Indie Game Spotlight: The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game
Spoopy season isn’t quite over in this week’s Indie Game Spotlight. In The Haunted Island, a small sloth has been haunted for weeks by a mysterious ghost that nobody can seem to track down. There’s a mystery afoot, and the only one who can solve it is the renowned investigator known simply as The Detective. Finding clues and questioning suspects is just part of the job for such an experienced frog, but this case is a tough fly to catch.
We spoke to Grace Bruxner, who is the creative director of Worm Club, and responsible for the art, writing, and design, among other things. Also in Worm Club is her partner Thomas Bowker, who works on the UX and programming, and their composer Dan Golding, who makes lovely jazzy tunes (fun fact: Dan also did the music for Untitled Goose Game).
The Haunted Island looks like it has a lot of different animal friends. What kind of animals can we expect to meet?
So many animals! We have a sheep, a duck, a sloth, a wombat, a koala (gotta get that Australian representation in somewhere!), and, of course, a frog. I am probably forgetting a few. We basically chose animals that wouldn’t look horrifying standing up. Some people still think they’re horrifying, but that’s not my problem, really.
What kinds of gameplay mechanics can we expect?
In terms of mechanics, The Haunted Island is a super simple game that focuses on talking to silly characters and helping everyone out, in order to solve the mystery. It does have several un-skippable cutscenes, which have been described as “why can’t I skip the cutscenes.” Mechanics—who needs ‘em! Except for, like, car mechanics, I guess.
Are there any detective-genre movies, books, or games that helped inspire the game?
We had a volunteer at PAX West who described the game as “Animal Crossing meets LA Noire,“ which is kind of true. I haven’t played Animal Crossing yet, but I really liked LA Noire. It has so many silly moments that aren’t intentional, and I wanted to sort of emulate those moments in my game. I also love Agatha Christie novels, as well as the live-action Poirot TV show, but unfortunately, a lot of those older detective shows and books have some problematic content. As far as I know, we have no weirdly racist bits in the game (I really hope we don’t, as I am the one who wrote it). Frog Detective doesn’t take itself very seriously, but all the characters do. I find inspiration from shows that I find sort of accidentally funny because of the dialogue. For example, Degrassi and Riverdale both have very funny dialogue, which seems mostly unintentional, though I’m sure the writers have fun with it.
Have you learned any interesting frog facts while working on the game?
Frog Detective isn’t a super educational game, so I haven’t done a whole lot of frog-related research, but I will say I recently learned that frogs and toads are basically the same creatures, biologically speaking. They’re classified as frogs or toads depending on their size!
What do you hope players will take away from your game?
That it’s OK to be second best.
Ready to hop on in? You can find out more about The Haunted Island, as well as its successor, Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard, over on Worm Club’s website, or simply check it out at your favorite online vendors.