With smoother and shinier graphics appearing with every game that’s released these days it’s odd that we’re seeing the appearence of faux retro games. What do I mean by that? Well I mean titles like VVVVVV or Bit. Trip Beat, which take a deliberately pixel art style and 8-bit sound track to try and evoke the same feelings that retro games do, although this may not always be the only reason that the style’s chosen.
See the thing about blockbuster games is they cost money. A lot of money. Remember that scene in The Dark Knight where the Joker burned that huge pile of cash? That’s the kind of moolah we’re talking about when Activision go ‘Hey guys, we should probably make another Call of Duty game.’ A good chunk of the budget is spent on getting together large teams of artists and graphics programmers to make sure the game looks as good as it possibly can. Do you see where I’m going here?
Yes, sad as it is small developers don’t tend to have huge wads of cash lying about. If they did they wouldn’t really be a small developer. Of course developers can go and license the Unreal Engine or some other pre-existing software to try and make your game look pretty whilst saving on developing their own tools, or they can get creative. Personally I prefer the creative option, when indie developers stop trying something new and just fall in line with what the industry in general is doing it will be a sad day indeed.
Now there’s a wide range of places that indie developers can and do go with graphics, but there does seem to be a few games that are falling into the faux retro style at the moment. Maybe part of that is to do with resurgence of retro gaming itself, just look at the re-releases that regularly pop up on XBLA and PSN. Hell the Wii has the Virtual Console which is dedicated to bringing classics to the current generation of gamers.
Of course there’s not really anything wrong with the faux retro style, and some titles use it fantastically. The super retro levels on Super Meat Boy are very enjoyable, although fiendishly difficult. VVVVVV may be one of the oddest titles I’ve played in recent years, but it does justice to the Comodore64 styling that it has adopted.
What are your thoughts on the growth of the faux retro style? Do you like these call backs to the early days of gaming, or would you rather that we looked to the future than the past? Do games that adopt this style really add anything new to the gaming gene-pool?