Wandersong- Video Games As Art

I’ve just finished Wandersong, a puzzle adventure game in which you play as a little Bard who solves puzzles and attempts to save the world through singing. He's a naively optimistic protagonist, a gaming trope for sure, but his ability to make friends with everyone and selflessly help them, even though it will take him away from his main task of saving the world, endears him close to my heart and makes him one of my favourite video game characters ever.

He does this all just to spread some kindness in a world that is destined to die. Wandersong affirms that anyone can make a positive difference in the world; you don't need to be a superhero to do that, just kind and thoughtful. In an oft-jaded world, Wandersong offers light in the darkness and shows that a gentle approach works just as well, often better, than a more heavy-handed approach.

This game is a joy to play and there are moments that will stick in my mind for a long time to come, not bad for a game coded by one man with music supplied by a team of just 2. You owe it to yourself, and the game makers, to play this wonderful video game. Check out the beautiful art below:

Uncharted 4- Video Games As Art

Many games have claimed to be like the movies but few can claim to be as proficient in the art of building a gaming experience that mimics the thrills of a blockbuster summer action movie than Naughty Dog. With the Uncharted series it has perfected the video game blockbuster. I only got onto the Uncharted bandwagon in the PS4 generation as last generation I had the Xbox 360 and Wii U. However, I am making up for lost time and after completing the first 3, moved onto the 4th and final (so they say) of the series. Out of all the Uncharted games it is the most movie-like and has twists and turns like the best Indiana Jones movie. I’m sad to be saying goodbye to Nathan Drake but do feel that after 4 games (not counting the portable one) it probably is time for the series to be put to pasture to age gracefully.

Uncharted 3: Video Games As Art

The words ‘cinematic’ and ‘epic’ are overused terms, often used to sell you on a game. By using these buzzwords the hope is that the hype will build and interest in the game will pique. Many games have claimed to be like the movies but few can claim to be as proficient in the art of building a gaming experience that mimics the thrills of a blockbuster summer action movie than Naughty Dog. With the Uncharted series it has perfected the video game blockbuster. I only got onto the Uncharted bandwagon in the PS4 generation as last generation I had the Xbox 360 and Wii U. However, I am making up for lost time and completed the first 3. Here’s to the 4th!

Shikhondo- Video Games As Art

I’ve always liked shoot ‘em ups… no, not first person gun games (although some are alright) but space ship shooting aliens. They've always held a special place in my heart as once the enemy patterns are learnt and memorised you can look like a boss completing a game. I have a vivid memory of playing Rtype at Heathrow airport and getting to level 3, that huge base ship.
Unfortunately over the last few years bullet hell games have taken over, I like them as I feel zen-like when I play them but they are not the same as traditional shoot 'em ups. Bullet hell games, especially the ones that have made their way West in the last few years on console including Deathsmile and Akai Katana have a place but they do feel stagnant compared to Dodonpachi and Ikaruga, the true exciting innovators of bullet hell. But generally bullet hell games have a different feel and mechanics and so it is with Shikhondo. The game looks pretty but is a bit of a soulless affair. Enjoy the images and grab the game when it’s on sale.

Lost In Harmony- Video Games As Art

We live in an interesting time in video gaming. We have the big hitters providing us with the spectacle and set-pieces but there are smaller developers who are trying unusual or experimental things. One of the latter is Lost in Harmony by Digixart, an endless runner and rhythm game but not…

Lost in Harmony is the story of a young boy name Kaito and his best friend, Aya, who is being treated for cancer. After texting Kaito falls off to sleep and the game comes into play in which you control the two skateboarding towards the screen in a variety of gradually more outlandish backgrounds, reflecting the fact that Aya may not make it.

The game is fine, nothing much to write about, but the music is sublime in places. Wyclef Jean produces a track ‘Lost in Time’ and it is a joy. Check out the game but definitely listen to the track!

SOMA- Video Games As Art

SOMA is a horror game by Frictional, the studio that brought us Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Penumbra, both staples of annoying YouTube screaming teen vids. However, rather than just offering jump scares, SOMA is a deep game about personal identity. “Soma” is Greek for “body”, and over the course of the game you consider what it means to be ‘human.’

The world of SOMA is beautifully realised and well worth a look. It reminded me of a more industrial Rapture, and that’s no bad thing.

