The art lover's guide to downloadable games


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.


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.