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The 7 most beautifully animated 2D games

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1. The Act

You might have guessed we’d pick something like Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace to fill our number one spot, but if so, you’d be wrong. Yeah, the games made by Don Bluth’s studios certainly contain more polished animation than pretty much anything on this list, but that animation doesn’t count, because it’s strictly linear. Real games make animation that you actually control. Nowadays, developers can’t get away with simply pre-constructing animations and forcing the player to press buttons to keep them going.


Above: Or so we were led to believe 

The Act by Cecropia is exactly what we mean when we say we want to participate in an interactive cartoon, and is miles behind those glorified DVD menus. Designed as a coin-op arcade game, you play out a series of funny, beautifully animated scenes using a single little knob, which controls the actions of Edgar, a dopey window-washer who tries to court the sexy nurse Sylvia. It’s real-time, cinema-quality animation, and the results are stunning.


Above: Stunning! 

Obviously, very few people have ever heard of The Act (more on the ramifications of its commercial failure in a minute), but just watch this video. It may be simultaneously the most heartwarming and unbelievably depressing thing you see all day.

As you know, our sole pleasure in life comes from making you feel guilty about brilliant games you let die, so we have to mention that while you were in line for Halo 3 in 2007, Cecropia was slowly, painfully being driven out of business. The Act was a commercial disaster – likely because it was released far too late to succeed in the waaaaaaaay-dead arcade scene, and too early to catch on as a downloadable title. As you might have guessed, Cecropia is currently out of business – it closed its doors on Dec. 2, 2008.

But gosh, The Act looks great, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you have paid a quarter or two to play it, given the opportunity?

…Care to guess what Cecropia was doing just before they went under?

Flash-based advergames. Like the kinds you see in pop-up windows next to the ads for phone-sex hotlines.


Above: Eeeeeeeaaaaat it 

The official site for Cecropia was taken down a while ago, but a little searching using the Wayback Machine reveals a list of projects Cecropia was working on before going out of business, including an explanation of the intent behind the Flash game shown above.

Chip and Veronica
In this skit – an example of using a skit as an advergame – you interact with a potato chip company’s product by (virtually) eating the chips. The woman on the park bench is tempted, enthralled, delighted, even seduced by chips! The message is: these chips are irresistible!

Not only were The Act’s brilliant character-based game mechanics butchered and bastardized in order to illustrate the seductive capabilities of potato chips, it seems no advertisers in the potato chip industry were even willing to pay for the final product. Wow, that’s depressing.

Oh, and we almost forgot…


Above: Sad end 

Nov 20, 2009


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37 comments

  • hugobedward - July 24, 2011 6:49 a.m.

    New trailer below http://youtu.be/TgjSSk4iuTo
  • Lemming - June 29, 2012 9:56 a.m.

    It's out now for iOs. Some are complaining about cost to length of content but if they knew the history they might've thought differently.
  • hugobedward - July 24, 2011 6:48 a.m.

    GOOD NEWS EVERYONE! it seams that a company called React Entertainment are releasing the act in august.
  • lymanzaar - November 29, 2009 10:43 p.m.

    The Act should be a either a Virtual Console or XBLA game.
  • Kytl - November 27, 2009 5:20 a.m.

    MURAMASA!!!!
  • Spybreak8 - November 24, 2009 2:27 a.m.

    Good read
  • jackthemenace - November 23, 2009 8:24 p.m.

    UI LOLled at the stick man XD but i really want to get odin speher for the PS2, and i intend to get muramasa at christmas (aswell as EVERY OTHER GAME that i've ever wanted)
  • GrenadeSpamAndSausages - November 23, 2009 7:43 p.m.

    Wow The Act looks absolutely stunning I feel really quite bad for not even knowing it existed and now even worse that it no longer exists, mission accomplished gamesradar you made me hurt inside.
  • Memph - November 23, 2009 6:42 p.m.

    1 vote for Metal Slug series. Still looks corking today
  • erreip199 - November 23, 2009 1:56 p.m.

    man i gotta get myself Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier for the lols XD and thx GR now i feel bad for never knowing The Act existed until today :c... perhaps one day i can get a PC copy of it... i bet some one will port it... someday
  • deedob - November 23, 2009 12:51 p.m.

    Meh... Sorry, mr article creator... i just don't "feel" any guilt for "the act". There was already some games who looked and played almost exactly like that game that were released decades before. They are still being released now and then. Dragon's Lair, Space Ace... You pushed a joystick or a button on "cue" to change the animation sequence of the "game". Same as the "act" where you turn a knob to change the animation. They all look the same exact kind of game. Trial and error games like those are somewhat a thing of the past (and should mostly stay there if you ask me)...
  • Styrophoamicus - November 23, 2009 5:51 a.m.

    " Dan Castellaneta, isn’t known for anything else" Are you being sarcastic? He's Homer Friggin' Simpson!
  • GameManiac - November 23, 2009 5:27 a.m.

    Now I'm having a REALLY tough time deciding if I should get A Boy and his Blob or not. ... Also...Uuuuugggggghhhhhh... Not that fox-woman from the Murasama game again? It's warping my mind!
  • bocaj - November 23, 2009 1:33 a.m.

    Great top 7!
  • uvebeenpwned - November 22, 2009 10:32 p.m.

    So wait...on Super Robot Tenshin whatever, the ladies' boobs grow bigger for their special attacks, and its like an instant win? Usually that only happens in bed. lol.
  • Metroidhunter32 - November 22, 2009 2:34 a.m.

    I knew Muramasa had to be on here somewhere.
  • lovinmyps3 - November 21, 2009 8:21 p.m.

    Damnit!! I would totally download The Act on XBLA!! ='(
  • bamb0o-stick - November 21, 2009 6:43 p.m.

    Dammit, how is it our fault that amazing games like The Act fail? The very reason we are reading gaming magazines and websites are to have things like this brought to our attention about it. You guys share a load of the blame as well as we do.
  • Kabukibear - November 21, 2009 4:41 p.m.

    I actually got a chance to play The Act at a small game show in Miami, Fl a couple years back. They had all sorts of old systems to play and had that arcade there. I was hooked immediately and my gf had to drag me away after I kept pumping quarter after quarter into it. It's every bit as charming and well done as they make it seem in the article. I didn't get very far, I was at the doctor part, riding a hospital cart down a hall trying to avoid other patients and obstacles. Anyway, this is a shame, I had no idea at the time that it was one of those games I'll probably never get to play again. Bummer.
  • Picnic1 - November 21, 2009 2:55 p.m.

    Although there was deserved mentions of Disney Megadrive games in general and Cool Spot (and, thankfully, some less good looking SNES games were left out for a change) I'd have liked to have seen Donkey Kong Country mentioned (although with 3D sprites is that 2D enough to be counted?) I know that, by the criteria of the control being too linear, you haven't included some graphic adventures but The Curse of Monkey Island is fondly remembered (even though Grim Fandango's art style gets mentioned more).

Showing 1-20 of 37 comments

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