Pretty Pixels: Bullet-Hell Platformer 'Savant' Looks Great, Courtesy of 'Owlboy' Devs

by Joseph Leray

Real talk: my idea of a good time is getting day drunk on a beach. D-Pad Studios, however, use their vacation time like productive members of society: when the team decided they needed a break from developing the much-ballyhooed "Owlboy," they spent their free time developing "Savant" instead of getting gross airbrush t-shirts at an Alvin's Island in Panama City Beach.

As D-Pad art director Simon Stafsnes Andersen explains on his blog, "Savant" got started over the course of several collaborations between him and Norwegian DJ Aleksander Vinter. Stafsnes designed some album art for Vinter (who's stage name is, appropriately, "Savant"), and Vinter wrote the music for various D-Pad projects. Eventually, the two decided to make a quick game for Savant's latest album, called Cult.

The result is "Savant," a kind of bullet hell platformer: set in a Gothic steampunk elevator shaft, the eponymous Savant can jump or roll between platforms while fending off waves of bats, dragons, ghosts, and other mechanized creatures of the night. "Savant" looks totally different from the comparatively cheery "Owlboy," but both games share D-Pad's knack for creating fluid and expressive pixel art.

The limited range of motion actually reminds me a bit of Tim Rogers' "ZiGGURAT," perhaps my favorite iOS game of 2012. Keeping the playable space tight and constrained ramps up the tension and allows developers to really focus on enemy placement, which seems perfect for this kind of game. It doesn't hurt that Rogers really nailed the controls for a touch-screen shooter, so here's hoping D-Pad take similar care with theirs.

"Savant" will be a free-to-play game for Android, iOS, and PC available on July 30.

As for "Owlboy," D-Pad have gone more-or-less silent since they released a playable demo back in 2011 (which I really liked!), though they promise some news in the weeks to come.

[D-Pad Studios]

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Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter