BentoBlox

UX & UI, Game design, Branding, Mobile
A modern, mobile take on the classic Japanese puzzle game known as Shikaku.
The Challenge
How do we create a compelling game in a world already so filled with them? What makes it unique and what brings users back time and time again, especially since most phone games are mere distractions rather than experiences.
The outcome
By pairing up with the musician Sulkin’ Raven to create a soundtrack and sound board we were able to add a whole new layer to the experience and brand. Something that gives the user a reason to come back and experience it time and time again - whether you play for a few minutes while waiting for a train to arrive or have a night to yourself on the couch.
Most companies, big or small, often have a desire to build their own internal products. These can range from task management tools, team feedback software, or even a sculpture made out of excess business cards. Whatever it might be, they usually spark from a team’s desire to try something new. Something that could help them discover more about a tool they’re learning, learn more about the people they work with, or maybe even solve a problem they’ve been dealing with at work. Well, one of our passion projects is BentoBlox. An app inspired by meditation, relaxation, and a love of games.

BentoBlox began as a “hack day” project that over time became fully realized. It took a few weeks of regularly working on it until things just started falling into place and we thought, “Wow, this thing might actually come to fruition.”

At this point we decided to make it official and brought on a project manager to plan our execution by assigning tasks and creating delivery dates, including a soft-launch date.
We realized that it would never truly get done if we treated it like a passion project, so we treated it as if it were a client, making a point to hit goals along the way and conduct regular sprint planning meetings.

This caused a slight reset in the pace where we took time to reflect on what we’d previously done. We reviewed and revised the design files to make sure they were what we wanted to move forward with.
Day & Night Mode Comparison
The app has a Day Mode and a Night Mode. Users can toggle between them in the settings, or they will shift automatically every 12 hours.
Originally we’d designed one visual design style for the game. It was a light, almost creamy-colored background with bright colors placed on top for the shapes you’d construct on each board. It was a very calming palette, but the more we discussed user retention, the more we thought it might be interesting to adjust the palette from time to time to diversify the puzzles. However, we didn’t want to add background images or add a ton of flair to distract the user; this was ultimately supposed to be a relaxing experience.
Day Mode
Between the hours of 6am and 6pm the game is set to Day Mode, where the palette is bright and colorful, and the music upbeat.
This lead into the idea of making various template styles though, but based on our project board, if we wanted to get a version out the door in any manageable timeframe we’d have to keep the scope narrow.

Passion projects always invite the idea of endless potential which is why we decided to add one other palette - a dark mode.
Night Mode
After 6pm the game will default to Night Mode, where the colors shift to a darker, more neon palette, and the music becomes slower and more ambient.
At the same time our friend Sulkin’ Raven had been eager to generate music for a game, so we asked him if he’d be interested in collaborating with us on a soundtrack the player could listen to while solving puzzles. Needless to say, he said yes! Over the course of the next few months not only did we create a song for the game, but we produced a second song and a slew of accompanying sound effects.
The Website
Human clearly uses close to one life a night no one naps that long so I revive by standing on chestawaken.
All the while our developer was hard at work assuring the animation and haptic feedback on the shape generation would be a satisfying experience. On a daily basis, in the morning with our coffee or while commuting to work, we played the role of our users, testing the latest build each morning and finding new incremental ways to improve the touch interaction.

After weeks and weeks of deliberation we finally landed on a look and feel that everyone was satisfied with.
The Website
In order to promote the game we also designed and developed a website that reflected the Day and Night mode experience. From here users could easily navigate between the two with a toggle or travel to the app store in order to download the game.
This regularly-conducted internal testing did wonders. We also attended a few game events in San Francisco where attendees were able to get their hands on the game and give us real time feedback. After each event we would return to the office and iterate.

By crafting a well-constructed road map that would help inform our decisions and keep us on track to make our deadline we were able to release the game and get it into peoples hands. Without treating our passion project as any other client facing project it’s uncertain if anything would have ever been released.

It’s important to create goals and adhere to them no matter what the project might be. By making a habit of this internal structure we were able to not only complete the project on time, but generate a genuinely satisfying experience that we’re all very proud of.

Some of our other work