Trine 2- Video Games As Art

Trine 2 is a sidescrolling game of action, puzzles and platforming. You play as one of the three heroes (a Knight, Magician and Thief) and make your way through fantastical worlds to restore peace to the land. What makes the game a joy to play is the ability to change characters on the fly; each of the characters possesses their own unique abilities and strengths, which you must use to overcome obstacles and progress through the lands.

The game looks gorgeous and the lighting is stunning, almost painterly in its airbrushed glory. Considering it is a 2012 game the art style still really holds up.

Valiant Hearts- Video Games As Art

Valiant Hearts is a puzzle adventure set in World War I. The game follows 4 different story plots and interconnect and weave in and out of each other to create a grand and affecting narrative about the horrors of war. What sets the game apart is not only the art style, which is admittedly amazing, but the fact that the game is densely packed with facts and trivia about the Great War. At 4 hours or so, the game doesn’t overstay its welcome but it will linger in your memory long after you put the controller down.

Kamiko- Video Games As Art

Kamiko is a top down action game in the vein of the original Legend of Zelda and Gauntlet. You can play as one of three divine maidens: Yamato has a giant sword, Uzume has a bow and arrow and Hinome has a dagger and shield combo. In the game you play through four levels which consist of easy to solve puzzles involving sliding blocks, buttons, orbs and keys. The game is download only on Nintendo Switch and is usually on sale for a few pounds but is well worth the hour or so play time, just to appreciate the beautiful pixel art graphics.

Gris- Video Games As Art

Gris is a stunningly beautiful game, probably one of the most gorgeous games I have ever played. The game is a puzzle-platformer set in an alternate reality where ancient ruins, fragile metalwork and iridescent woods are metaphors for the protagonists state of mind. The visual are like a huge canvas filled with dazzling details, that why there are so many images here as each could be a work of art in its own right. Check out and enjoy the images.

Moss- Video Games As Art

Moss is a VR action-adventure puzzle game, which takes all the classsic hallmarks of the genre and then gives it a VR twist by creating a world that seems vast and expansive but is actually little more than small dioramas.

In Polyarc’s words:

Quill is a young mouse who dreams of greatness beyond the confines of her sleepy community. When an ancient magic is awakened, she becomes linked with another - you, the player - who will take on their role in the story.

As a distant evil extends its reach, the two of you are called together to embark on an incredible journey brought to life with storybook-style narration that will draw you into a rich world of myth and magic. 

The game is short, at about 3 hours, but is a must play experience as the level of detail and creativity on show is stunning. The puzzles themselves are self-contained and pretty easy but the world draws you in. I can’t wait for the second chapter!

One Eyed Kutkh- Video Games As Art

Video games are cultural artefects but often they do not always show the true breadth of the diversity in humanity. One Eyed Kutkh is a short (about 45 minutes at a leisurely pace) game about a one-eyed creature who crashes his spaceship on a strange planet. He has to find the pieces to fix it and deceive the sun and moon in order to escape the planet. The video game is based on the tales of the far North and it is brief game however, it does do things a bit differently and for that it should be applauded. The games forgoes dialogue and instead has thought bubbles and images which you have to decipher. The art style is naive but unique, reminding me of Balinese shadow puppetry.

The game is well worth a play, it’s not anything extraordinary but is a great palette cleanser for the 100 hour sandbox games or shooting people in the face all the time.

Detention- Video Games As Art

Detention is a 2D survival horror adventure video game created and developed developer Red Candle Games. It is an atmospheric game and the setting of 1960’s Taiwan under Chinese martial law is an interesting one, especially when considering that it takes place during a storm after school when everyone else has gone home. There is a deep sense of unease that permeates the experience yet it is much better than most cheap jump scare fare… this slowly unravels in front of you and the psychological horror that emerges is more satisfying for it. At certain points it reminds me of Silent Hill 2 and Eternal Darkness, as you begin to understand more of the psychological state of the protagonist.

Detention is on sale on the Nintendo Switch and well worth the 4 quid or so for the 3 hour play time needed to complete the experience. I’m off now to research the Chinese occupation of Taiwan in the 1960s as this game has me proper intrigued about this time period.

Sine Mora EX- Video Games As Art

Sine Mora EX is a side-scrolling shoot-'em-up that has a unique mechanic, you can slow down and speed up time. This comes in useful as the game is brutally challenging but beautifully presented.

