Individual Student Project - Twin-stick Shooter Adventure


This project is a small experiment in Game and Level Design, meant to showcase a few common concepts in a whitebox format.

The Level Design uses some common tropes such as:

  • foreshadowing vistas through elevation,
  • conceptual "rhythm" in layout,
  • building player understanding of boss behaviors by introducing elements separately beforehand,
  • and a basic example of the famous Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu design structure.

The Game Design is based on the Twin-stick Shooter Boss Battle project, but adds some smaller enemies, some environmental obstacles, as well as a simple upgrade tree with trade-off-based upgrades inspired by games like Ori and the Will of the Wisps.

First Area - Ki

This area introduces the concept of destructible blocks. The Upgrade Token in the passage on the right is hidden behind two sets of rocks which can easily be bypassed simply by shooting at them.

These rocks have been colored green for clarity, since this is a whitebox.

This area also introduces the first enemy tank, which fires volleys of yellow shots, just like the final boss' first attack.

Foreshadowing Through Elevation

During the passage between the first and second areas of the level, a background drop in elevation enables foreshadowing of the entrance to the final boss.

This is a Classic Level Design technique, bringing depth to the scene as well as creating anticipation and a sense of goal and purpose for the player.

Second Area - Sho

This second area escalates and builds on the concept of the destructible blocks. Now some of the destructible blocks cannot be damaged from the front! An alternative solution must be found.

Not to worry, the token on the right can be reached by simply going around the back, and then the path can be opened by shooting the destructible block from the other side.

This is a common Level Design technique in MetroidVania style games, such as the previously mentioned Ori and the Will of the Wisps. This is of course a very simplified example but the principle is the same.

Finally the way forward can be opened by shooting the blocking block from the ledge to the north, which also generously has another upgrade token.

This area introduces a second enemy: Cluster Tanks. They shoot red Cluster Bombs, just like the final boss' second attack.

Third Area - Ten

Now there's a twist. The way forward, to the north, is again blocked by a destructible block that can't be damaged from the front, and again there's a ledge on the side from which the player can shoot at the vulnerable bits, BUT...

This time there's an invulnerable enemy among the rocks that shoots a constant, high-damage beam across the passage which almost instantly kills the player. So the ledge can't be reached! What to do??

The only option is to keep exploring, and to the right there's a passage into a cave system... Where could this lead?

This area also introduces a third enemy - the EMP Tank. A blue, four-legged tank which shoots homing EMP bombs, which is also the final boss' third attack.

Detour Through Caves - Upgrade!

The cave passage leads to a dark chamber where a sliver of sunlight highlights a shimmering object. This turns out to be a Shield Upgrade, which enables the player to use the Shield mechanic (and Charge Shot).

Using the Shield, the player can now easily pass through the previously lethal beam in the third area without taking terrible damage, reach the ledge from which to shoot the destructible blocks, and continue to the final area of the level.

Final Area - Ketsu

After the Ki, Sho and Ten, and after acquiring the Shield Upgrade, the player finally reaches the conclusion - the Ketsu. The destructible blocks are arranged in sort of a puzzle, where the blocks need to be destroyed in a certain order for the player to be able to progress.

It's not actually that much of a puzzle, there's no way to really fail here, but it's a satisfying conclusion to the level, allowing the player to blast through a bunch of destructible blocks and feel smart for crushing a challenge that might look tricky but turns out to be a breeze.

The Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu structure is complete!

If you've read this far, you might have noticed that when you combine all of the enemy tanks introduced during the level, the player has been introduced to all of the attacks that the final boss has. With that and the Shield Upgrade, the player has now acquired the implicit knowledge to confidently tackle the Boss Battle.

Lvl. 3 - Double Fire

Fire 2 shots at the same time

Artillery Lvl.2

Artillery Lvl.1

Increase damage dealt


Fired shots move slower

Assault Lvl.2

Assault Lvl.1

Increased rate of fire


Fired shots deal less damage

Lvl. 3 - Double Healing

Health packs heal twice as much

Tank Lvl.2

Tank Lvl.1

Enemies deal less damage


Player movement is slower

Scout Lvl.2

Scout Lvl.1

Player movement is faster


Enemies deal more damage

But what about the tokens?

At any time, the player can spend upgrade tokens in a simple upgrade tree consisting of four branches, split into two categories.

In each of the two categories, only one of the two branches can be chosen, and in these pairs of branches each branch is a corresponding opposite of the other.

Each upgrade is a trade-off, but the net effect is always a buff.

After unlocking two levels in a branch, a Level 3 upgrade becomes available, which is a huge buff. For each of the two categories, the Level 3 upgrade is the same regardless of which branch was chosen.

Level 1 and 2 upgrades cost 1 token, Level 3 upgrades cost 2 tokens. During the course of the "adventure", the player will acquire 6 tokens, so two branches can be upgraded to Level 2 but the player will only afford one Level 3 upgrade.