BEHIND THE SCENES
Meet the master of indie physics games
How Philipp Stollenmayer’s gymnastic past inspires his creations.
When you find out that Philipp Stollenmayer is a keen gymnast and foodie, his home-made physics games make even more sense.
His games are about a lot of things, but some of his best are about flinging things – often things you can eat – about the place and watching what happens.
Why? “Because it works well on touchscreens and it’s funny,” Stollenmayer tells us. “Maybe it comes from the gymnastics or my interest in the ridiculous, I don’t know.”
Stollenmayer developed a passion for gymnastics when he was five – he tried football but found it “boring” he says – and became regional champion in his native Hesse, Germany in his early teens.
He continued his interest in the sport throughout his school years, before going on to study communication design at university. And after a crash course in coding he made his first game, What The Frog – which is, of course, about “spinning bodies around so that they seemed ridiculous,” as Stollenmayer puts it.
He continued to make games as a hobby throughout his studies, producing several other experiments that are still on the App Store today – most notably pay-what-you-want freeform puzzler Okay? and the very meta Sometimes You Die.
But his real breakthrough came with the gleefully silly Pancake – The Game. “I am always thinking about food,” says Stollenmayer. “I remember having the idea – I was sat in a pub quiz with a friend and I decided that tomorrow I would try to make a game in one day.”
And so after a solid day’s work, Pancake was born, and it is as straightforward as its title suggests: you try and flip a pancake as many times as you can before it slips off your pan. And that purity of purpose is something that runs through all of Stollenmayer’s games.
“I want to keep it simple and I want to milk everything out of that one idea in the best way possible,” he says of his design philosophy.
Burger – The Game, in which you pile as many patties on top of each other as you can, soon arrived in Pancake’s wake. And later the much more abstract Bacon arrived, a game in which you flip a porky streak of flesh onto all manner of bizarre things: the statue of liberty, into a Piña Colada and even onto the moon.
In between releasing his foodie trilogy, Stollenmayer has taken his playful physics-based style in several other directions.
In the brilliant Zip–Zap, you tense and relax the hinges in metal brackets to solve puzzles, and See/Saw asks you to you tilt single-screen stages to guide a character to the goal (and often to their death).
Supertype, meanwhile, turns the alphabet into the main characters in yet another joyous puzzle game about momentum and inertia.
But of his more recent games, that gymnastics influence is clearest in Verticow. It’s a high score game where you build up momentum by spinning an unfortunate bovine around and around, before letting go and seeing how far they go.
And of course later it gets even sillier; you can lob a roast chicken, a bike or a chap with a magnificent moustache as far as you can.
Stollenmayer is now working on a more ambitious project, one he describes as “thoughtful, funny, sad and full of a-ha! moments”. It is an abstract, story-driven game about playful interaction that’ll be finished in late 2019.
Until then, there’s plenty of physics-based fun to be had in some of his very best games below – a body of work that’s well worth throwing yourself into.