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.


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.