IGF 2009: Finalists for Excellence in Visual Art

The finalists for this years visual art award are a surprisingly balanced mix of different visual styles and unique designs. After covering the finalists for innovation intensively, I thought this award would have its disappointments and although at first I was disappointed by the lack of different genres and innovation, I was truly amazed by their visual art.

Eden by PixelJunk
Eden looks utterly insane. Visually it’s truly amazing, I haven’t seen anything like it. The gameplay seems to be fun and intuitive. It’s sort of a platform game, where you play this little spider-like creature (that looks more like an elephant to me, but it shoots silk, so let’s call it a spider) and you can jump and swing around plants in huge gardens. You can also plant seeds and grow plants in order to advance and explore the different gardens even more. The colours are extremely bright, which is not something new in games, but the combination of that with the organic shapes creates a unique visual style.

Cletus Clay by TunaSnax
The unique thing about Cletus Clay is that it’s made entirely out of clay. At first I was terribly enthusiastic, when I found out I couldn’t play it, I lost some of my enthusiasm. When I found out that they were actually using computer graphics to enhance the clay animations it got even worse and when I read that it’s a typical platform game without any innovation I lost interest. It’s full of humour, according to its designer, but he defines this as hillbilly humour, which takes me back to Jeff Dunham and his hillbilly Bubba J who ruined Dunham’s entire show for me. And besides all that, the clay makes it look like some of the programmes I watch as a little kid. You can decide for yourself if that’s a good thing for a game that’s nominated for a visual art award.

FEIST by Filthy Grip
Now this is something to become passionate about! It’s the cutest thing ever! I can’t find much info on the game and it’s still in development, but from what I saw in the video on its official site it’s a platform game with some quirky little touches to it. You play a little black bundle of furriness and you have this weird long tail behind you, which almost looks like wind. The entire look and feel of the game is very cute, bright, yet dark in some ways too, since it’s almost entirely in silhouette. It reminded me a lot of Patapon and even Loco Roco. Apparently FEIST was developed by students as part of their thesis. It looks like a really cool, fun and cute game with easy accessible gameplay.

Machinarium by Amanita Design
I’m a big fan of Amanita Design and I’ve played Samorost 1 & 2 extensively. This time they’re nominated again at the IGF’s for their new game Machinarium. The whole feel of the game is almost the same as Samorost, which I find a bit of a disappointment. Yet in Machinarium the animation looks like it’s all drawn with pencils and this creates a rawer and more grim look than their previous games. When I played Samorost I was amazed by every new environment and it almost felt like I stepped inside a children’s book. I have the feeling they will try to top that with Machinarium.

Zeno Clash by ACE Team
I just have to say: WOW! This is one of those games that I wouldn’t like to play, but that I could watch people play for hours. It combines fighting games (Dead or Alive) with FPS, which is quite weird at first and almost makes the gaming experience more intense. But the visuals are truly unique and style-wise it reminded me of Dalí’s work, and that’s saying a lot. The designers have really gone out of their way to create unique characters that tell entire stories simply by looking at them. I’m going to love making Daan play this!

For an overview of my articles on the IGF 2009 go here.

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