Old School Gamer chats with Andrew Aversa (Lead Developer, Impact Gameworks) to find out what makes his new Nintendo Switch RPG, Tangledeep so much more than an ode to the SNES era.
Inspired by classic SNES-era RPGs, Impact Gameworks’ stunning roguelike Tangledeep will soon be available on the Nintendo Switch!
Create your character, gear up, and get ready to ascend through dangerous terrain while facing magical beasts and ancient automatons in this turn-based dungeon crawler with a job system and countless tactical choices.
Old School Gamer: How was Tangledeep born?
Andrew Aversa: I’ve been a professional composer, sound designer, and audio software developer for about 15 years. But growing up, I had a passion for game design. I wrote hundreds of pages of ideas on paper and came up with text-based battle games back in the days of IRC. A few years ago in 2016, I felt like I needed a new challenge and decided to revive my dreams of game development. About two years after I started, Tangledeep was released as v1.0 on PC!
Old School Gamer: What was development like?
Aversa: At first it was very slow, because I didn’t know much about programming or game development tools. I had a lot to learn and made many mistakes. However, by the end of 2016, the momentum picked up and we had a team together with another programmer (my mentor Jim Shepard, who handled the Switch port), three pixel artists, and a community of enthusiastic players.
Old School Gamer: What makes the game special?
Aversa: Tangledeep was made with love and passion, which I think shines through in everything from the gameplay and art to the music and writing. It takes the best elements from traditional roguelikes and modern ARPGs – then combines that with the charm and presentation of classic SNES games (plus extra polish on top!).
Old School Gamer: How does it feel to be on the Switch?
Aversa: It’s surreal. The first console I owned was a Super Nintendo, but even before that I would rent one every weekend from the local video store. I played so many great RPGs and developed a true fondness for the system. Of course, I owned every Nintendo handheld and console after that as well. So, it’s a dream come true!
Old School Gamer: Why do RPGs still matter?
Aversa: RPGs have an enormous influence on the game industry. You see RPG elements in everything from shooters to adventure games. Then you have developers who are pushing traditional ‘pure’ RPGs to new heights – like Octopath Traveler, or Undertale, which was a very different take on things. There’s still so much more that the genre has to offer, and people continue to love it.
Old School Gamer: What games influenced Tangledeep the most?
Aversa: The most obvious influences are in art and audio: games like Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, and Secret of Mana, to name a few. The job system is a nod to Final Fantasy Tactics and similar titles. In terms of the turn-based roguelike gameplay, that’s a mix of classic games such as Castle of the Winds for PC – plus the more accessible Shiren the Wanderer which has been going on since the SNES days, and particularly the more recent indie game Dungeonmans.
Beyond that, there are elements that will be very familiar to fans of Diablo. For example, there’s a ton of loot, legendary items, gear sets, and magical item modifiers with all sorts of interesting effects. You can then enter “Item Dreams” to power up your items further and explore strange new dungeons and areas – something that is directly inspired by the Disgaea series.
Old School Gamer: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Aversa: I think probably some of the best anecdotes have to do with wacky code hacks and workarounds. For example, I wrote the audio system for the game myself rather than using a third-party tool – which I regretted very early on. As a result, most the game’s sound effects are actually played through the dialog cursor that appears in the menus. Yes, the little hand thing. That one.
Old School Gamer: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Aversa: Yes, but I think we must understand what made certain mechanics fun. Simply copying old games without this understanding can lead to systems that feel out of place or outdated. For example, Bravely Default has random encounters – a staple of JRPGs – but lets you control the encounter rate completely. That’s a clever idea.
The turn-based, grid-based mechanics of Tangledeep are certainly ‘old’ gameplay mechanics, but I don’t think they feel outdated. There are lots of movement abilities. Monsters can push and pull you – or summon hazards all over the map. The hazards themselves can often move! On the other hand, we didn’t incorporate mechanics like hunger, item identification, or cursed gear – which were also staples of traditional roguelikes. I don’t think those are as interesting, and they just drag the pace of the game down.
Old School Gamer: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Aversa: There are so many involving the SNES, N64, and PS1. But if I had to pick one, it might be my very first experience playing a console RPG – Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Everything about that game blew me away. I loved the exciting battle music, I loved the puzzles, and I loved the spirit of adventure. People often say the game is “dumbed down” and not enjoyable – but since I was only 7 or 8 at the time, it was just perfect for me.
Old School Gamer: Who will enjoy Tangledeep the most?
Aversa: I think if you enjoyed any of the games I mentioned, you’ll find something to love in Tangledeep. But specifically, if you like turn-based, tactical RPGs – particularly roguelikes – this is definitely for you.
Old School Gamer: Bottom line, why must someone play this game?
Aversa: It’s a love letter to the golden age of SNES RPGs that also pulls from more modern games. There’s a lot to do, many ways to play, and secrets to discover!
Old School Gamer: How do you want Tangledeep to be remembered?
Aversa: As a game that bridged the gap between the unforgiving world of classic roguelikes and the charming nostalgia of 16-bit RPGs. Something like that!
Old School Gamer: What’s next?
Aversa: Well, we’re wrapping up the game’s first expansion pack – “Legend of Shara” – which adds a 13th character job, a new storyline, dozens of new monsters, and new game systems. Once it’s ready, we want to bring it to Switch as well. Beyond that, there are definitely plans for future games including some in the Tangledeep universe!
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega-publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.