Fearmonium – A Metroidvania in which you play as a phobia

Fearmonium is an action-platformer dealing with neurosis. Its dev Slava Gris, who has a Masters in Psychology, reveals how he made the game.

My name is Slava and on May 20, I released my third project, Fearmonium, which takes the player into the mind of a teenager named Max. There, among the images in which his memories and emotions are stored, the player will take on the role of a phobia. In doing so, they will try to develop what is an unpleasant memory into a real neurosis.

I firmly believe that games can say more than “press A to jump,” and that their plots can be coherent and thoughtful stories, instead of the primitive “Save the princess or kill the vampire.”

As a game designer, I have the means in my hands with which I can convey knowledge and deep emotions to players. I feel it’s very irresponsible to dispose of my power over the feelings of the players without using all those tools that will help them learn something new or penetrate deeper into the story I have invented.

Fearmonium indie game screenshot

When deciding on what topic I would convey to the player through my game, I was very limited in options. In order to tell something, I needed to have knowledge in the area that I was going to talk about. I am a Master of Psychology and if I have knowledge in psychology and the ability to convey it in a playful way, then, again, it would be extremely irresponsible on my part not to take advantage of this.

Fearmonium screenshot

Why, then, was a neurosis as rare as coulrophobia chosen as the theme around which Fearmonium’s narrative would be built? This is because the object of the phobia is not as important as it seems. I could take any of the phobias and it would only affect the opening scenes, and the images of the main characters. Each phobia gains a suffocating force in the human mind under the influence of the same factors: stress, depression, etc., and the psyche tries to protect itself from any neurosis in a similar way, depending on the nature of the patient.

Fearmonium logo

For example, one of the forms of protection that Max’s psyche shows is fantasizing – a departure from his monstrous reality into a fictional world, where all his desires are satisfied, where brave knights protect Max, and where Max himself can imagine himself to be the king of a fictional country.

Fearmonium screenshot

When I was searching for a visual style for Fearmonium and sorting through the options, a well-known and amazingly beautiful platformer, made in the style of Disney movies of the ’30s to ’60s, fell into my hands. The SNES game Pinocchio, with its perfect animations, its variety of gameplay mechanics, and its general atmosphere, all made a very strong impression on me while I was playing it.

Pinocchio screenshot
Pinocchio (SNES, 1996)

Despite having decided on both the idea and the visual style, I was not able to produce any pleasant-looking result for the first six months of development. My previous game Catmaze, had been drawn with pixels. However, I never had a desire to be stuck in a cage of my own skills. When an idea appears for which I need a skill in order to express, I will begin to acquire this skill.

Frame-by-frame animation was, on the one hand, the biggest difficulty I encountered in the development process. At the same time, on the other hand, it was also the most enjoyable and meditative process in it. The main character in the game has about 650 animation frames; the 62 monsters in the game have about two thousand; and the game’s 12 bosses have more than two thousand animation frames.

When I immerse myself for long hours in one activity, I start to feel exhaustion and fatigue extremely quickly. However, rushing from dialogs to code, from code to drawings, from drawings to game design – I had time to take a break from the previous activity while doing a new one. After all, the best rest is a change of activity.

While creating Fearmonium, I usually worked from seven in the evening until five in the morning. Then I would wake up at one o’clock in the afternoon, try to understand what is going on and where my life is heading, and after that, sit at my PC again, while there is no one online to message, and while I don’t even know where my phone is.

Thanks for the reading! Be sure to check out the game’s Steam page here!

For other games coming out this week, be sure to check out our latest weekly round-up here!

This Article was written by: Harry Cole

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