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From classroom to boardroom: Young game developers impress with Shadow Bug

Shadow Bug game, developed by Finnish university students, is praised for its scenery of dark and mysterious silhouettes as well as its beautiful, oriental-style music.Muro Studios

Most students hope their work impresses their teachers. Three students at Aalto University impressed Apple Corporation.

“Apple featured us on the App Store’s Best New Games section,” says Juha Ylimäki. “That was awesome.”

The artist Ylimäki is one-third of a team of students who built a mobile game as their Master’s thesis. The others are programmer Kim Valori and sound man Veli Laamanen. The result is Shadow Bug, an action platformer where the player controls a ninja bug protecting his forest from monsters produced by an evil factory.

The game is praised for its scenery of dark and mysterious silhouettes as well as its beautiful, oriental-style music. But what has attracted the most attention is how the game is played.

“Shadow Bug has unique game-playing mechanics,” Ylimäki explains. “It is a platform game without a jump button. It’s perfect for mobile screens.”

It can be played with just a single finger. You touch the left or right part of the screen to make the ninja bug walk in that direction. A tap on an enemy makes the bug leap and attack. This jump-attack is the way to cross barriers or get to new platforms.

Bro Fist

While most of their time has been taken up by work on Shadow Bug, they did make a brief detour to complete another game, Bro Fist Simulator.

“How to explain Bro Fist Simulator?” Ylimäki laughs. “The idea came from somewhere.”

Bro Fist Simulator is exactly what it sounds like: a simulation of two arms making hand signs and fist-bumping. If you don’t close your fist before the bump, you lose your fingers. It’s goofy, but humorous and compelling. The game even attracted the attention of Youtuber PewDiePie, who has over 45 million subscribers.

“It was great fun,” Ylimäki says. “We just wanted a funny game and only had 48 hours to complete it during the Global Game Jam event. The PC version got a lot of attention on the gaming platform Steam so we also released it on Apple’s iOS.”

Cereal face?

The trio began working on Shadow Bug in November 2014 and founded their company Muro Studios in April 2015. One of the monsters in the game is also called “Muro.”

“In Finnish muro means ‘cereal’,” Ylimäki explains. “We were joking that the monster had a face which looked like a piece of cereal.”

Muro Studios has yet to approach venture capitalists. Their main funding so far has been through the Finnish Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture, known as Avek. But if Shadow Bug continues to gain attention VCs will soon be eager to talk to these talented students.

“People tend to like the game. It is critically acclaimed and has been featured at many events,” Ylimäki concludes. “Shadow Bug is easy to get into but has a steep difficulty curve. We have some new levels coming with the next update that are ridiculously hard.”

By: David J. Cord