Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is an absolutely gorgeous game that provides stunning scenery and an enchanting story overall. It’s a unique take on an apocalyptic storyline by focusing on the moments before the end of the world rather than taking a journey through the aftermath. This makes Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture a truly beautiful experience but it doesn’t always make it an extremely fun one.
While the story that unfolds is an interesting one, it can sometimes feel like a chore to even get all the pieces of the story together. This game is essentially a walking simulator that constantly asks players to travel from one place to the next. So while the game is a unique, creative vision, the gameplay feels pretty bland and underwhelming.
The Last Guardian
Fans waited years for The Last Guardian — almost an entire decade, in fact. The fact that The Last Guardian featured a beautiful art style as well didn’t help make the wait for its release any easier. Everything about The Last Guardian’s art direction is absolutely stunning. Technically speaking, the graphics were still stuck in the days of the PS3, which was likely caused by the fact that the console jump to PS4 happened during the game’s lengthy development. But the game’s art is about more than just graphics. The artistic decisions made by SIE Japan Studio throughout the game make the entire journey feel special and make your relationship with Trico one of the game’s greatest highlights. The amount of sheer detail in Trico’s design is captivating and ensuring his movements were soft and fluid solidified his position as a loyal and gentle giant.
The bad news is that the gameplay isn’t nearly as appealing as the art in The Last Guardian. Beautiful musical scores and a lovely art style really just try to help mask a game that is average at best in every other arena. The gameplay is a bit flat and underwhelming. The Last Guardian just benefits from the fact that its touching story, beautiful art and adorably bizarre furry companion kind of makes up for it all. Well, almost.
Alice: Madness Returns
Alice: Madness Returns actually isn’t a terrible game by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just a game that isn’t particularly impressive and it doesn’t make any real effort to do anything new or particularly well. If video games were people and you were having a birthday party, Alice: Madness Returns would be the friend that shows up late with no present but is extravagantly overdressed in a way that steals all the shine from your big day.
The game overall just comes across as a bit unpolished and the black hole of repetitive gameplay starts to ruin all the potential. The real star in the midst of all the mediocrity is the art direction that does a stellar job of setting the tone and building a truly twisted world around Alice’s adventure. In fact, the way Wonderland visually changes throughout the game and how this impact is also seen on Alice is one of the game’s best features. Where the gameplay may fail to really draw you down the rabbit hole, the game’s artistic charm certainly will.
Whether players like it or not, Mafia III set out to do exactly what it was intended to do when it comes to world building. As uncomfortable as it may have felt for some players at times, Mafia III found a way to highlight both the charm of a New Orleans-inspired city in the Deep South while also emphasizing the ugliness of racism. It’s only fair to note that there are some actual gameplay mechanics that help bring this vision to life. Stealing a car in a rich neighborhood will get you hounded down by cops while committing the same crime in a low-income area will result in little to no attention from the cops. It’s a nice touch that makes this fictional world of New Bordeaux feel a lot more real and interactive. But even that kind of mechanic would probably be grossly unappreciated if it weren’t for Mafia III providing a wonderful canvas and soundtrack to carry its impressive story forward.
In every way imaginable, Mafia III recreates the feel of a faux New Orleans. There is a clear attention to detail when it comes to clothing as characters flaunt fashions that feel authentic to the time and region. Even the cars and architecture of buildings all embodies the true essence of New Orleans. So with the character design and detail to environment feeling exactly the way you would want a current gen game to, it’s pretty disappointing that the gameplay felt stuck in the past. While Mafia III starts out feeling like a grand time, the game becomes very repetitive rather quickly.
Gravity Rush 2
Oh, Gravity Rush 2. This is a game that you will want to fall in love with so badly but everything in your bones will opt for that high school crush feeling instead. It looks like the type of game you will want to devote the rest of your life to but as you spend more time together you realize that this relationship might not be all it was cracked up to be. Gravity Rush 2 is a great game overall and there is still nothing else quite like it out there.
