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Squad 51 vs. the Flying Saucers is a tribute to sci-fi movies of the ’50s

It was back in 2016 when Márcio Rosa had an idea for a game. It was going to be a SHMUP game in which Earth had to defend itself against an aggressive alien invasion. But this had already been done countless times. Rosa needed something to set the game apart from all the others. And then it hit him. Why not make it into a ’50s sci-fi movie, complete with cardboard sets, cheesy acting and… black and white visuals?

To blend the ideas of a game and movie into one coherent product, Rosa approached some acquaintances working in the film industry in Brazil.  “From the moment I got the idea of making it like an old movie I called the people from Fehorama Filmes to work on the live action cutscenes”, says Rosa. “They had the know-how as producers, so they stepped in. The initial idea was for them to just work on the cutscenes, but they ended up executive producing the whole project.”

Match the visuals

“We worked very closely in all steps. The filming, the post production of the cutscenes and even the development of the game itself, although it was made by other people”, explains Rosa. “The sound studio worked in the cutscenes and game as a single unit. The post production of the cutscenes was not done by the same people that work in the levels. But we exchanged assets and both sides have access to the work of the other in order to match the visuals.”

“I founded Loomiarts in 2017 only for the game Squad 51 vs. the Flying Saucers. It doesn’t have an actual structure of a studio, it’s just my comapny. The game was made by many people, but usually they are partners from other companies.”

When game development started, the story was already written, although many changes were made after that. However, the planning of the development, like the game design document, happened at the same time. Rosa: “It would be impossible to write a screenplay without knowing exactly how the levels would be played!”

Colors don’t make sense

Squad 51 vs the Flying Saucers stays admirably close to its source material. During the 1950s, there was a surge in alien invasion movies, fueled by Cold War paranoia and the looming threat of nuclear destruction. Both the story and game are presented in black and white and it works remarkably well. Rosa wouldn’t think of doing it in color, not even as a DLC or extra option: “I don’t think colors make sense, so it will never happen. Also, many special effects techniques in the game would not work because they take advantage of the fact that only one color component is showing.”

The story and the action are deliciously over the top, but the production is very professional.

Looking back at the development cycle of the game, which lasted for nearly seven years, one of the main lessons learned is to get funding sooner. “We just signed a contract with our publisher in 2020, even though we have been working since 2016. I don’t actually regret doing that, but next time, I prefer not to develop for such a long time without a proper budget.”

Squad 51 vs the Flying Saucers is out on Steam and Nintendo Switch. PlayStation and Xbox versions are coming soon.

Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.

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