Home > Games, My writing > Style before gameplay? (Article)

Style before gameplay? (Article)

This past week I’ve been playing two fairly different games that share something in common. They’re both shooters of a sort, but that’s not what I’m referring to, the thing they share is the fact they have a distinct style that is often more interesting than the actual game.

The games in question are Comic Jumper and Kane & Lynch 2. In the case of Comic Jumper, it has a variety of art styles throughout the game and a very self referencial and oftentimes bizarre sense of humour. With Kane & Lynch 2 the entire game has a very unique visual style which makes the game look like it has been recorded through a cheap video camera and uploaded to the internet.

Kane & Lynch 2 and Comic Jumper

Comic Jumper is for the most part a sidescrolling twin stick shooter, you use one analog stick to move and the other to aim while pressing the right trigger or X button to fire. The gameplay could best be described as average, it’s challenging and occasionally frustrating but the mechanics at its core are solid. My problem with the game is that if you strip away the bizarre meta humour and heaps of pop culture references then you are left with a mediorcre experience at best.

The same can be said for Kane & Lynch 2, the mechanics are solid, it works like a third person shooter should, but if you take away the shaky camera and video filters it does nothing to make it stand out from the crowd.

Playing these games so close to each other gave me pause for thought, this problem of style over substance could very well become an issue with many games going forward. Innovation has been lacking somewhat of late. Alot of developers seem content to stick with tried and true game mechanics while putting more of their efforts on things such as art style, story and other ancillary aspects of the game.

I’m all for making a game stand out, a recent successful example would be Borderlands. The game shifted art styles before release, taking it from a generic sci-fi look to a more unique cel-shaded design. This took it from something that could easily have been overlooked to a game that was almost instantly recognisable. Of course this would all have been for naught if the game itself wasn’t a fun and unique experience, which it most certainly was.

Borderlands is actually a perfect example of the type of thing I would’ve loved to have seen Kane & Lynch or Comic Jumper do. It took a unique art style and a novel mix of gameplay types and systems to make a very interesting and compelling game world to play in.

I hope more developers go the way of Borderlands and manage to create a fun game alongside an equally entertaining and unique style. It’s sad to see games like Kane & Lynch 2 and Comic Jumper fall short when clearly alot of effort has been made to make them stand out.

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