Alan Caleb talks about Dare the Monkey Deluxe: his love letter to the golden age of arcade games
Three years ago indie developer Alan Caleb embarked on a journey to create a super casual, one-touch, platformer that would evoke the spirit of classic arcade and console games. The end result is Dare the Monkey Deluxe – a love letter to the golden age of Sega and Nintendo games but expertly reinvented for mobile. Think Donkey Kong meets Mr. Jump with a touch of Sonic the Hedgehog thrown in for good measure.
Aesthetically it takes you to a happy place. Dare – the game’s little monkey hero inhabits a world of azure blue skies, blinding suns, and pools of iridescent water. Visually it’s how you remember classic coin-ops looking. There’s a sense that every pixel has its place as you run, jump, and roll your way through each of the game’s gorgeous environments.
“There was an energy and optimism about the games I grew up playing.” reminisces Alan when talking about the inspirations behind the project. “Every world was the perfect version of what it was trying to be, complete with vibrant colour palettes and percussion-heavy backing tracks. I wanted to recreate that on modern hardware rather than the gritty realism you see in many games today.”
Accessibility is at the heart of its design
It’s not just the visuals that are influenced by eighties and nineties video games. Dare the Monkey’s super addictive gameplay borrows heavily from that era too. Levels are constructed around short, simple compulsive loops that keep players coming back. And that simplicity has been carried into the game’s controls too. Accessibility is at the heart of its design. Anyone can learn to play: a few taps of the screen and you’ve grasped the basics.
Like many great arcade games, Dare’s easy to play but difficult to master. “That was intentional” says Alan. There’s a delight in its replayability. A rhythm to proceedings. A certain feel that lets you know you’re getting better. “You’ll begin by collecting coins just for the hell of it.” he continues, “but before long you’ll be chasing down every last one as you strive for excellence.” It’s these little things that combine to make something that’s hard to put down.
I took it on the road – traveling to games expos up and down the country
It’s easy to think that Dare has been developed exclusively for an older audience who’re after that heartfelt nostalgia of their youth. However that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“When I was developing Dare the Monkey I was thinking of younger gamers as much as myself.” For it to succeed it needed to strike a chord with as wide an audience as possible. “I took it on the road – traveling to games expos up and down the country.” explains Alan. “It was a good decision.” he recalls. “There was no shortage of kids and teenagers queueing up to play it. I learned so much about what was working and what wasn’t. It really helped shape the game.” Although still early in development one thing was clear: “They loved it!”
“The feedback from the expos was everything I’d hoped for.” continues Alan. But there was one person in particular he wanted to impress. “During development I was always thinking about my seven year-old son. I wanted Dare the Monkey to help forge an even stronger relationship between us both.” It’s apparent that it has. “We love taking turns playing on my iPhone; trying to learn from each other’s mistakes. You know, as an adult it’s easy to dismiss the importance of these little shared moments – but to a kid they’re everything.”
Perfect for the Apple Watch
Dare the Monkey’s reach goes beyond just the iPhone. For starters, there’s the iPad. “The larger screen brings each world to life. You really feel as if they’re real places that the game’s characters actually live in”. There was one other platform Alan was eager to target. “The fact that Dare focusses on a few simple core mechanics makes it perfect for the Apple Watch.” he explains. It’s another nod to his youth where he fondly remembers playing LCD watch games in class, hoping not to get caught by his teacher. “It’s one of only a few endless runner to appear on Apple Watch” he says with some pride. “and perfect for short gaming fixes when you’ve got a few minutes to spare”.
Whether it’s a slice of nostalgia you’re after or simply a great challenge, there’s something there for everyone. Dare the Monkey bridges the sensibilities of classic coin-ops with the look and feel of a modern high-definition game. For Alan it was more than just wanting to provide something that was fun to play. It was about providing an experience.
The deluxe edition of Dare the Monkey is coming soon to the App Store.