Not that I’m complaining, but most video games today tend to feature hyper-realistic 3D graphics, or Manga and Anime stylings. In addition (especially among indie and mobile developers), retro pixel art is enjoying a resurgence among veteran gamers while exposing a new generation to this classic style.
But occasionally, a developer will release a game that takes a few risks with art direction. And if done right, it can really pay off. Here’s a short list (in no particular order) of games that have unconventional visual styles.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (XBLA), PlayStation 3 (PSN), Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, OnLive
Entirely in black & white, LIMBO features a grainy, eerie environment. Despite being only in black & white, there’s a considerable amount of depth and subtly. +1 for sweet parallax! More Videos and Screens can be found at the Developer’s site.
by Broken Rules
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, WiiWare, Onlive
Visually, a personal favourite of mine, And Yet It Moves utilizes a ripped paper and mixed media approach notable for using elements not rendered solely from a digital imaging tool. Broken Rules also has another game great looking game called Chasing Aurora.
Platforms: Adobe Flash, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable
flOw is the antithesis of the typical video. No HUD, no grimacing steroidal protagonist, no giant Anime sword, just serene music and minimal, fluid graphics. Gamers may also notice the similarities of this and the first stage of EA's Spore.
by Eric Chahi
SPOILER ALERT: The following video contains a walk-through of the entire game!
Platforms: Amiga, Apple IIGS, Atari ST, DOS, Mega Drive, SNES, Mac OS, 3DO, Tapwave Zodiac, Mega-CD, GBA, Mobile phone (Symbian OS), Windows, Windows Mobile, iOS, Android
Another World blew me away with its graphics when I first played it in the mid 90s. Granted, some of the graphics weren’t as slick as mainstream titles, even at the time, but few games managed to achieve such a cinematic experience without the use of live action footage.
What’s particularly interesting is how much technology influenced the art style. The author relied on flat polygonal shapes in order to achieve the visual effects and manage to keep the file size small enough to have the game distributed on floppy disk. Not only did this allow the game to have cinematic animation, but the clean simplicity of the untextured polygons creates a very unique look.
The graphics have been updated over the years but I still remain partial to the original.
BONUS: The game’s author has written a nice overview of the history and development on the game’s official site. Well worth the read.
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3 (PSN), PlayStation Vita, iPad 2, BlackBerry PlayBook, Android
The “doodle” thing has become a trend and can sometimes feel a bit tossed off, but when you have something as stylistically cohesive as Machinarium, you’ve got a real winner. You can play a free demo right from the Machinarium site.
Platform: PlayStation 3
Another entry from That Game Company. I didn’t want to post two entries from the same company, but you can’t really argue with these graphics.
Like And Yet It Moves, another mixed media game, this time with string and fabric.
Speaking of fabric and mixed media, Little Big Planet has some of the best game creative I’ve seen in a long time—and I don’t just mean the textures. The depth of the world and the unique elements are very impressive. Tons more video and screenshots here.
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
Although this list isn’t ranked, this one pretty much takes the cake for in terms of art direction. Woodcut artwork? In a game? Wow. And serif fonts in a non-RPG? Radical. The game is four years in the making and you can see a drastic evolution in game art here.
Retrospaced, in this game, you control a plane, you can move to evade the enemy aircraft, and then to shoot at the enemy, at the time of shooting, you need to select the angle of shooting.
Nice to see more shooters in the Windows Phone Marketplace!