Created by Edmund McMillen and James Interactive, Bum-bo is a puzzle-based, deck-building, rogue-lite game where players collect items to modify, upgrade, or combine. They can play as one of many Bum-bos, each with unique abilities, to smash their way through cardboard monstrosities, oversized bosses, and dark, personal urges (of course).
The Beat caught up with McMillen and James Interactive via e-mail to talk about The Legend of Bum-bo, which is currently available for PC on Steam.
Samantha Puc: What made you want to create a prequel to The Binding of Isaac?
Edmund McMillen: I didn’t want to at first but at the time of its conception someone I was working with half dared me to do it in a facetious way. It was like “why not just slap an Isaac IP on whatever it is you are working on and make it an instant success?” I honestly hadn’t thought about it until then and once I did the ideas just started flowing. It felt like the perfect way to add some context to the Isaac story and depth to the world.
Puc: Can you talk about the aesthetic of Legend of Bum-bo and how you decided on the visual language for the game?
James Interactive: The aesthetic comes from both Edmund and my childhood. We both have a strong relationship with making art out of trash, specifically cardboard boxes, half-used permanent markers and scrap paper. When we started talking about what we could do with Bum-bo, we gravitated towards that time of our lives. It felt honest to make the game with those types of things.
Puc: Can you describe what your creative process has looked like for Bum-bo?
McMillen: It was a different dev cycle for me. I had a ton of designs on paper that required lots of different mechanics that needed to be built and connected to even start testing if my ideas were correct/fun. So we went through three years of loads of work just crossing our fingers that the design would make sense.
I’d never made a puzzle game before, or even attempted something, dare I say, casual. So it was learning as I went, going with what I knew and incorporating the Isaac feel as much as possible from start to finish.
Puc: What’s the appeal of this gaming style for you, and what do you think is the appeal for players generally?
McMillen: Honestly I always watch my wife and others play casual, Facebook-type match games and never fully understood their appeal. It’s that lack of understanding that got me interested in exploring that genre. It felt untapped in so many ways and got such a bad rap with “gamers” it felt like a real challenge to take on.
I think Bum-bo will appeal to people because it shares some appealing aspects of other casual games, but it’s not casual. It’s simple to start and hard to master; it’s a fun math game that gives the player the ability to go 10 steps ahead if they want, or go wild and simple and still have a lot of fun.
Puc: What five words would you use to pitch this game to someone who’s unfamiliar with the world?
McMillen: Poop filled endless puzzle game?
James Interactive: Dungeon Master by way of Buck Flower.
McMillen: It stands out because it’s a match 4 puzzle game that uses poop, pee, boogers and bones as a vehicle to tell a story about child neglect… but it’s fun! I mean, it’s honestly super fun, I swear.
Puc: From where do you draw your inspiration?
McMillen: My childhood mostly, definitely with Bum-bo for sure.
James Interactive: I really like things that exist between what we know as good “art” or “craft” and stuff that’s incomprehensible garbage. I think things are most interesting in the place between.
Puc: What’s your favorite thing about creating games?
McMillen: The freedom to do whatever the hell I want and get paid for it.
James Interactive: I like that we are essentially making empathy boxes from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. In our case, it’s literally in a box!
Puc: What media are you super into right now that our readers should check out?
McMillen: Been playing a lot of D&D these days with family and friends. I DM so it’s kinda like work without the added pressure of getting reviewed publicly. I also draft MTG on the weekends, their latest set is great.
Music wise I’ve been listening to Fucked Up a lot lately, they have become my favorite band as of late.
James Interactive: I’ve been listening to a lot of Suicide and playing homebrew games for the C64 like Organism or Space Moguls. I also just bought Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game for Sega Saturn. If your readers had a choice, I’d highly suggest checking out the C64 games and nothing else I’m into.
Puc: Is there anything else you’d like to add?