Kombinera Case Study2022-04-13T22:02:48+00:00

Formidable puzzles. Precise navigation. Balls. Simultaneous control. A fallen king…

It’s up to you to combine every ball and complete each perilous level. Can you solve them all? Can you save King Kombine from the Kave of Kaos? Check out this new release from Graphite Lab, Joystick Games and Atari!

Control multiple colored balls simultaneously in this brain-bending puzzle platformer. Out now!

“On the edge of our universe…”

There exists a world the 3rd dimension has yet to reach. Here, in the Kingdom of Kombinera, there have been whispers of mutinous revolt over the powers that be. Ruling over this *normally* peaceful and round people is King Kombine, wielder of infinite power from his infinite sides.

Key Features

  • Progress through 300 increasingly complex puzzles.
  • Encounter new hazards and abilities.
  • Master previous levels to achieve best times.
  • Grab collectibles to unlock new levels.
  • Vibrant neon visual style accompanied by electronic audio tracks.
  • In-depth, complex, and heart-tugging emotional storyline.
  • Accessible controls.

Early Decisions

Kombinera began as a submission through Brackeys Game Jam. Two designers (working under the moniker Joystick Games) developed a working prototype of a game about merging balls together while controlling them all at once. The theme of the game jam was “stronger together” so the mechanics of that first prototype fit quite well.

One member of the Joystick Duo was also part of our team at Graphite Lab. Over time the decision was made to collaborate and bring the game to market with the help of legendary gamemaker Atari. Our early days of production were spent on developing the evolved look and feel of the game. While the early prototype displayed the mechanics quite well, it lacked all of the visual flair you now see in the released product.

We built out the grid design, the color schemes, the juicy animations and also the fun visual effects that accompany the many deaths players experience. Another element that was important to get right was the sound and music design. The initial prototype had some simple sounds and a single track; the final release would benefit from a much more robust sound and music pass.

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Early concepts

Our first mockups were rough, but effective in communicating our vision

Initial concepts for the game captured the minimal style quite well – yet lacked many of the visual flourishes added during development such as the grid treatments, foliage, and character animations.

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Early concepts

Early levels inspired hundreds of designs that followed

Some puzzle designs would be so iconic that they would see a similar treatment presented in the final version. This design would appear in the final release (with some refinement of course!)

“A fierce jealousy broods”

Building the World

As our plans for the visual design evolved and gained traction, we began work simultaneously to develop a large collection of levels. With this, we needed to ensure that the 300+ levels we had planned would each feel visually full, unique, and entertaining to navigate. This lead to plans for additional visual elements in each “world” such as stalagmites, hanging vines, mushrooms, and other foliage. Small flickers of colorful particles add to the landscape and keep each stage from feeling too sterile or dull.

Beyond the set design, we knew that our team could inject a lot of “juice” into a game like this one. This means that each jump, death, victory and combination should carry some squash and stretch along with it. Our animators and artists lead with this intention and the result is a game that feels very alive, despite the minimalist tone of the game.

Scalable Level Design

Our first draft of the game focused on some simple concepts. Color would connect balls to obstacles, and merging balls would combine the abilities of those colors making more complex puzzles and solutions possible.

Our designers invested every ounce of creative energy into building out over 300 unique puzzles that will keep players entertained for hours and hours. Among them are various obstacle types, as well as additional features of the balls themselves such as the ability to invert gravity. These mechanics scale wonderfully across 8 chapters of the game – each one challenging the player in new and innovative ways.

Minimalism remained, but new life was breathed into the experience.

Initial PrototypeRelease

As the game developed, so did the need for more complex mechanics and levels.

“A treacherous plan unfolds”

Crafting the Characters

While our concept for the game was a minimalist style, we wanted to ensure there was life under the surface. We explored several ways to accomplish this, and at one point even added eyes and facial features to the balls themselves. In the end, we found that some clever iconography would help tell the story in the best way. We implemented different linguistic symbols such as exclamation points, hearts and other similar icons to add personality to the game.

Story Arc

There exists a world the 3rd dimension has yet to reach. Here, in the Kingdom of Kombinera, there have been whispers of mutinous revolt over the powers that be. Ruling over this *normally* peaceful and round people is King Kombine, wielder of infinite power from his infinite sides. The people of the Kingdom of Kombinera gathered together on eve of their yearly celebration of King Kombine, jealous of their king’s power and smooth edges, and devised the most heinous of plans. The celebration of the king was one of wonders, and would be talked about in the Kombinera histories for eons to come… but not for its bodacious party qualities. Late in the night, as the king lay to rest from such an epic event, his people silently made their way into the king’s room and each grabbed a side of the king’s infinite edges and pulled. As each pulled the infinite sides in infinite directions, King Kombine felt himself split into an infinite amount of himself. In a move to rid themselves of the king forever, they cast his many parts into the Kave of Kaos, where only the most powerful can survive.

Bringing simple circles to life required some creative design

Animated cutscenes tell the story of a fallen king with clever iconography and motion

“If you’re a fan of simple yet stunning visuals and popping colors coupled with a highly addictive puzzle game Kombinera is precisely for you”

-Pure Nintendo Magazine

A Worldwide Release

From day one, we knew that our success would depend on a variety of partners all working together to reach a common goal. Our approach with each project is to identify those partners early on so we can grow the game with the right parties involved. Kombinera is no exception. We identified a desire to release on all modern platforms including mobile and the recently released Atari VCS.

Developing in Unity afforded our team the ability to reach all of these platforms in record time.

Localization and Distribution

Our team is engaged on a daily basis to support the game and iterate to provide the most satisfying experience for our players. This benchmark appears through attainment of great retention, strong player feedback and excellent review scores. We also supported the localization of the game to 8 languages on launch including French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and for the first time in our history, Japanese and Korean.

Over 300+ levels have been meticulously crafted

Soothing electronic beats accompany your epic quest for escape

Thanks for playing!

Kombinera Title Screen


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