The gravity-shifting mechanic is unique and so much fun to play with, but a wonky camera can often make things far more frustrating than they should be. Once you add in pesky stealth missions and lackluster side missions that often feel far too disconnected from the main plot, you start to see Gravity Rush 2’s gameplay appeal wither away. The game just feels like a bit of a chore at times and that steals attention from a great narrative and a gorgeous world that is so fun to fly around and explore from every angle. There isn’t a single moment in Gravity Rush 2 that comes without great scenery but you’ll just have to convince yourself to care long enough to really experience it all.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
If there was ever a game that literally looked like a beautiful piece of art coming to life, it would have to be El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron has a gorgeous, sophisticated art style that is undeniably one of the best features of the entire game. In fact, it’s one of the few games where the art direction is not only better than the gameplay but it serves as a necessary distraction from the rest of the game’s blunders.
Developer Ignition Tokyo gave this game a combat system that felt incredibly underwhelming. The repetitive hack and slasher just fell flat and refused to add any real sense of depth to any of the battles encountered throughout the journey. This becomes apparent very early on in the game but somehow you find yourself pushing forward as you’re unable to just call it quits on a game that looks this mesmerizing.
The Order: 1886
Before discussions about The Order: 1886’s gameplay can even begin, it’s imperative that one thing is made very clear — The Order: 1886 still stands as a shining example of how to build a beautiful world that pulls players deep into its clutches.
It’s a shame that this kind of digital art played host to such an underwhelming display of gameplay. The Order: 1886 has pacing that is painfully sluggish and the gameplay never rises above being average at best. Again, when you are lured deep into a game’s grasps because it looks THIS good, it’s a particular shame when the gameplay turns out to be one of the most unimaginative parts of the entire experience.
Ryse: Son of Rome
When Ryse: Son of Rome was released back in 2013 it just seemed like a game that would be destined for greatness. The story was absolutely captivating and worthy of a player’s full, undivided attention. The visuals were nothing short of a stunning spectacle that could make any player suddenly develop an odd affinity for a historic Roman setting.
Even trailers of the game just made it seem like an adventure that would be hard to turn away from. What actually hit shelves was a huge disappointment that seemed to miss every mark imaginable. The game’s art direction was immediately squandered on by repetitive, shallow combat and a lack of freedom to even let you enjoy the beautiful world around you. A game that looks like this seems like it was made to be explored but your path is often so tightly controlled that exploration seems like the last thing that was on Crytek’s mind at the time. All in all, it’s seriously a huge shame and a heart breaking disappointment.
From the very start, it was easy to see that if Get Even would get anything right, it would be its art direction. Before Get Even was released, it showed off its delightfully creepy atmosphere through a collection of cinematic trailers that could easily send shivers up your spine. The music and overall tone in the Tea Party trailer was the sole reason why I even decided to give the game try when it previously wasn’t even on my radar.
Unfortunately, Get Even turned out to be another game that lured players deep into its clutches with great world-building but failed to offer something really meaningful once you got there. The narrative was solid—not because of the content itself but simply because of how the game delivers it. The story is rather predictable but the art direction makes it an incredibly enjoyable journey nonetheless. Technically speaking, Get Even comes with many frustrations. Trudging through the game just feels like a chore at times and the overall result feels a bit unpolished. While it’s certainly not a terrible game, it is a product that just could have been (and should have been) far better than it was.
Entwined is not only a game that looks beautiful but it also has a distinct art style that sets it apart from other rhythm games. Its use of colors and abstract visuals create a stunning game accompanied by a soundtrack that is absolutely enchanting. Entwined essentially looks like some sort of whimsical, digital paper mache world come to life all for the sake of a mysterious love story between a bird and a fish. It’s a game that had potential but saw it all go to waste.
The game’s story mode can easily be completed in about an hour and the game doesn’t much in terms of replay value. Sure, some of the scores are challenging, which could be enough satisfy some players’ palette, but the game lacks depth overall. With clunky, frustrating controls preventing you from ever reaching the zen place that the art style is begging you to visit, Entwined ultimately just ends up feeling like a wonderful art project that got turned into a mediocre video game.