If you’ve ever dreamed of controlling a brave green pig saving his village from monsters by tossing snot, today’s release of an iOS game called Gesundheit is a dream come true. Four years in the making, the game is the first for Toronto illustrator and animator Matt Hammill, who says his art style was influenced by National Film Board classics like Cat Came Back, Log Driver’s Waltz, and Blackfly. Even for those who hadn’t considered seasonal allergies a boon to solving puzzles, there is much to love about Hammill’s whimsical and playful game.
Hammill describes Gesundheit as “a little Bomberman, a little Metal Gear Solid“; players control an unnamed green pig trying to stealthily avoid being eaten by monsters while attempting to lure them into traps. You touch the screen to move the green pig and a slingshot motion fires mucous balls—an alluring snack for the monsters and, thus, the perfect bait. By landing balls of mucous near the monsters, you draw them Hansel and Gretel–style to their doom.
The odd concept stems from an endearing source as an homage to Hammill’s girlfriend, who during the design of the game was suffering from bad allergies. “At first, the idea was that you’d lead monsters around with food, but my girlfriend was sneezing all the time. And I had a sprite of her as a placeholder graphic, so I thought I’d make it sneeze, and then the sneezing kind of stuck,” he explains. “And we’re still together!”
Toronto illustrator and animator Matt Hammill was the brain behind the new iOS game Gesundheit. Photo courtesy of Matt Hammill.
The game began as a hobby project while Hammill was a student at Sheridan College. Hammill says he’s always had an interest in games, since the days of the Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, and Commodore 64, and as a child he made his own trading cards for the bosses of famed side-scroller Mega Man. He knew he wanted to make games when he found Adventure Game Studio, a programming tool that let people build point-and-click graphic adventure titles like Myst and Secret of Monkey Island. While Hammill didn’t end up making a point-and-click game, his interest was piqued and he set off to make a spatial puzzle game that would become Gesundheit.
The project, originally conceived as a computer game, drew notice from the get-go for its artwork, first shown in a student showcase at the Independent Games Festival. In 2010, a version of the game was built into an arcade cabinet (similar to the Torontron machines) for a video-game event held by the Hand Eye Society during Nuit Blanche. Although a demo for the PC was created, Australian studio Revolutionary Concepts approached Hammill to bring Gesundheit to iOS devices instead, and soon after games giant Konami, which has released seminal titles such as Contra and Silent Hill, came on board to publish the game. “To have it come from a little hobby project to something that was picked by Konami is pretty exciting,” beams Hammill.
In terms of expectations for the game’s success, Hammill says he’s trying not to think too much about it. Still, he adds: “I hope people respond to it. When you’re making indie games, it’s always in your little basement or wherever, so to see people play your game is pretty neat.” In the meantime, he’s working on his follow-up title, again with Revolutionary Concepts. No word if green pigs or snot-loving monsters are involved.