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The art lover's guide to downloadable games

flOw

We'll likely never known the real impact flOw had on many other of the games in this feature, but being an early artsy game on PSN -- and a top-selling one at that -- couldn't have hurt. A Flash-game-cum-real-game, flOw can be simplified to Pac-Man in a Petri dish. Your amoebic jellysnake can swim between various depth layers of each area (all via motion control), eating smaller lifeforms to evolve, while avoiding larger ones. There's progression in the ability to unlock new playable life forms at the end of each area, but no other tangible goals or conflicts; flOw is simply an expression of mood, with haunting, atmospheric seascapes to explore at a pace that anyone can enjoy.

Great Game, Great Art, or Both?
FlOw is a beautiful achievement in interactive art, and a truly excellent use of high-def technology -- albeit a very different one than gamers might be used to. Though if you're looking for a "game" in the traditional sense -- goals, scores, challenge -- you'll find little of it here.


Castle Crashers

The stylishly violent, devilishly charming Alien Hominid was a tough act to follow, but the long-delayed Castle Crashers made good on the promise of its predecessor with adorably deadly medieval four-player side-scrolling hack-n'-slashery (phew!). At its heart, Castle Crashers is simply Golden Axe with a few more RPG elements and some savvier design, but it's the crisp cartoon delivery and visual attention to detail that makes it so distinct and eminently enjoyable.

Great Game, Great Art, or Both?
Castle Crasher's basic formula -- killing things with friends -- is a hard one to beat, but that feat is easily accomplished in many other games. It's the keen hand-drawn art and prevalent humor that distinguishes it as one the most easily recommendable games, on any service.


Braid

Jonathan Blow's time-manipulating puzzler is brilliant in every corner of its game design alone, justifying the years and personal finance he spent slaving away at the specifics. Combined with the emotional kick of a wonderfully literate and vague narrative surrounding the mistakes and regrets of a relationship, Braid's intellectual elements flow through its sublime puzzles unlike any game before it. Eventually combined with David Hellman's gorgeous illustration and a soundtrack both soothing and subtly discordant, Braid became a powerful sentiment of independent game design.

Great Game, Great Art, or Both?
Braid's puzzles are ingenious, cognitively challenging in most every regard, and oh so satisfying upon completion. Good enough to stand on their own, even, despite the now inseparable illustrative accompaniment. That said, the storybook elements and innovative aesthetic make an already excellent game a true classic.


Rez HD

Sure, Rez is technically eight years old, but the "HD" part of lat year's XBLA release is nothing to be scoffed at. Truly, the Tempest-on-acid rail shooter was ahead of its time -- seven years, apparently -- a synaesthetic smorgasbord of pretty lights, eye-searing colors, Tron-like computer innards, and hypnotic trance tunes. Finally backed by the technological prowess to do its presentation justice, Rez feels as current and vibrant as ever -- and as engaging, thanks to timelessly simple and rhythmic shooter mechanics.

Great Game, Great Art, or Both?
Rez will always be an easily demonstrable example of the power of interactive art. With sights and sounds that define its feel, Rez is a great game thanks to its art; not in spite of it.

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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