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Chess Deconstructed: Inside The Saul Bass Tribute-Turned-Video Game

NotDoba is an addictive little game that looks and sounds like a Saul Bass credit sequence come to life.

The legendary Saul Bass was one of the most influential graphic designers of the 20th century, lending his unique unique vision to everything from corporate logos to motion picture title sequences. About the only thing the man didn’t design during his career was video game. Now, thanks to NotDoba, you can now get an idea of what that would be like: it’s a fun, frantic indie game that plays like a Saul Bass title sequence brought to life.

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According to designer Adam Curtis, the initial inspiration for NotDoba’s look and feel was the opening credits to Stephen Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, which was, in itself, a pastiche of Bass’s title sequences. After learning more about his work, Curtis decided to base his game’s audio-visual look and feel upon some of Bass’s best Hollywood design work.

“The characters themselves are an amalgamation of the Anatomy of a Murder and Man With The Golden Arm poster designs, and the menus and fonts are derivative of the broken geometrical aesthetic he’s well known for across his works,” Curtis says.

Featuring a peppy jazz score, NotDoba plays something like a cross between Spy vs. Spy, Dance Dance Revolution, and Street Fighter. It’s a two-player game, in which a pair of colorful, cubist agents rush down a hallway towards one another, racing to claim a briefcase. Each match plays out over the course of a few seconds, moving to the blares of trumpets in a rapid fire Bass-ian montage, according to the keys you press. Each frame, you can run forward, fire a pistol, or slide; like in “Rock Paper Scissors,” all three actions are weak to a specific countermove. You win when you reach the briefcase, or kill the opposing player.

If that doesn’t make sense, it’s okay: it only takes a few seconds of playing the game to get it. Tongue firmly in cheek, NotDoba Curtis describes the game as a “near-literal deconstruction with chess. Only with rectangles. And guns.” More seriously, he says the gameplay was inspired by the game industry’s increased interest in couch co-op gaming. “With titles such as Nidhogg and Samurai Gunn setting the foundations for pacing, I had a confident sense in what I wanted to start,” he says.

But while NotDoba‘s gameplay is undeniably addictive, it’s the aesthetic which really helps inspire the game. If you want to try NotDoba, you can download it for PC or Mac for just $3.49. As for the game’s weird name, don’t worry about it: it’s supposed to be nonsensical.

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