Sailors Dream- Video Games As Art

Sailor's Dream is a peaceful narrative experience from Simigo. The only objective is to explore and satisfy your curiosity. You explore a variety of locations including ancient ruins, a windswept ship and an old lighthouse. As you explore the world you find pieces of memories that help you to create a narrative. The experience is beautifully realised and when I am a bit stressed or worried I find a quick dip into this app helps me calm right down. Check out some shots from my play through.

Nex Machina- Video Games As Art

Nex Machina is a twin stick shoot 'em up which was developed and published by Finnish studio Housemarque with some consultation with Eugene Jarvis, creator of classic arcade games Defender and Robotron 2084 and console favourite Smash TV. The game casts you as a protagonist armed with a laser gun charged with rescuing humans against an alien horde from a top down perspective. The game is very simple to understand but complex to master, much like their previous game Resogun. The game is beautiful to watch as it is running and whilst I am proud of capturing the images below from my gameplay, do yourself a favour and play the game to understand its majesty. 

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus- Video Games As Art

Wolfenstein is a gaming classic, being one of the original first person shooter games. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is the eleventh installment of the Wolfenstein series and a sequel to 2014's excellent Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This game is set in the Nazi-occupied USA, five months after the events of The New Order, in which the Nazis won the war. In the game we play William Joseph Blazcowicz ('BJ' to his friends) as he kills hundreds of Nazis, deals with Nazi occupied USA in 1961 and starts the Second American Revolution.

The game is a straight forward shooter and makes no apologies, but I'd like to share its art style. There are some beautifully realised locales here and the graphics shine through. It all looks very cinematic and the little details add to the whole feel of the game, giving it a real lived-in look.

A Hat In Time- Video Games As Art

A Hat In Time is a gorgeous cartoony 3D platform game that was successfully Kickstarted a couple of years ago. The game comes from Gears For Breakfast, a single person endeavour that grew into a larger volunteer group who contributed from around the world. What this has done is create a game that is tight and reflects the best of the genre (Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie) whilst avoiding the annoying collectathon that was Donkey Kong 64. I completed the game and had a blast as each new world felt fresh and exciting. It helped that the game was gorgeous to look at too!

V and A Video Games: Design/ Play/ Disrupt- Exhibition Review

The world famous Victoria and Albert Museum in London (V&A) is currently running the Video Games: Design/Play/ Disrupt exhibition. The real boon of the exhibition is that it allows the wider community to understand the gaming community and the lure of the virtual world.

The beautiful V and A museum in London is a great setting for the Video Games: Design/Play/ Disrupt exhibition.

Many contemporary video games are creative, immersive and innovative and some are having a huge social and cultural impact across the globe, not always for the best but it is important to consider the positives alongside the negatives which is what the media seems to focus on. The exhibitions focus is quite narrow as it doesn't really look at the history of video games but rather issues around the medium including the portrayals of violence, race and sexuality, which I feel are very important in an artform that is still quite young and seen as the enfant terrible of pop culture.
Across the exhibition well known big budget games and characters rub shoulders with some indie and cult classics but all are accorded respect and lovingly curated. There are large-scale immersive multimedia and interactive installations alongside the usual display stands and cases.

As I entered the space I was welcomed with a rush of colour and a wall of sound, with an extremely large screen showcasing some of the games I would be seeing.

A large screen greeted me as I entered the exhibition.

A large screen greeted me as I entered the exhibition.

Passing a material mesh doorway, there was another large screen, this time showing the beautiful images from Journey. Austin Wintory's BAFTA winning soundtrack played and its beauty washed over me. The design documents and concept are from the game were on show and the information accompanying the pieces was informative and rich. The concept art sketches and paintings were wonderful to behold and creator, Jenova Chen, had his storyboard based on the classic Hero's journey on display.

The next doorway led to The Last of Us and had the same layout, a large video screen showing images from the game and some of the minutiae that went into its creation. A highlight was the original cork board from creators Naughty Dog with the notes and ideas that helped to consolidate the narrative arc of the game and characters. Within the same room was Bloodborne, the classic hard-as-nails gothic horror game by From Software. There was a playthrough of the Beast Cleric with a voice over by hilarious YouTuber Matt Lees that discussed the strategies needed to defeat the boss and play the game. Also featured were original sketches and a short documentary  covering the creation of the soundtrack.