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The art lover's guide to downloadable games

Whether you think games are art -- a nebulous, easily dead-ended debate -- or not, there's no denying that a helluva lot of art goes into making games, at the very least. But with so many governing channels to go through in the creative process, many bigger-budget games become more researched and focus-tested in their appeal, shorn of any greater risks they might have once taken -- aesthetic or otherwise -- along the way. These days it's easier, cheaper, and more reliable to turn to downloadable games for an injection of creativity.

We've rounded up 10 of the more interesting standouts from the current generation of consoles, suitable for any art lover's tastes… and those of an even wider audience, once they know what they're getting into. More importantly, we aim to figure out just how inseparable these games are from their more creative elements, and which can truly stand alone as great games regardless… not just great art.

PixelJunk Eden

Conceptually, Eden -- the third PixelJunk title -- is rather simplistic: a web-swinging vertical platformer, which tasks you with collecting pollen to progress upwards through 2D stages. Aesthetically, it's in a class of its own, a psychedelic series of otherworldly gardens set to pulsing, evolving electronic beats -- both elements (visual design and score) having been created by multimedia composer Baiyon. Despite a somewhat redundant progression structure, Eden's elegantly tuned, addictive gameplay shines through, particularly in its excellent (local) 3-player action.

Great Game, Great Art, or Both?
While exploring Eden is instantly engaging thanks to its well thought out mechanics, it simply wouldn't be the same without its audiovisual appeals -- Eden's gardens are very much its heart and soul.


Echochrome

Rather than wasting word count trying to explain Echochrome's mind-bending rules of perspective manipulation, have a look at a few screens and know that many of the resulting visual puzzles are as novel and challenging as you'll find. Its rules are a bit too malleable for its own good at times, but there's no shortage of downloadable user-created stages even if you're able to "cheat" your way through some of them. Thankfully, Echochrome's strikingly stark look and delicate piano music relax you just enough to indulge its high-minded concepts more willingly.

Great Game, Great Art, or Both?
While Echochrome's singular style is eye-catching, it's not a necessity to enjoy the cerebral gameplay it surrounds.


Everyday Shooter

Jonathan Mak's dual-stick shooter might sit alongside dozens of other Asteroids/Geometry Wars clones in concept -- fly, shoot, and collect points -- but its musical trappings dictate everything from the moods of its levels to the timing of its enemy appearances. It's easier to think of Everyday Shooter as a game scored to a music album, not the other way around, as each song results in a wildly different level (each with new patterns and tricks of its own). It's quite clearly the result of one man's unique vision of/homage to the shooter genre, and despite its intense difficulty, stands as one of the best.

Great Game, Great Art, or Both?
Without its artistry, Everyday Shooter would have little identity of its own. Its movement and shooting are tucked and tuned to near-perfection, but purely in the service of phenomenal creativity.

19 comments

  • RebornKusabi - February 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

    I'm glad to say that I bought and fully support Braid and Rez!
  • oreomonkey - February 12, 2009 10:48 p.m.

    All the nerds commented on this one
  • sniper430 - February 12, 2009 9:02 p.m.

    I absolutely cant wait for flower...
  • Awesomeitude1523 - February 12, 2009 3:46 p.m.

    Wow. These games are truly beautiful.
  • Binnsy - February 12, 2009 12:44 p.m.

    How can this feature not include Cloud?
  • FullMetal886 - February 12, 2009 2:46 a.m.

    Uhm, why no LostWinds?
  • chewbroccli - February 11, 2009 12:03 p.m.

    i know its not a downloadable game but they should shout out to okami. one of the best games ever.
  • MilitaryRaiden - February 11, 2009 11:50 a.m.

    As Jimmyjammy and others noted the PS3 has excellent games on psn and their prices as well as their inventiveness and taste are fantastic. It's very peculiar that the most experimental and artistic of all console downloadable games appear in this generation's most expensive bit of hardware which is still struggling as far as sales and profits are concerned. Well done, Sony - although Castle Crashers is also lots of fun!
  • Jimmyjammy - February 11, 2009 8:36 a.m.

    This was a really enjoyable article. Got me in a good frame of mind! I think that's one of my favourite things about the PS3: it is a hub for inventive, artistic and inexpensive little games.
  • piccolodevilking - February 11, 2009 1:41 a.m.

    nice article - i would like to see more of these and less "why killzone 2 has the bigger guns"-articles
  • DontPanic - February 10, 2009 11:47 p.m.

    Nice article, couldn't agree more with the selections.
  • EatShorts8 - February 17, 2009 7:43 a.m.

    I'd just like to add that Linger in Shadows is 16 easy trophies or in other words, Sony is giving you 16 trophies for $3.oo
  • Jim2y - February 12, 2009 9:09 p.m.

    Hey I remember some of these! All of these look really pretty and now I want to play them
  • MP5-PRO333 - February 11, 2009 7:56 p.m.

    the ps store does have a lot of artistic games and flower will be a great addition.
  • candyman - February 11, 2009 12:16 p.m.

    Brilliant
  • 435 - February 11, 2009 8:05 a.m.

    Just would like to note that Rez was designed with artist Wassily Kandisnky in mind. So, yes, art. Through and through. :]
  • garnsr - February 11, 2009 5:39 a.m.

    I own most of these PSN games, and can't wait for Flower. I wish I had a PSEye so I could play Tori Emaki. Quick bits of inexpensive style are the coolest thing to some from downloadable content, much better than characters and costumes for $60 games, that cost as much as these full games that do something different.
  • Spike_the_Dogg - February 11, 2009 1:26 a.m.

    Is it just me or does the ameoba/jellyfish thing in flOw look like the red Evil Mural's from Blue Dragon? Anyways, nice article. I'm glad that devs can make great artistic games like this for XBLA/PSN.
  • sakboy97 - February 11, 2009 12:30 a.m.

    2nd and nice article

Showing 1-19 of 19 comments

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