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[Review+Interview] Stair Dismount by Secret Exit

Posted under Interviews, and Reviews by Staff on Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 -

With tens of thousands of apps and a constant influx of new titles, it would be an understatement to say that Apple’s App Store has become somewhat of a competitive market. Secret Exit, despite making some of the best mobile games around, isn’t immune to the challenges selling an iPhone game today presents. Or, perhaps it was a case of inflated expectations, brought about by a string of critically acclaimed hits, including Spin and Zen Bound.

Whatever the reason, upon releasing Stair Dismount, their latest iPhone game, Secret Exit was confronted with some unexpected criticism. Several early reviews claimed the game had too little content, or that it was more of a toy. Being about a game on the App Store, these opinions strike me as nothing if not ironic, especially considering Stair Dismount’s high quality compared to other iPhone titles.

Wanting to get the official take on it, we interviewed Jani Kahrama of Secret Exit and got some hands-on time with the game in question.

The Interview

GD: Stair Dismount has been out for a couple of weeks now. What’s your opinion of the game’s overall reception?

JK: There are a number of nostalgic fans who have been very pleased with the update since the PC original. There was also a lot of criticism for lack of online leaderboards and only six levels, which I hope we addressed well in the 1.2.0 update.

The game has had a bipolar reception – some enjoy the humor, some find it tasteless. In a way it’s ironic that, Stair Dismount brings up the word “sadistic” more often than, say, Modern Warfare 2. Perhaps pushing a ragdoll down the stairs would be more socially acceptable if the backstory said the ragdoll was a terrorist? :)

Altogether we’re doing great. By the current rate of sales we will have made back the cost of development by the end of 2011.

GD: The game is, as far as design is concerned, somewhat of a departure from your past iPhone releases. Though feature-rich, some might say it’s closer to a toy, lacking the progression and length of the others. Was the design a conscious decision or an attempt to stay true to the original?

JK: Oh boy… we first considered releasing the game as a single set of stairs with no face support and quite a bit rougher visuals back in March. Instead we wanted to do fan service and put in Facebook support, photo emailing, multiple staircases, a menu overhaul and weeks of visual polish and still release it at a cheaper price than Zen Bound.

The takeaway note here is that for every game, there is a magical sweet spot of features vs. expectations, and I guess our first release of Stair Dismount had “deferred success” at hitting it.

GD: Speaking of features, Stair Dismount has some of the most innovative I’ve seen in an iPhone game in a while. Our new obsession with emailing friends pictures of themselves being thrown down flights of stairs is not helping our popularity, however. Tell us a little about the development of these kickass features. Were they borne of a desire to be made social outcasts?

JK: Thank you, and yes!

Dismounting is a social sport, and we wanted to make it as easy as possible to send a friend a token of appreciation without it being annoying spam like most Facebook and Twitter-connected games spit out. Sure many can consider the photos themselves to be annoying, but at least we’re proud that the delivery is elegant!

GD: Are you planning to update Stair Dismount with any additional content?

JK: Yes, but there are only so many types of staircases that are different and interesting. To keep things fresh, there’s more work needed to bring in dynamic and animated elements. In the long haul, if there’s a large enough community to support us, you can be certain that we’ll support the community.

GD: What’s next for Secret Exit? Will you finally be using my awesome idea for a game in which you play as a suicidal polar bear that starts a dry-cleaning business?

Of course not, then we would have to credit you for it. No, we have a game where you play a depressed black bear starting a money-laundering business.

GD: Jani Kahrama, you are a bastard.

JK: Truth be told, our near future is tied to Stair Dismount, making it a better game and trying to get more people aware of it. After the Dismount dust has settled, the focus will be on the new Zen Bound, and after that it’s too soon to say – we may release Cinnamon Beats or start working on a new game.

The Mini-Review

If spending a little too much “quality”  time with friends and relatives this holiday has left you with some sour grapes we have the perfect app for you. Secret Exit, the creative minds behind Zenbound, has recently released Stair Dismount for the iPhone and iTouch ($0.99 right now). A couple of minutes a day with the app will have you feeling better in no time.

The name Stair Dismount pretty much describes what you can expect. You are supplied with one ever-willing crash dummy and a variety of eye-pleasing, yet hazardous varieties of elaborate staircases down which to fling him/her. The controls are simple, yet allow you to refine your dummy’s tumble by adjusting where on his body you push and how hard you do so. The grievous injuries sustained by your dummy are enjoyably detailed after each attempt, and you are able to brag about your best scores via Facebook, Twitter and OpenFeint. You won’t need to look into the statistics deeply to know that your dummy is likely to be DOA. Secret Exit once again deliver quality sound design with wince-inducing whacks and cracks and a soundtrack whose upbeat and cheery atmosphere will soothe your inflamed conscience and sense of empathy.

Throwing a dummy down some stairs is bound to get old after a while. Fortunately, the game is very feature-rich, our favorite being one that allows you to paste the face of a “friend,”  from Facebook or your own private photo collection, onto the head of your dummy. Need a little after-work catharsis? Paste the face of your boss on the dummy and chuck that guy down the stairs. No one needs to know! Our second favorite feature is also the most dangerous. You can snap a shot of the resulting carnage and email or post it on facebook for the entire world to see. Just mind you don’t find yourself unemployed and lonely as a result!

Everyone needs a little Dismount in their lives.

For a free copy of the game check out our hidden logo contest!

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