Old School Gamer chats with Heart Chain Kitty Programmer, Musician, Writer & Artist from origamihero games Bernhard Politsch, who discusses the game’s development cycle and so much more.
About Heart Chain Kitty:
Created by solo developer Bernhard Politsch of origamihero games, Heart Chain Kitty follows in the footsteps of platforming greats Super Mario Sunshine and Banjo-Kazooie to deliver an exciting, endearing narrative filled to the brim with old-school challenge and charming, memorable characters.
In Heart Chain Kitty, players will find 40 surreal levels containing secrets and unique power-ups – such as the aptly-named Power Glove, Hat Glide, and Screw Ray (which can loosen and tighten screws and bolts found around the world).
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was Heart Chain Kitty born?
Bernhard Politsch: The game has a long history. Multiple freeware games came before it – with a story thread leading through them up to Heart Chain Kitty. That chubby little kitty was with me when I started to make freeware games and is featured in my first game, entitled A Game with a Kitty. A fun and simple concept can really help with learning game development and programming.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What is your role in the game?
Politsch: I made the whole game by myself, and my friends helped playtest it. The feedback they gave me was incredibly valuable. I’d say that Indie teams don’t usually get much smaller than that!
Old School Gamer Magazine: What has development been like?
Politsch: It took over a year to make the game in 2017/2018. The Nintendo Switch port added another six months of development time starting in early 2021. I also have a full-time job at a chemical plant – and making a big game like that could be considered another full-time job all by itself … the only difference being that it’s a thing I love doing.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes Heart Chain Kitty special?
Politsch: The game tries to add a few things together – even some Metroidvania aspects. The way forward isn’t always finding enough Thingies™ – but also solving item puzzles and fulfilling quest requirements. Also noteworthy would be the game’s size, with more than 40 levels and additional 2D levels – as well as the other hidden and very challenging levels and bosses. Most players need 15 hours to see the first of three endings. Add another 5-10 hours to get the best one. Then there’s the story itself, which is much heavier than one might expect from a game like this. There’s a reason why Kittey (the game’s protagonist) often prefers to dream.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Politsch: There are the obvious ones – like the colorful N64 collect-a-thons. I still love them, and they’re a big inspiration. I didn’t want to copy the formula exactly, so I added more things not seen in the genre to the mix – for better or worse!
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Politsch: Unfortunately, the wild things that happened were also quite bad – leading to a year-long work and gamedev hiatus in 2020. It’s why Heart Chain Kitty came out a year later than I had hoped.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Politsch: There are quite a few, actually! Here are just two:
A big world is easy to get lost in, so it may be better to keep level size in check. The first major area, Kitty Island, is very big and sometimes overwhelms players. Smaller would’ve been better – that, or actual quest markers like open-world games have.
The game only saves when hitting checkpoints – and to save newly collected items, a checkpoint must be reached. This seems to frustrate players sometimes. It would be best to update this method of saving to something more modern in future projects.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Politsch: It really depends. It would be good to test them out and see if they might be frustrating in the games of today, which often have larger worlds and more content in them. But if the old gameplay mechanics work well for your game, then sure – use them! They can always be refined or updated, too. I guess it’s safe to say that third-person tank controls are a thing we can totally leave in the past.
Old School Gamer Magazine: The marketplace is crowded. How do you think Heart Chain Kitty stands out?
Politsch: The game looks a lot different than most Switch titles – and it’s really, really big! Heart Chain Kitty also has a weirdly dark story usually not seen in 3D platformers, which demands a few hours of playtime to fully experience.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How have your previous experiences in industry helped this game?
Politsch: I have no prior industry experience. This is the first big one for me. I’d be happy if you ask me that again once I’ve released a few more games
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want Heart Chain Kitty to ultimately be remembered?
Politsch: As a weird, challenging, and huge 3D platformer with a story that’s rather unusual for its genre.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Politsch: That would be Starlight Alliance, a dystopian sci-fi action RPG with two playable characters – coming in 1-2 months on Nintendo Switch and Steam!