A Touch of Horror for Game Boy

One game that brought a lot of attention to GBStudio is Deadeus. Adam Birch, better known as -IZMA- created the unique horror game with GBStudio, providing players a glimpse of what pixel art could be capable of when crafted with a masterful touch. -IZMA- answered some questions for me over email, discussing his experience making the game and his insights into what makes a good horror experience.

Title screen for Deadeus
Deadeus’s Title Screen.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am an artist from the UK who has worked in Comics, Games and freelance illustration. I currently work as a contract UI Artist for a UK VR Studio. I only recently made the full jump to independent development after learning GML and Game Maker and I’ve gotten totally addicted and trying my best to learn as much as I can.

You have a lot of art you’ve made on your site. Do you prefer to make games or art?

Haha! I think I go back and forth a lot on this one. My main passion has alway been illustration and my pathway into games came from chasing a career in comics, so that will always be a big part of what I love.

That being said I love the multidisciplinary nature of independent development. I love trying to turn my hand to something new to keep myself from getting bored, haha! When it comes to games, I find it to be a really interesting way to tell stories too. It’s hard to explain, but I found it easier to express myself this way rather than comics or standard illustration.

How did you find out about GBStudio?

My good friend Christian Santori turned me onto it! I think we were in really early after its launch. Me and him had been trying to make Gameboy games in both GameMaker and Unreal and neither were quite clicking for me and it was easy to cheat and push past what a legit GameBoy was capable of.

With GB Studio anything you made could run on the original hardware and that was a huge appeal to us. Initially Christian, myself and another colleague all started a month long game jam to see what we could make with it, and Deadeus came directly out of that! I didn’t have it finished before the end of the jam, but the response online was a complete surprise so I decided to finish it up and release it.

Deadeus screen shot
Screen shot from Deadeus

Where did the idea for Deadeus come from?

It’s actually a very small part of a story that I have been writing forever and not had the confidence to put out! When the jam came around, I wanted to see if I could slice the smallest piece I could off of that story and apply it here and it seemed to be a perfect fit, a good starting step into that world. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but the response that meant the most to me from the game was that people enjoyed the writing/story of the game. It’s definitely made me want to put more work out into the wild for sure.

As for inspirations, there are a lot of really obvious ones in there for sure. Zelda in both Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask and obviously a healthy heap of Lovecraft. Beyond that there’s inspiration from XMen, Watchmen, Stephen King, Pokemon and alot of early internet Creepy Pasta!

What makes a good horror game?

I think this is a difficult question at the best of times! Haha. As I get older, I think I find a more relaxed view on horror in general. You still get some who say they dont like games with jump scares or an overabundance of guns, but I love the whole spectrum of games in the genre.

However, for me now it’s much more the contemplative/quiet moments in games that get me a little more. There are moments in games like Tower of Heaven or Katana: Zero where the action stops for a reflective character moment. The ending of Lisa: The Painful, Arthurs ride in Red Dead Redemption 2, the musical moments in Death Stranding, James Sunderlands “I got a letter” (Silent Hill). These heart punching, quieter emotional moments are starting to really resonate with me a lot more with what games can do than most direct horror and definitely leave a much longer lasting impression on me.

When it comes to favourites explicitly in the horror genre, my number one game of all time is the original Resident Evil. The remake is unquestionably better and definitely the best remake of all time, but there’s a purity in the original that I really love. To me smaller locations that slowly open up over time and gained player knowledge are the best.

Can you tell us about Deadeus’ special edition?

The special edition includes a bunch of extra art and details in the games files including maps, game breakdowns and some clues to the game’s sequel. All this being said there is currently a physical version in the works hopefully due to go out for preorder before the end of November. I’m really excited to get it finished and put it out there!

Deadeus has received a lot of praise, is there anything you hope the players walk away with?

Honestly, that anyone enjoyed it at all means the world to me. I know that’s the most cliche answer ever, but when I was working on it I was so close to it for two months straight, it didn’t really occur to me that a large number of people might see it when it got released, haha! I think I came back home from work on the day it released and there was a playthrough on Youtube already and that blew me away.

Whilst not my first game, it was my first major game that I put out and this game was made with barely any code and one of the most minimal art styles possible. I think if people who enjoyed it could walk away with anything, I would hope it’s that they could try and make something similar! More people making games is definitely a good thing.

What’s next for you? Any plans coming up?

I have all the plans and none of the time, haha! I am currently hard at work on the physical version of the game, and then I had started work on a full 3D PS1 era Horror FPS in quarantine, but I took a month break and C# isn’t my strongest suit so i’m not sure when I will be returning to it! I would like to continue learning Unity and pushing my indie development skills as far as I can though.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

I really appreciate all the interest and support that Deadeus has received! To those of you who have yet to try it but are interested it is out now for free on my Itch.io page and thank you again! 🙂

Screenshot from Deadeus
Screenshot from Deadeus

You can read our spotlight on Deadeus here, and download the game for yourself on Deadeus’ itch.io page. Note that the download comes as a Game Boy ROM, so playing it requires either a Game Boy emulator or a flash cart if you want to play on hardware. Paying $5 USD or more will get you the deluxe version complete with “folder full of concept art, process work and desktop wallpapers as well as a map to help you get around the world AND some sneaky peeks at what is to come in the future of Deadeus”. You can also check out -IZMA-‘s illustration work as his website: https://www.izmaillustration.com/