Games From a Parallel Dimension

Screenshot from Scenic

I love games that come from another world. Odin Sphere is a game from a world where 3D never caught on, and people kept making 2D games with more and more advanced hardware. The Fool’s Errand is a game from a parallel universe populated entirely by clumsy geniuses, with brains the size of cities but the tragic inability to play action-oriented games. And Scenic is a game from a dimension where people really loved Mode 7 for some reason. Allow me to elaborate.

Mode 7, of course, is the Super Nintendo graphics mode that allows the pseudo-3d technique used for the world map in many classic RPGs. It’s done by scaling the background differently for each scanline, which gives you a world that looks like a flat map lying on a table in 3/4 view. Scenic, though, has the best use of this technique I’ve ever seen.

This game is just… gorgeous. It’s blocky and fuzzy and based on a primitive graphical paradigm, but it’s not ugly. Playing it is like playing Mario Kart or F-Zero, except pretty and Flash-based. I can just imagine the thought process in the developers’ minds. “Flash is slow,” they thought, “But Mode 7 is cheap… and homely. What if we made it beautiful?” They actually added touches like particle systems and a simulated narrow depth of field that makes far and near objects fuzzy.

This isn’t just neo-retro. No, it’s post-retro. It’s like steampunk, where you take an archaic style and approach and shove it into the modern era. It’s pixelpunk.

“Pixelpunk.” I like the sound of that.

5 thoughts on “Games From a Parallel Dimension

  1. I freaking love mode 7, and this is a beautiful game. I wish I had the engine so I could build something other then a racing game out of it…or just another awesome racing game.

  2. Scenic is just really nice to look at and to play.

    Will be interesting if we see a few more games in this style. I am all for pixelpunk as you call it. We should embrace all the visual styles that gaming has gone through and use them to inspire new games.

  3. Very cool. Makes me want to look into how to implement a Mode 7 engine for my own games. :p

    And Pixelpunk, yes, I think I like that. Maybe I’ll try it sometime.

  4. Now there’s also the chunky pixel style used in this recent string of poetic indie games, from Passage, to I Wish I Were the Moon, and your own The Majesty of Colors. I’d call it… Pixelchunk. What do you think of that?

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