all hell breaks lose in the next round as a wrecking ball, 2 arrow turrets and a black hole is added to the level. As you go through multiple rounds, each round feels similar but yet has some additions or removal that changes the experience of the level. This also makes it infinitely replayable as no two levels will ever feel the same. The gameplay is very well designed. I was in awe as to how they were able to take a tried and tested genre in platformers and convert it into a chaotic and interactive experience for a party. And yet the mechanics were nothing new which makes you feel “Why didn’t I think of making something like this?”.

The artstyle is simple. The characters you play are doodled animals in a cartoonish world. This however adds to the game’s charm as a cute family-friendly game (barring some of the death weapons used). You unlock new characters and cosmetics as you progress through the game but I found myself not being too focused on this. The gibberish that the animals make while it jumps, dies or celebrates however adds to the whimsical nature of the game which makes even being turned into a shish kebab by an arrow turret light-hearted.

The game itself does not require powerful hardware to run given its simple graphics. It’s available on multiple platforms on consoles as well as PC. I however found that it is best played on the Nintendo Switch which already has built-in controllers that can be used for multiple players. This adds to convenience factor of not needing to have multiple controllers and makes the pairing process seamless. The option to play online with others exists but nothing beats being physically present with your friends to enjoy their reactions to getting killed by your spike trap.

The game has really no story elements but that is completely alright since the bulk of the game is in the gameplay. If anything the stories are the funny incidents that happen while playing that you end up recalling and sharing with others (read: friends you make along the way).

Lens 8: Problem Solving

Unlike the way I played most platformers, I noticed that my approach to each new round in Ultimate Chicken Horse to be more methodical. For something like the classic Sonic games, I would dive head first into the level with speed without regard for discerning the optimal path. In Ultimate Chicken Horse however, I would usually chart out a path before hand, and ensure to understand the timing of my moves in order to get to the goal. If it is clear the route is not viable, I would reevaluate the other possible options and test them out. This introduces an element of Problem Solving where one has to find a viable approach to reach the endpoint of the specific round.

Such a map state is also reached because of the decision making process that each player has to go through when placing their platforms or traps. The players have to choose an item and location to place on the map such that they are able to reach the end goal while making sure that other players are not able to do so. This could lead to really complex levels which are technically possible to complete but require some form of thought and technique. Obviously there are situations where the level is impossible to complete and in such a state, the game will offer bombs to destroy previously placed elements of the map. The player with the bomb will then have to think of which obstacles to remove and which to keep such that the level does not become too easy.

Lens 34: Skill

Having grown up with platformer games such as Mario, Megaman and Super Smash Bros, I was very familiar with the movesets in Ultimate Chicken Horse. I knew how to time my jumps after a sprint in order to get the maximum vertical and horizontal distance, I knew how to wall jump effectively and most importantly, I knew how to avoid projectiles coming my way. This meant that even though it was the first time all of us were playing the game, my experience had given me a sizeable advantage. Some of the newer platformer players kept lamenting how my character had a higher jumping height compared to theirs when I did a sprint jump.

For a party game, this disparity could quickly become problematic since it is meant to be something that can be enjoyed by casual players. To this end, the game added some balancing mechanisms like the handicap system which allowed you to reduce the percentage of points that select players would receive. I personally didn’t think this was the ideal solution, but it did achieve the effect that it intended so I guess I can’t argue with the results.

Lens 27: Time

By default, each round had no time limit. This meant that players could take their time in order to complete the round. The round would only finish when all of the players are either dead or have reached the end point. The implication of this is that there are times where a single player would struggle to reach the end-zone . The players who are done with the stage would then be unable to do anything other than watch the remaining player struggle their way through the map. For an otherwise polished game, this was a source of frustration since they have to wait an undisclosed amount of time for their next in game action. There is however some sense of balancing in play where the dead/successful players can heckle the remaining player in order to pressure them to fasten their pace. This is another benefit of playing the game physically together as compared to online where the heckling can only be auditory.

Lens 45: Competition vs Cooperation

Undoubtedly, Ultimate Chicken Horse is a competitive game. There can only be one Ultimate Animal. Some level of cooperation however, is required in order to be able to reach the end-goal in the first place. This is especially true at the start of each level where there are no items in place on the level which means there is a need to build a path together.

Cooperation is needed to build a path from the concaved part of the cliff to the red flag

There is a constant need to evaluate the current position and choose between messing up the stage further or making it easier. If you are not in the lead, there may be a need to make the level slightly easier so that you will be able to gain points on the leader. On the other hand you wouldn’t want to make it too easy as everyone would be able to complete the level, resulting in no points. The fine balance between working together and cooperating with other players to build something workable adds depth to the seemingly simple game.

Lens 2: Essential Experience

That said, I love to play as the embodiment of chaos and making rounds absurdly difficult. In the end, party games are built to create interactions between players. This involves eliciting reactions from other players as well as the playful banter that arises from the occurrences in-game. The gameplay alone could be fun but it would be no different from a single player game if you are unable to mess around and have fun with the people you’re with. And to that end, I think being chaotic suits the purposes of the game.

