Superproduct Presents… The Art of Videogames

I was really looking forward to Edge Presents… The Art of Videogames. Over the years, Edge has featured some fantastic game-inspired artwork on its cover so I would have thought they’d be able to compile something rather special when making a magazine to celebrate it.

And did they? No. No they didn’t. “Edge Presents… Some Hastily Assembled Assets From a Highly Questionable Selection of Games Culminating in a Overwhelming Sense of Missed Opportunity” would have been a more accurate title, if a little harder to fit onto the cover. And to market.

I realise it’s supposed to be “Volume 1” so perhaps there’s more to come, but the first edition of Edge Presents… contains such glaring omissions that my faith has been shaken. A lot of what they did feature is reasonable, and, given that the universe is infinite and there are therefore an infinite number of games it would be possible to include, they were never going to be able to please everyone. It seems a bit of a thankless task. But when you’re charging £8, you’d better have produced something worthy of calling itself a “Collector’s Edition”. “Collecting Dust On the Shelves of Smiths Edition”, more like!! Sorry, I’ll stop that now.

So, in order to do some justice to the art of great games Edge forgot, I’m going to highlight five of the most bewildering omissions and explain why I think they should have been included. These aren’t games that were just graphically unique, but also whose distinctive art direction was carried through the whole experience to make them particularly special.

Yoshi’s Island (1995, SNES)
Yoshi's Island

Yoshi’s Island, easily my favourite platform game ever, still looks fantastic today – especially on a big screen. Forget the lacklusture DS sequel – grab the Virtual Console edition when they eventually release it. The thick kiddie crayon lines, the rainbow colour pallete and the surprisingly varied, multi-layered backgrounds (like the one above) made it a joy to play.

Browse Yoshi’s Island Sprites at The Shyguy Kingdom.

Fallout (series) (1997, PC)
Fallout's Fallout Boy

Edge Presents… does include S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the recent (sort of) post-apocalyptic Ukranian FPS/RPG thing. And with good reason, I think. But it doesn’t feature the Fallout games, whose ’50s-tinged retrofuture (think Twelve Monkeys in a desert bunker) was expertly realised. Fallout Boy (above) would cheerily illustrate the horrors that lay ahead and hint at the utopia that had been lost – or perhaps never existed. Along with the attention to detail in everything from the interface (remember PIPboy?) to the tubes-n-bolts creations invented to endure the harsh environment, this helped to make the Fallout universe memorable and compelling in a market full of derivative rent-a-wizard settings.

More Fallout artwork at Duck and Cover.

Ico (2001, PS2)

The architecture of Ico’s castle setting, the framing of every fixed camera position (if not always welcome) and the strikingly bleached out, almost painted graphical style are all part of the reason that some people claim Ico is a work of art in itself. I don’t really want to get into that, partly because I can’t remember precisely who those people are, but unless Ico and its spiritual successor Shadow of the Colossus have an entire future issue of Edge Presents… dedicated to them, their omission from Volume 1 is a complete mystery. I can’t think of a game whose concept art I’d rather see on the printed page.

Print out and make your own Ico papercraft sculptures at RPGFan.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002, Various)
Vice City

I chose Vice City because it was a huge success commercially as well as critically, and it played so pleasingly with the ’80s Miami asthetic. The lurid pallete seeped through box illustration to the lights of Vice City itself, while the retro ‘loading’ screen welcoming the player served to remind us just how far games have come since the BASIC decade.

Buy Vice City Kubricks at ToyTokyo.

Katamari (series) (2004, Various)
Katamari Damacy

Besides Ico, this is possibly the most surprising omission from Edge‘s compilation. Katamari is famed for the artistic vision of Keita Takahashi (look, here’s an interview with him from Edge, of all places!!), prompting tribute art from fans on a scale large enough to impress even the King of All Cosmos himself.

Download a whole host of Katamari wallpapers courtesy of llshibata (and, originally, Namco) at Flickr.

And more…

Those are a few I would have expected to see, along with the likes of Final Fantasy, Zelda, Electroplankton, Pikmin, Quake, Wario Ware, Earthworm Jim, Street Fighter, or any graphic adventures (like Day of the Tentacle, Broken Sword or Discworld). I could go on, but why don’t you? What great game art do you think deserves to have Melvyn Bragg’s full attention, or failing that, a 10 minute slot on The Culture Show?

The Chap: Courage + Modesty

The Chap: Courage + Modesty on Vimeo

London’s The Chap played to a packed-out Buffalo Bar on Friday night in support of Thee More Shallows. As the video above demonstrates, the venue was full of Talky McBastards and Inconsiderate Tall People, which I think slightly perturbed the immensley talented SJ Esau who opened.

But The Chap are hugely accomplished and I suspect most people were there to see them. They’re my favourite local group and I’ve seen them play many times: playfully experimental and ocassionally willfully obtuse but always a great deal of fun. Plus they’ve upped the number of harmonies and tongue in cheek dance moves since I first saw them in 2005, and that can only be a good thing. It’s just a shame we have to wait until the end of the year for their new album. And why the hell aren’t they massive yet? I blame everyone else.

Like the sound of ’em? Watch The Chap play Woop Woop on Vimeo and then friend them up on MySpace.

Categorized as music

Throttling has occurred


If you’re anything like me, every day you wake up and shout into the sky: “why hasn’t someone made a giant online archive of comic book frames featuring people being strangled, squeezed and generally held a little too tightly for comfort in the neckular region?”.

And the following day – and therefore also every day – you realise you are shouting into emptiness and you are overwhelmed by the futility of your fruitless existence. Well, not this time. Because my associates responsbile for the hilarious and enigmatic Goaste have just launched Throttling:

Hopefully, in time, every throttle in the world will be recorded here, for your throttling pleasure, and for ours, and every neck in the world will be crushed by our fingers as we throttle and scream and laugh and throttle some more.

And now all our lives can be complete.

Save our Spitz!

Well it looks as though the rumours were trueThe Spitz is definitely in danger of eviction:

The facts are that The Spitz has been given six months notice to quit its current site in Old Spitalfields Market by its landlords Ballymore Properties. This means in a worst case scenario The Spitz would cease to exist by the end of September this year.

I’m never sure how much good online petitions really do, but I’ve signed the one in support of The Spitz just in case, and you should too, even if you’re not sure what The Spitz is or what this is that you’re reading and you’re totally dead and hollow inside like the dried out innards of a worm-ridden treetrunk. You utter bastard.

Also, I am pleased that even Ken Livingstone is outraged at its closure. But couldn’t you, like, send some heavies from the Mayor’s office round to Ballymore Properties Ken? To rough them up a bit? Or perhaps you’ll adopt a more subtle approach and price them out of the capital by banning them from using Oyster cards (this is clever London satire BTW).

Categorized as music

BARR at the Luminaire

BARR @ Upset The Rhythm on Vimeo

Last time I saw BARR, at last year’s Upset The Rhythm-curated Frieze Music event, he was one faintly irritating – but very entertaining – man and a lo-fi backing track.

But now BARR have gone and done a Why? and returned to the UK as a full band. And they’re great. I mean, BARR is never going to be to everyone’s taste, but whereas before his music/performance could veer toward the self-indulgent (as I suppose all solo artists must be to some extent), now all that is tempered by his “team”. He’s got friends to interact with, he’s more comfortable on stage and his unique vocals are engaging, not irritating.

If you’d like a chance to marvel at Brendan’s unnerving flexibility and feel happy and not at all annoyed like you originally suspected you might, BARR are touring the UK right now and will be back in London on the 26th.

Categorized as music