Developer Talks Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" Game

Writer Neil Gaiman's dark fairy tale "Coraline" debuted in 2002 and quickly became a modern classic, going on to win the Bram Stoker, Nebula and Hugo awards. The story's popularity has led to its adaptation into other types of media. A graphic novel with art by P. Craig Russell was released last year, and in February, "Coraline" will be brought to the big screen by Henry Selick, the director of "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas." The film will be the first ever stop-motion animated movie to be filmed in 3-D, and features the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane and Keith David, among others.

This month, "Coraline" will make the jump into yet another form of media, as D3Publisher is releasing the "Coraline" video game, developed by Papaya Studio for the Playstation 2, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS.

CBR News recently spoke with Jonathon Han, Producer at Papaya Studio, about bringing Gaiman and Selick's creations to fans' game consoles.

CBR: The "Coraline" game is based on the upcoming film. What can you tell us about the story?

Jonathon Han: Similar to the "Coraline" feature movie, the story follows a girl by the name of Coraline, an adventurer at heart with an unending thirst for exploration. In the beginning, we learned that Coraline had recently moved to Oregon with her extremely busy parents to a place called the Pink Palace. There she meets her "unique" neighbors, a blue Russian acrobat by the name of Mr. Bobinski, and two theater actresses named Ms. Spink and Ms. Forcible, among a few others.

One day, while exploring her new home, she came across a little door, covered by wallpaper, in the living room. At first, when she opened the door, it leads to nowhere. Still, that didn't stop her curiosity. It wasn't until she was lead there by a mysterious mouse one night that she found a hidden pathway to the "other" world. In this "other" world, it was an exact copy of her normal world except that everything is more fun, beautiful, and whimsical in nature, including her parents and neighbors, who all have buttons for eyes.

Still, not all is as it seems. Through the course of the story, Coraline discovers her Other Mother's true nature and she tries to escape. Unfortunately, by the time she realizes what the Other Mother wanted to do, it was already too late. The Other Mother has already taken her real Mother and Father and the only way for Coraline to get them back is to face off against the Other Mother and her minions.

How she will come out? Well, you will have to play the game to find out.

Does the game incorporate material from Gaiman's original story that didn't make it into the film?

The movie itself has incorporated most, if not all of the original storyline from the book. We've incorporated as much of the storyline as possible from the movie and built on top of that for added depth to the storyline and the world itself. When players play the game, they will find added details and features that will expand the Coraline world further from the movie.

What makes developer Papaya a good fit for developing the Coraline game?

Papaya Studio has an extensive background in the gaming industry and we employ many experienced designers, artists, and programmers that have personal experience as gamers. I believe that our experiences and our previously released projects, such as "Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey," "George of the Jungle: The Search for the Secret" and other kid-oriented titles have given us a very strong foundation in understanding how to create a game that kids will enjoy playing over and over. Also, because we are all gamers, we've also created a game that will not only provide kids with hours of fun but also provide adult gamers with a game that is truly immersive.

Everyone at Papaya Studio is very proud of this game and we truly wanted to create a game that is true to the "Coraline" license and to give players a game that represents the highest level of quality and entertainment.

With "Coraline" being a licensed property, how much freedom did you have during the development process?

We had a wide range of liberty when developing the game. Because we worked so closely with our publisher and licensor during development, we gained an extensive understanding of the universe, which allowed us to create fun and whimsical gameplay that would fit perfectly within the Coraline universe. Also, since Coraline itself is a unique and fantastic world on its own, it was easy (and extremely fun) to create the Coraline game.

Was Papaya given access to the film assets while developing the "Coraline" game?

Universal, Focus Feature, and Laika were excellent in allowing us access to various materials from the movie to create our game. From the start of the project, we were granted access to concept sketches, character models, and even the actual movie sets to inspire us and to help develop our ideas. It was due to that unlimited access that we were able to capture the look and feel of the movie on the console.

How would you describe the general gameplay of "Coraline?"

Since Coraline is an explorer by heart, we wanted to incorporate an adventure/exploration style of gameplay that would allow players to explore every "nook and cranny" of each location of the mysterious world of "Coraline." We've also incorporated various puzzles and platforming elements to provide more experienced players a challenge on their adventure.

Will the gameplay be different in Coraline's world as opposed to the "other world?"

Since each world is unique in nature, we've created gameplay that takes advantage of each world's uniqueness, giving the player a different experience each time they explore each world.

We've heard that "Coraline" will have mini-games as well. Will they be separate from the main game, or incorporated within it?

"Coraline" will have both types of mini-games. One type will be story driven mini-games that the player must complete in order to advance through the game. We've also added many mini-games to complement the main gameplay where explorers are rewarded with fun and whimsical re-playable mini-games. Players will also earn additional buttons that they can use to purchase unlockable contents such as costumes, concept sketches, and in-game movies.

What are some of the specific locations that players will be able to explore in "Coraline?"

Players will have access to familiar 3-D environments from the movie such as the Pink Palace, Mr. Bobinski's loft apartment, Ms. Spink and Ms. Forcible's flat, as well as the whimsical and fantastic "other" versions in the Other World. Players will also get to explore a couple of other locations that were not seen in the movie such as the barn and tennis courts.

Will characters other than Coraline be playable in the game?

The "Coraline" storyline is about Coraline's adventure from her perspective, so players will journey through the game as Coraline and will have many opportunities to interact with various unique characters such as the Cat, Wybie, Mr. Bobinski, and many more.

Can we expect the Nintendo versions of the game to feature motion and stylus controls?

We definitely recognized the capabilities of the Wii Remote from the start and have taken full advantage of those capabilities to bring a fully interactive gameplay experience to the player when they explore, solve puzzles and play the various mini-games within the world.

Coraline" is currently slated to hit store shelves on January 27, 2009. For more information on the game, head over to www.d3publisher.us.

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