Jump King


Jump King is a 2D platformer developed and published by Nexile in 2019. The player assumes the role of an unnamed king whose goal is to reach the top in search of a Smoking Hot Babe. The game features pixelated art and classic graphics with an incredible OST to keep the player immersed in the atmosphere of the vertical world. Challenging yet addictive gameplay; one single missed jump could lead to a long fall and a huge loss of progress.

Gameplay Video

Lens 9: The Elemental Tetrad


  • The player controls are simple using only the arrow keys and the spacebar. It is easy to learn, anyone could jump right into it and start playing right away.
  • Simple to learn, hard to master. To jump higher and reach the top, the player only needs to hold the spacebar and release it. However, this simple act of jumping takes practice to master.
  • Once the player is in the air, no controls can be made. This encourages players to think before jumping.
  • There are many paths and ways to the top. Sometimes after numerous attempts, a player may discover a different an easier path on the way up.
  • One miscalculated jump leads to a loss of progress. The higher you are, the further you fall.
  • The game also features hidden areas, secret collectibles, and a whole new path to the top.


  • The game has a simple story: An unnamed king wearing full plate armor and a gift of jumping discovers a legend of a Smoking Hot Babe on the top of a tower. He resolves himself to reach her by traversing through a precarious and dangerous path to the top of the tower.
  • NPCs throughout different levels expands the world through dialogue or motivation speeches that speaks of their past experiences to the top.


  • On the way to the top, the player experiences different environments and scenery of pixelated classic graphics.
  • The soundtrack is composed by talented musicians that captures the ambience of different levels in the game which enhances the immersion of the player.


  • Jump King is built using MonoGame engine.
  • Jump King does not require much GPU power or hardware requirements to play due to having 2D pixelated graphics. Low-end PCs can run the game.

Lens 38: Challenge

  • Jump King is hard and tough. It progressively gets harder to reach the next platform as you proceed higher in the tower. This gives players multiple challenges as they get better at the game.
  • Although Jump King starts off tough, the game controls are simple and accommodates a wide variety of skill levels of a player. As they fall, a player would be able to understand what went wrong as the only mistake they did was simply holding the spacebar for too long or too short. This gives the player motivation to improve as they know what to improve on and mentally challenge themselves to get back on their feet.
  • Challenge is not defined in Jump King. It is defined in the player’s mind. For example, a player challenges himself to reach the next area. A player challenges himself to reach the top within a certain timing. A player challenges himself to never fall. These challenges instinctively come into mind as Jump King’s ultimate challenge and goal is to reach the top of the tower.

Lens 34: Skill

  • As the game is easy to play and control with only the arrow keys and the spacebar, players will not be shunned away by overwhelming controls of a game.
  • Completing this game requires determination and muscle memory. It is a skill everyone develops as they continue playing the game. Throughout the game, the player progressively gets better as they repeatedly does the same action of holding the spacebar and releasing it improving muscle memory which is the sole skill of the game.
  • Jump King mechanics are one of a kind, every player starts off bad and no one is ahead of the others in the beginning of the game. This gives the player motivation, and the game could be considered fair.
  • As the players fall and repeat the same stages, the player could feel themselves improving at the game due to their muscle memory of how they cleared the obstacles. This gives the player a sense of reward and accomplishment that they were getting better.

Lens 74: Obstacle

  • There are certain points and obstacles in the game where it is incredibly difficult to overcome for the player to reach higher in the tower. These obstacles are meant to challenge the player, to give him a sense of goal or target he must reach before reaching the top.
  • These obstacles are meant to test the player’s skills and determination. They determine if the player is ready for the next area.
  • Despite frustrating the player when the player falls due to an obstacle, it is not entirely a bad thing. As they fall to a stage they have cleared before, it helps them gain confidence as they could feel that they were getting better, knowing the different timings of a jump to the next platform through muscle memory. Confidence is greatly needed so that the player does not feel defeated and unmotivated to reach higher in the tower due to its increasing difficulty.

Lens 1: Emotion

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  • Jump King is ultimately a game that focuses on determination. With determination, everyone can reach the top albeit at different speed and timings.
  • Throughout the game, the player experiences a multitude of emotions ranging from frustration, satisfaction, determination, and many others. For example, it is frustrating to fall, or it is satisfying to clear an area or most importantly, the sense of accomplishment and pride the player feels after clearing the game with many difficulties and obstacles.
  • These emotions give the player an experience where they could share with their friends and challenge each other, watch their favorite streamer experience different emotions, showing a different side of them which makes it relatable, and creates a well-known and enjoyable game to remember.

Game Design Analysis: It Takes Two


It Takes Two is an action-adventure platform game developed by Hazelight Studios and published by Electronic Arts (EA), released for all major gaming platforms in March 2021. It can only be played in cooperative (co-op) multiplayer between two players in either local or online split-screen.

The game follows Cody and May, a married couple on the verge of divorce. They have been transformed into dolls that resemble them, and throughout the game, are required to work together to solve numerous puzzles and obstacles in the hopes of reawakening in their real bodies.

