When most people in the mainstream think about videogames, they often think of things like blazing guns, smashing bricks with your head, or hyper real graphics... and sometimes all three. Perhaps that is what makes a game like Journey, the 2013 Annie Award winner for Best Animated Videogame 2012, stand out from the crowd?
Journey, created by ThatGameCompany game takes place in a vast desert. The robed figures you meet along the way are all real players who are all on the same mystical journey through the desert. You cannot see other players’ names or gamertags. There are no text chat boxes or anything like that. The only means of communication between players is a type of tonal yell. It is up to you to follow a guide you find in game, or strike off on your own.
Journey does an amazing job of setting a mood and enveloping the player in a world that has a universal feel all its own. All of the elements add up to something that most gamers have never experienced before. It is a very relaxing game experience that really is as much fun to watch as it is to play. Journey is available on the Playstation 3.
Another title that does a very good job of focusing on art as well as gameplay is the side scroller Shank.
If you are a fan of old school side scrollers, button mashing games like Double Dragon or Contra, or Robert Rodriguez films, then you’ll probably enjoy Shank and Shank II. The games were developed by Canadian game studio Klei Entertainment.
Now admittedly, a game like Shank isn't for everyone. The M rating is earned through blood, sweat, and tears... but mostly blood.
The gameplay is fluid and fun, and the boss battles harken back to an era of 8bit days. You’ll pick up new moves and learn more of the story as you progress, but the real star here for me is the animation. While it looks a bit "Flashy" at times, everything moves well, with snappy animation and great effects that accentuate every knife thrust and chainsaw slash. Shank and Shank II are available on several platforms, including Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
Perhaps the recent video game that most breaks with the modern trend of hyper realism and polygons everywhere is Skullgirls.
In April of 2012, Skullgirls was released on both the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. The game takes place in the Canopy Kingdom, where characters must fight to control the Skull Heart. You play as one of several female characters with various super fighting powers.
The animation is beautiful, and in an age of super realistic CG, Skullgirls sports a refreshing style to see. The characters battle it out using all the principles of animation and tricks of the 2D trade, including smear frames to help fake speed and motion. The combo system and super moves in Skullgirls are no gimmick. The game looks and plays like a love note to classic fighting games and cartoon styles that were an obvious inspiration to the developers. Have a look at this making of video, which showcases some of the very traditional animation that went into every frame of this game.
Skullgirls is available now on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. It will be available on Windows PC later this year. Look for it on Steam, Origin, GameFly, GamersGate and GameStop PC Downloads.