Strange Hill High

I was lead designer for Strange Hill High: Merchant of Menace. The game is based on the surreal, animated CBBC show and gave fans the opportunity to explore a 3D recreation of the school, interact with characters, solve puzzles and play unique minigames.

For: CBBC, Somethin' Else

Skills: UX and UI design, Illustration, Creation of Game Assets, Unity

In the game, the player takes control of the three main characters as they are enlisted by a mischievous Victorian Jester to help him find his missing pranks. The player must first explore the school, searching for the scattered jokes before assisting the Jester in an ultimate jape. However as the story unfolds through cutscenes and addictive minigames, it becomes clear he has evil intentions! I was involved from the early stages of the project, creating thorough wireframes and UX, developing the tactile UI style, designing numerous interfaces, creating illustrated in-game assets, achievement badges and finally assisting the developer with implementing game assets into the 3D Unity environment. 

The eccentric show, written in part by Josh Weinstein (The Simpsons) features a unique blend of puppetry, Japanese vinyl toys and digital effects. I wanted to ensure that the tactile and irreverent style of the series was reflected in my interface designs for the game. For one of the chief UI features, we decided to incorporate main character Becky’s rucksack. When tapped, it opened up to reveal Becky’s GPS device – which served as our map of the school, a scrap paper styled To Do list and button badges that link the player to the achievements screen. We were careful to ensure that all designs followed CBBC’s GEL guidelines of the time which look to promote consistency and accessibility in all of their games.

I was able to request photographs of models from the Strange Hill High props department and experiment with how these could be incorporated into buttons to bring them to life. Adding tentacles and rolling eyeballs on down states to lean into the show’s weirdness. We explored our use of ‘how to play’ screens, notifications, popups and contextual help in minigames to ensure that player’s of all levels were always supported. In addition to the UI I also created numerous in-game assets, from signage and posters displayed throughout the environment to ‘frozen in time’ characters. I learned from our developer and assisted him by positioning game assets, cameras, lighting and some of the 2D interfaces within the Unity game build.  

At the beginning of the project I worked closely with our team to develop a complete set of wireframes, flow diagrams and game design documents. Carefully planning all aspects of the main game as well as the integrated minigames and story cut scenes, before development or design began, allowed us to ensure that the whole experience felt seamless and like an extension of the original TV series. 

This was a fantastic project! I loved working with Strange Hill High’s unique aesthetic and translating it for the game. Having the opportunity to learn more about Unity from the developer and put it into direct practice was also a massive bonus for me. Though the game is no longer available to play on the CBBC site, you can watch the trailer below. 

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