Making games is hard, but selling games can often be even harder. Thousands of games come out every month across the abundance of platforms, but only a handful will be a success story. As with most things, you should know who your audience is, and Thing Trunk’s new seven-part retrological games series, Return 2 Games, is focused on the generally elusive “mid-core” players. Even as an adult with precious little free time, those of us that grew up on the classics still want a robust experience, which is what Thing Trunk’s goal is with the series.
The team put together a video manifesto of sorts, which I recommend you check out. The first segment is very after-school-special-y or Magic School Busish, which reflects the retro feel the company’s aiming for, and is also a highly entertaining look back at gaming. It’s doubtful that Escapist readers will find anything there that they didn’t already know, but the presentation is delightful. Once they get into the pitch, it gets a bit more frank, and the sell is undeniably a marketing gimmick, but if the series lives up to its ambition, at least it’ll be a good gimmick.
Each of the seven games will be the studio’s take on one of the classics. The first entry, Book of Demons, uses the original Diablo for its source material. The devs aren’t just making clones, though, instead focusing on updating the mechanics to be more accessible to time-restricted gamers without sacrificing the depth of our favorite games. No, Book of Demons isn’t a fully fleshed-out ARPG, but it does find a happy medium between a PC ARPG and a casual clicking game.
Book of Demons is something like a hack-and-slash on rails. Your movement is restricted to a simple branching path, and the combat is hilariously Diablo-like; click-to-kill. As you wander the path, enemies will approach you, then you click them to attack until they die. Enemies with shields start showing up, requiring you to deliberately click on their shields to destroy them before you can attack the enemy. It’s the tiniest of mechanics, but it does wonders to keep the game from being unplayably simple.
The papercraft style is a cute twist, even if it’s no longer all that novel, but Thing Trunk explained that the entire series is based in the same papercraft universe, putting the focus squarely on the gameplay and setting. Thing Trunk’s team comes from a background of casual game development, so there’s plenty of experience there, and, as gamers, they know the feel of a good “real” game. “We build our games with people in mind, who don’t play as much as they used to, who find casual games shallow and unengaging,” explained producer Filip Starzynski.
Thing Trunk’s Senior Programmer, Konstanty Kalicki’s story was all too familiar to me, personally, saying, “I barely passed 7th grade after discovering UFO: Enemy Unknown,” a situation I found myself in back in the day, and one typically reserved for to-be lifelong gamers. It’s impossible to judge based only on Book of Demons whether the rest of the Return 2 Games series will succeed in recapturing the feeling of classic games, but from what I’ve seen, they’ve got a strong start.