So much gray. So much brown. So much black.
That’s been the story of modern gaming ever since the push for “gritty realism” became a focal point of Triple A game marketing. And while there have always been the games that broke free of that to introduce a little more color to gaming, we still can’t quite get past how grim and dark most projects continue to look.
However, this year’s E3 showed an impressive amount of color in amongst the typical drag, darkness. For every Bloodborne or The Order, there was a Sunset Overdrive and a LittleBigPlanet. For every Batman: “Darkham Night” and Rainbow Six: Siege (the irony of the word “Rainbow” being there is not wasted on me), there was a Yoshi’s Woolly World and Entwined. Let’s take a look at some of the beautiful, bright, and colorful titles that were showcased at this year’s E3.
With the success of recent HD re-releases like Wind Waker and Okami proving that brightly colored, cartoon-inspired games show off HD just as well, if not better, than hyper realism, it’s no surprise that a lot of developers want to test the power of the new generation of consoles to see just how alive they can make things look with tons of colors, blending and mixing, exploding out from every corner of the screen.
As usual, Nintendo forgoes the dark realism in favor of their old charm and colorful childlike wonder. Nintendo pulled out their most colorful and bright franchises one after another: A new Yoshi game. A new Kirby game. The new color-based Splatoon. Their showcase was a myriad of pastels, brightness, and joy. And for the first time ever, we’ll be seeing some of these familiar rainbow hued franchises in full HD! A clay-based Kirby with stunning color clashing, a warm and calming colored Yoshi game made entirely of yarn. The mixes of various colorful characters clashing in vibrant HD remasters of familiar Nintendo worlds in Super Smash Bros. The Wii U promises to showcase what HD can do for all the brightly colored retro games we loved in the past.
It’s no surprise that the new Kirby game is called Kirby & The Rainbow Curse, as it seems to really want to focus on being a step up for the beautiful Canvas Curse on DS, in full HD no less. The use of a rainbow track for ball Kirby to roll upon paints over the clay inspired worlds. Lovely lightning presents a look of sunshine to every level. Even the underwater level showed that even a level focused on blues could still have a variety and flare to it.
Yoshi’s Woolly World aims to take the watercolors of Yoshi’s Island and drench them in the pastels of yarn, with a focus on calming colors making even the darkest corners of the game rather vibrant and peaceful. It’s a very familiar feeling Yoshi game, done with a greater focus on peace and tranquility. The yarn colors have the kind of softness you’d expect from actual knitting yarn, while still managing to capture Yoshi’s delightfully bright world.
But Nintendo wasn’t the only ones getting in on the color this year, nor were they the only ones with a yarn-based game! The popular and always varied LittleBigPlanet made a return with it’s third console installment. As usual, the game promises to have stunning environments focused on zany, colorful themed levels. And you can also bet that the ability to customize your sackboy (or his new friends) with a cavalcade of costumes, color changes, and accessories will provide an extra punch of character to the game.
LBP3 immediately followed the dark and grim, yet oddly colorful as well, announcement for the inFamous DLC, First Light. inFamous was one of two games, the other being Crackdown 3, that really showcased a new kind of color direction in games: the use of blasts of neon colors contrasting over black environments to give a night-life style excitement to what could be otherwise bland, typical cityscapes. The choice to make everything gleam with multicolored lights, from your attacks to your environments, allows these games to maintain the dark, gritty feel without being oppressive or bleak. And in the case of two games where you fly around causing mayhem, color is a huge part in fitting the feel of the games.
Another colorful game, Sunset Overdrive, also uses a lot of neon in it’s darker stages to maintain the game’s cartoon stylings even in night time environments. But it’s during the day when the game really shines. A satirical poke at modern gamer society as well as modern games, it’s no surprise that Insomniac (who are no strangers to colorful, cartoon worlds!) would choose to go the complete opposite extreme of the games they’re playfully mocking: massive clashes of oranges and reds, shown off at E3 in a gameplay demo that takes place in an amusement park, which are known for color and light. Even the baddies you mow down with fireballs seem to pop with lighter skin tones than most ghouls in games would have. It lends itself to the game’s manic, crazy action much better than, say, Dead Rising 3.
And speaking of zombies! Even the now-predictable zombie games were much brighter than we expected. The trailer for Dead Island 2 during Sony’s conference tossed aside the depressing, dark, and disturbing visuals of the original’s famous trailer, instead focusing on a silly sunlit cinematic trailer that played more like a really messed up Pixar movie than a zombie game trailer. As far as trailers without gameplay goes, it was nice to see zombies with a little life to them!
Sony brought with them a lot of colorful indie titles, including ABZU from some of the developers who worked on the equally color-focused Journey, a stunning game called Entwined, and of course, the show-stopping No Man’s Sky, which matches up strange color combinations to give you the impression of bold new alien worlds to explore.
It seemed like every time we were set to fall back on the typical grays, browns, and blacks of video games, a new game showed up to splash some color on everything. We were treated to many stunning games basking in reds, blues, pinks, purples, mixing and swirling color together. Contrasting and blending. It really does feel like game makers are starting to realize just how great color can look with the power of modern consoles and big, HD televisions. Hopefully this isn’t a trend soon to disappear, because I’d love to see more games like these shown off by the game companies going forward.
So, I’ll leave you with a handful of beautiful screens from some of the games that gave us a bit less dark, and a bit more light.