There are plenty of “endless running” games out there. And some of them are pretty fun. But how many have psychedelic monsters, clobbering-time gloves, perishing children, and a truly ripping soundtrack by one of the raddest bands ever? Escape from Age of Monsters has all that, not to mention inside jokes ranging from Fat Albert to Michael Jackson to Tiger Mom. I had to ask Mayuko Okai, my friend and guitarist for The Binges, and Michael Su, CEO and co-founder of Massive Joe Studios, how the new iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad game went from finger-tapping addictive to head-banging awesome.
MW: Michael, how did you decide to get a real rock band like The Binges involved in Escape from Age of Monsters instead of a circus-like 8-bit soundtrack?
MS: We knew from the get-go that this had to have a metal soundtrack. Given our indie nature, we thought it’d be cool to find an up-and-coming band to work with rather than just getting a game composer. Our CTO had been to a Binges show in the past and suggested them. We went on YouTube, saw how they killed it on stage, and we knew we wanted to work with them. Boy, did we luck out!
MW: Mayuko, are you into video games? Can you think of any with rocking soundtracks? I think there was an Aerosmith game…
MO: I actually never owned video games when I was growing up, so I don’t know much about games. But I like speedy and adventures ones.
MW: The disclaimer about needing to wear headphones is a good one. Doesn’t it help to gently head-bang while playing?
MS: To experience full eargasm, one must use headphones. iPhone speakers are not enough to convey the full awesomeness of The Binges.
MW: What was The Binges’ role in the game development? Did you simply supply tracks or was there more to it than that?
MO: There was more to it than that. We exchanged ideas and inspired each other! It has been great experience with awesome to team from Massive Joe Studios!
MW: Mayuko, was “Boost” a song you had laying around? A one-off for the band before moving on?
MO: It is super brand new!
MW: For me, the rocking soundtrack made connections between the artwork and stuff like Ralph Bashki’s Wizards or the animated version of Heavy Metal magazine. Michael, are you or your crew into that sort of thing at all?
MS: Good call! There’s definitely a bit of Wizards in the angry feathered monster that rides by. We try to throw in all sorts of pop culture references and random obscure references that only we and maybe our high school buddies would get. My partner Jeff Matsuda came up through the comic book world and obsessively consumes other animation and art, and I think that shows in his own art.
MW: I also thought it was cool how you sort of broke the third wall by having Mayuko and her sister Tsuzumi show up with their axes. What was your thinking behind that?
MS: Man, we had always been talking about trying to add some more personality and push the weird/fun factor. Once we met Mayuko and Tsuzumi, we were like, “We gotta find some way to incorporate them more into the game!” I mean, we were sitting there listening to these two 5-foot tall girls tear it up on their guitars, and to hear their backstory about how they came to the U.S. just to rock and roll… You can’t help but want to bottle up some of that awesomeness in the game.
MW: Mayuko, how far have you gotten in Escape from Age of Monsters?
MO: Building 9!
MW: Since The Binges called it a day, you and Tsuzumi have been playing with Jordan Cook, Early Man… Any other special projects?
MO: Those have great experiences and good times playing music with good friends while we seek out new singers and drummers. We love playing so much! Maybe there will be more side projects, but I’d love to get our next band ready and focus on our own music!
MW: Michael, your old blog had an interesting piece on Hotel Quarantine in China after being exposed to SARS… Did that experience fuel any ideas for games about monsters, contagion, etc.?
MS: That was a dark period in my life. Next question?
Download the brand-new, kick-ass game for the iPhone and iPad, and check out The Binges rad new song, too.