2013 IGF Finalists: Excellence in Visual Arts

Wondering what the most promising indie games might be? Have no fear. Each day this week we are covering a different category of IGF finalists and why they deserve to be played.

I do love some good visuals. While graphical fidelity can be contentious between gamers, it really all comes down to preference and execution. The highest resolution textures and anti-aliasing won’t do anything for you if the game’s textures are poorly composed and the models are a jumbled mess. These finalists (and one nominee) show that visuals are not overlooked even in the indie world.

Guacamelee!

Mexican-inspired art is prominent in several games, with the most well known being Grim Fandango. That doesn’t mean that there are enough, however, and Guacamelee is aiming to satiate your need for luchadors, skeletons, and angular lines. Oh, and exploratory sidescrolling combat too, I suppose. This combination of unique art style and competent design is what really makes Guacamelee interesting over similar games.

Guacamelee follows a Luchador named Juan as he sets out to save the president’s daughter from a charro skeleton. Along the way he learns new wrestling moves, gains the ability to flip between worlds, and kills countless minions. It’s a pretty standard Metroidvania, but that’s perfectly fine. Not all games have to be completely unique, and as long as Guacamelee flows well then it doesn’t need to worry about being 100% unique. And it does. It’s one of the better sidescrolling action games I’ve played in a while, thanks to a smooth-flowing combat system and some interesting dimension-traversing mechanics.

While I’m not Mexican and can’t comment on how accurately Guacamelee captures Mexican culture, I can definitely say that the art style hits all the right notes. Strong angular lines and a color scheme straight from Mexican art helps keep the game feeling authentic, while pop culture references to well-known Mexican cultural concepts like wrestling and Dia de los Muertos keep players nodding their heads and progressing through the lovely landscapes. This is Mexican art as seen through the lens of popular representations of Mexican culture, so while you are unlikely to see more obscure concepts, you will probably see plenty of cool concepts you’ve been exposed to already. Guacamelee is being prepped for a 2013 release on PS3.

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