Weekly Post #29 - Unique Game Art Styles
Hello again fellow gamers and devs!
As promised, this weeks topic is going to be about unique game art styles. I only had time to cover 5 of my top favorites and that is barely scraping the surface of games with unique art styles so I'll post a list of a few others that you may want to look into or check out on your time as well.
By far, the most impressed I've ever been with a games art style was with Cuphead. It really felt like I was playing a role in a really old cartoon series like the ones I grew up watching on TV. Beautifully done and masterfully crafted. The animations matched the old animation styles of all the old cartoons perfectly and the time spent on all the little details was well worth it for the overall product. Even the gameplay elements and user interfaces fit extremely well into the theme. While it can be a difficult game at times, I had a blast with it and highly recommend it if you love old school cartoons or even difficult platformers/shooters.
2) Deadly Tower of Monsters
First off, I love old school B Sci-Fi Movies so this game immediately grabbed my attention with it's retro-futuristic style. They even have "claymated" style animations for some of the monsters. They weren't actually claymated just animated to look that way but there are some great old games done in Claymation worth checking out I'll mention in my list later on. While this game visually captured that old retro-futuristic b-movie feel pretty well I was expecting/hoping for more of a game where I played a role as a character in B-Movie style scenarios/stories. Instead it ended up being a game about a movie this director made and he narrates over the gameplay far too much while you are playing in my opinion. It was like they were going for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 feel but it just ended up being annoying and not very funny most of the time and you can't turn him off. Well, you can turn all voices off but that also includes the in game character dialogue which there isn't as much of compared to the narration. The ending, however, I will say was totally worth the play through and hilarious (if you love b-movies or MST3K) and the annoying narrator/director does disappear for the last chapter and the editor takes over and talks much less but also is not all that funny. As far as gameplay goes, it's a basic 3D platformer with 3 characters to play as with different unlockable abilities and upgradable weapons. Loved the weapons and the different characters. The only element of gameplay I didn't care for was the top-down over the ledge shooting mechanic. Every so often enemy ships will start flying up from the base of the tower you are climbing, sometimes while you are mid combat with other enemies on the platforms or mid boss fights, and you have to either kill the platformer enemies first or disengage them to go to the ledge and shoot down at the incoming enemy ships while the enemies on your level still attack you. It's almost like a reverse Space Invaders, which I think is what they were going for since the icon for engaging this mechanic is a space invaders style sprite which was probably the only thing that seemed very out of place for the B-Movie style. You can wait for the enemies to reach your level but will be harder to get past them if you do, especially there are other enemies around. It don't think it overused the mechanic, however, but just enough to keep it interesting or more engaging. If you think it's a game you might like to try I'd recommend watching some YouTube videos on it first so you know what to expect but I did enjoy it for getting it on sale and visually was excellent. Took me around 3 or 4 hours to beat.
Okami has a beautiful Sumi-E/Watercolor cell shading style and was ahead of it's time with both style and gameplay when it was originally released. You play as wolf who can use a paintbrush on a canvas for both combat and to solve puzzles by painting different symbols or completing the painting of some things like bridges within the world. I used to paint a lot myself, both watercolor and oil painting, in fact I was originally pursuing a degree in traditional art and I loved playing this game. I will say this game plays best with the WII motion controller but is available on other consoles as well.
I loved the old film, black and white style with the contrasting shades of grays in Limbo. It successfully gave it that creepy/disturbing vibe and even made the gameplay a little more challenging intentionally in order to give those little jump scares every now and then when you run into a trap you didn't see cuz it was somewhat blended into the foreground. The overall world itself was super interesting to explore as well. As you continued through the game it evolves into sort of a diesel-punk or steam-punk style, both of which I love as well. In my opinion, this is a great example of solid game design and a must play. Took me about 3 to 4 hours to beat on first playthrough.
5) Magic Pengel & Graffiti Kingdom
I lumped these 2 games together because they are by the same developer and have the same concept and style and both were Playstation 2 exclusive. These are probably the least known games on my list, and rare or hard to find, but I had a blast with these. Both put the power of the art style into the players hands and allow you to create your own characters by doing 2D drawings for different parts of the body, or other functional parts like wings, that it then converts into 3D. All of the in game models have that hand drawn sort of look to them but in 3D. Magic Pengel is more of a Pokemon RPG battle monster style game where you design your monsters that you fight. Graffiti Kingdom is a 3D platformer fighting game with some other mini games here and there. Each require tweaking your monsters to overcome certain challenges...like adding wings to get to a hard to reach area or adding wheels to move faster.
It is a bit difficult to get used to it's creation system but there are some extremely impressive things people have made within these games...also some extremely crude or adult content creations so beware when sifting through video showcases of these games on YouTube. Definitely watch videos of these games before considering buying them though (and possibly a PS2 if you don't already have one) because they are very pricey games nowadays. Graffiti Kingdom starts around $70 used all the way to $200+ unopened. Of course if you are a collector these are good ones to have. I still have my copy of Graffiti Kingdom and don't plan on ever selling it. I love games that put some of the creative power in the players hands and allowing for customization, especially on this level.
Other games I found had interesting art styles worth noting:
Bendy and the Ink Machine
Skull Monkeys (Claymated)
Clay Fighters (Claymated)
Borderlands (Cell Shaded)
Little Big Planet
Rock of Ages Series
Inside (by the creators of Limbo)
I feel like I am forgetting a few but if more come to me I will make updates to this list. Hopefully some of these games were something new and interesting to you and if you haven't played any of them I highly suggest checking some of them out.
Next week I may or may not be able to make my regular post so if you don't see anything by mid-week it's probably safe to assume it will be a post the following week, maybe even 2 weeks out depending on circumstances. Unfortunately, my 92 year old grandmother is not doing so well and I need to spend some time with her and my family right now. I may do a post updating on the situation but it really all depends on how things are going and what/when things happen. Still trying to do what I can on my next game in the meantime when and where I can but will probably have to take a break from that this next week or so as well. Hope everything is going better for everyone else and until my next post, stay safe and best wishes!
Nate Bit Games