Artsy games have a bad rap, & I can’t say it’s always without merit. Sometimes it’s a case of style over substance. The developer focuses more an showcasing a specific art style or theme to the detriment of the overall experience. Maybe they’re even a little bit pretentious, trying to convey a thought as if they’re the first in the entire history of humanity to explore a specific idea (which is something I highly doubt is possible anymore). But I don’t think “artsy” should be a bad word in gaming. It is simply a genre that, like any other genre, can be misused & misunderstood.
A recent artsy game I’ve been playing is PixelJunk Eden. What first attracted me to the game were the visuals and music in the trailers. While seeming simplistic in design, I thought the style of the game suited its contents well. Sometimes it’s nice to play a simple yet beautiful game, so when the title came on sell on Steam, I couldn’t resist.
The story… well, I suppose “premise” is a better term. The premise behind the game is that you play as this little flower sprite thing (a “grimp” according to the Wiki). Your job is to use your jumping, floating and swinging abilities to collect pollen & seeds to gain access to “spectra,” which I think are supposed to be the spirits of the gardens. Regardless of what they’re meant to represent, they’re your goals, & collecting them unlocks new gardens to play in & allows you to climb higher in unlocked gardens.
I have to admit, I had a bit of trouble with the controls in the beginning, but I feel that’s a problem on my end & not an issue with the game. In the beginning, at least, your grimp doesn’t move as easily as you’d expect. It becomes a little easier as you progress due to gaining more movement abilities, though. Think a really floaty platformer. Once I got the hang of it, swinging around, latching onto platforms felt fairly natural & fun. And as you progress, enemies start to appear to impede your progress higher up the garden.
It should go without saying, but the visuals and music design are the game’s strongest selling point. The graphics are always interesting, lush & moody, with each garden having its own style. And the music fits the mood perfectly. The best way I can think to describe the music is “airy elecronica.”
However, it’s not without its flaws. For one, there aren’t a lot of different gardens to play through, & you frequently have to return to previous gardens to locate new, higher spectra. This can be tedious, but it wouldn’t be such a negative point if it weren’t more my biggest issue with the game: the synchronization meter. When you start each level, you have a synchronization meter which slowly depletes over time. When it depletes, it’s game over. This is very frustrating, especially later on where if you fall from a high level you might as well restart because you won’t make it up in time. You can replenish the meter by collecting crystals, found in the level as well as generated by completing combos, but I think it’s a needless feature. I feel it takes away from the otherwise relaxing feel of the game.
In the end, if you’re the type of gamer who enjoys interesting aesthetics & music, & are in the market for something for something casual, I highly recommend checking out PixelJunk Eden. It’s not for everyone, but I do feel it’s a nice break from more serious titles.
-GamerDameTitle: PixelJunk Eden
Console: PC & PS3
Publishers: Q-Games & Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: July 31, 2008