It Takes Two – Official Gameplay Trailer

Official page for It Takes Two
Steam store page for It Takes Two


This blog post aims to analyse It Takes Two using the following lenses as defined in The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses written by Jesse Schell:

  • The Elemental Tetrad
  • Endogenous Value
  • Problem Solving
  • Unification
  • Friendship

The Lens of The Elemental Tetrad

The elemental tetrad consists of mechanics, story, aesthetics and technology. This blog post argues that It Takes Two utilises all of them well in order to form a cohesive experience for both players. For example, the combination of the games’ undemanding difficulty and its colourful cartoon aesthetic make it very easy for someone who does not play games often to join their significant other in playing this game.


  • A unique take on the action-adventure platformer genre, as co-op gameplay is a requirement rather than just an option
  • Co-op nature of the game lends itself well to the game’s puzzles; most (if not all) of them are implemented with both players needing to work together to complete them
  • Game is set in split-screen almost 100% of the time (when it is not, the camera is set in a way such that both players can be seen) to allow the player to effectively coordinate with their partner in real time
  • An amalgamation of multiple game mechanics of sorts: the game has nine chapters, each of which introduces mechanics unique to the chapter itself
    • This variance in mechanics with each chapter makes the game feel fresh regardless of how far in the players are
  • A whopping twenty-five mini-games designed for the player to play against their co-op partner, adding yet another layer of complexity to the game’s already varied game mechanic system
    • Mini-games range from snowball fights to something as traditional as chess
Shuffle Board mini-game


  • The story provides a backdrop for the multiple mechanics set by the game in each chapter and gives a reason for their existence
    • Corroborates the development team’s intention of connecting gameplay with the narrative, and that “as the story unfolds, the game’s mechanics will change accordingly”
    • e.g. In a particular chapter, May complains that Cody has no sense of time and so Cody is given the ability to manipulate time, while May laments that she cannot be in two places at once and so she is given the ability to create a clone of herself
  • Overarching plot revolves around the transformed Cody and May as they traverse re-imagined parts of their property
  • They are guided by Dr. Hakim, an anthropomorphic form of a relationship therapy book, whose sole aim is to help the couple fix their tumultuous relationship
  • Throughout the story, the couple starts to rekindle their relationship, lending to the “feel-good” nature of the game


  • Incredibly colourful and striking visuals
  • Each of the nine chapters hosts a completely unique setting, allowing each area to be visually distinct from one another in terms of colour palette, sound design and overall feel
A nice easter egg of Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road


  • It Takes Two was written mostly in AngelScript, which Hazelight implemented into the Unreal Engine through their own plugin
  • The game’s performance (at least on PC) was completely smooth, which personally is especially important when trying to hold the attention of not just one, but two players

The Lens of Endogenous Value

  • Unlike other games of the family-friendly platformer genre, the only “collectibles” in It Takes Two are its twenty five mini-games, which are scattered throughout the world and have to be discovered by the players in order for them to be playable
  • Players are encouraged to find these mini-games, because they serve as a great way to take a break after a stressful puzzle in the level
  • While there are no rewards for winning, the player can still undoubtedly derive value from these mini-games from having bested their co-op partner
Being able to win in a race against a co-op partner in a non-racing game was an interesting treat, to say the least

The Lens of Problem Solving

  • It Takes Two is riddled with a plethora of puzzles that serve as obstacles for the players
  • For them to be solved, they will require the application of both the player’s own character abilities as well as those of their co-op partner, as each character’s abilities are often complementary to each other’s
    • e.g. To combat the enemy wasps in “The Tree” chapter, Cody needs to smear sap onto them with his sap gun, while May has to finish them off with her match gun, capable of detonating sap
  • The variance in game mechanics with each chapter allows for an equally wide range of puzzles and challenges
Fighting off wasps in “The Tree” chapter

The Lens of Unification

  • The theme of It Takes Two revolves around the idea of collaboration
  • Reinforced in the game’s mechanics of requiring two players to continuously progress through the story
  • Also evident in the story, as the narrative follows the couple of Cody and May, throughout which they realise the importance of working together in order to resolve their marriage woes and rekindle their love for each other
Collaboration: Dr. Hakim’s favourite word

The Lens of Friendship

  • The two-player requirement of It Takes Two is probably one of the most striking features of the game
  • Allows the player to build a stronger friendship (or relationship) with the person they are playing with, both through competition (mini-games) and cooperation (solving puzzles together to finish the game)
  • With this game, the player is able to go through an immersive and unique gaming experience with a partner of their choosing from start to finish
Being able to ride a frog with someone else is simply not possible in many other games


While it is not the first game to feature the two-player requirement — Hazelight Studios has also previously released games like A Way Out (2018) and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (2013) — this blog post posits that It Takes Two‘s implementation is the most refined and creative. It is, without a doubt, one of the most innovative games when it comes to mechanics, story, and tying both of them together to form an enjoyable experience for not just one, but two players. The game is simply a must-play with either a family member, friend or significant other.