Attack the Light: How Licensed Mobile Games Don’t Have to Suck

Over the past few months I’ve fallen hard into being a fan of the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe. In spite of its target audience it has enough goofy humour, positive lifestyle messages and emotionally fleshed out characters to have given it a sizeable adult fanbase (Even T-Pain watches it!).

But would I blindly buy a £2 mobile game based on my favourite show? Heck no. However, surprisingly, Attack the Light has against all odds emerged as an objectively great game, garnering strong reviews even from non-viewers of the show. From this success, I’m going to try to identify some key rules for how to make a licensed mobile game that doesn’t suck!

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Involve the creators

Show creator Rebecca Sugar and supervising director Ian Jones-Quartey got themselves heavily involved in the game, providing detailed notes and guidance for the game’s developers. Rather than coming off as dictatorial ‘rules’, these notes provide a very open insight into some of the deeper thought processes behind the styles and approaches used by the show, together with sharing their own inspirations (Yoshi’s Island!), giving the developers the creative freedom of collaborators.

Treat it as an episode of the show

And speaking of collaboration, Attack the Light never feels like a half-baked side story, or alternative universe. It does a great job at replicating the flow of the show, and letting the players feel an empowered part of the dynamic battles. The only missing piece really is Aivi and Surasshu’s wonderful music, something of a missed opportunity given the amount of inspiration they seem to draw from 90s video games, but I guess you can only expect so much from a cheap little app.

Make a game that would be as fun without the license

Pretty self explanatory, but the game never feels like it’s holding back on difficulty because it has a CN logo at the beginning. Plus, the developers and showrunners both made the fantastic decision to..

Crib heavily from Paper Mario

Because, seriously, Paper Mario is the best.


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