Steven and Kathleen Cassidy needed to make something that would stand out in a competitive industry.
Their independent video game company, Queen Bee Games, is based in Charlottetown and was founded in 2013.
They already had experience in making games, but for this one, they reached out to an old friend, Jesse Jacobs, a cartoonist with a style best described as psychedelic.
"We knew that his art style would be perfect for a game," Kathleen said.
Together they crafted the world of Spinch, a hyper-agile organism who must dash, dodge and jump through a vibrant ecosystem of sentient colours — because they've kidnapped its children.
"Colours have come to life," Steven said.
"And they're not necessarily friendly."
The game takes Spinch from frozen icelands to outer space, facing off against foes such as neon spiders and rainbow worms.
After about three years of development and some help from the Canada Media Fund, players will be able to join Spinch's colourful quest on their computer or the Nintendo Switch on Sept. 3.
Releasing the game on Nintendo's latest gaming system was a personal goal for the Cassidys.
It was made possible by partnering with Akupara Games, a U.S. studio that's helping to publish it.
"It's super exciting," Kathleen said.
"Because we've never made a Nintendo game before."
"Lifelong dream achieved," Steven said.
They both grew up playing Nintendo's classics.
Steven, who took the lead on game programming, said that making a video game wasn't something he would have thought possible when he was a kid, but now it's easier for people like he and Kathleen to do on their own.
Similarly to Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. — which was a big inspiration for Spinch — their game is a retro 2D side-scroller that's geared toward being a visual treat and doesn't take long to beat.
But its 30 levels are intensive, designed to make players want to play again and again — to perfect each one, score a record time and find all the secrets, Steven said.
"It was just a lot of work to put these levels together and have them function properly," he said.
"We took the hard road just to deliver the experience we wanted."
Kathleen, who focused more on the production side, said it was sometimes challenging communicating with their five-person team as the others all live off-province.
But this ended up being a plus when COVID-19 struck just a few months before announcing the release date.
"It's all done digitally anyways," she said.
"So it really hasn't affected production."
While there were still many deadlines to meet, they had already completed most of their tasks before the pandemic.
And since most of this year's gaming conventions are being held virtually, they've been able to promote Spinch more without the costs of attending in person, she said.
The Cassidys are grateful to see Spinch receiving attention and standing out.
And thanks to it being ported onto the Nintendo Switch, they can't wait for people from around the world to immerse themselves into its gameplay and graphics, Kathleen said.
"The overall atmosphere of the world we've created is delightful," Steven said.
Watch Spinch in action in gameplay video:
AT A GLANCE:
It turns out Spinch isn't the only parent who's been looking after their kids while racing toward a finish line - Steven and Kathleen Cassidy welcomed their third child, Casey, into the real world this past spring.
While developing a video game and taking care of a newborn at the same time is no small feat, Kathleen said it didn't pose too much of a challenge for them.
"But really the baby would have been a challenge anyways," she laughed.
Daniel Brown is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.