Clones war
Notes on becoming

Gumshoe

LA-Noire_screenshot_253

I’ve been playing virtual detective lately, piecing together small details in an unfolding adventure that has me hooked. I travel through beautifully rendered environments, scouring my screen for clues, cognizant that even the smallest detail may yield vital information. I’m searching for pieces of a jumbled puzzle, and the effort requires my full attention. Only a video game can engage me in this way.

Everyone in this game has hidden something, and it’s up to me to find it. Still, I can’t help stopping every now and then to admire the scenery. So much artistry in this game. So much careful attention to nuance and atmosphere. This is what skilled craftsmanship in game design looks like. I could live in this world.

L.A. Noire, right? Nope. I’m playing The Tiny Bang Story. HUH?!

Ignore the graphic diversion above. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Click me. No, really. Do it.

Nice, eh? You have no idea. Play this game, and you'll discover it's chock-full of such eye-popping goodness.

Tiny Bang Story is a point-and-click adventure game from a two-person Russian indie studio called Colibri Games, and it's simply stunning. Grab your child and put her on your lap, or grab your significant other and an extra chair, and play this beautiful, expertly-crafted game together.

If you once enjoyed point-and-click games, but left them behind after LucasArts faded - or if you're too young to have played Grim Fandango or the Monkey Island games - Tiny Bang Story illustrates why such games, at their best, can deliver such pure and simple delight. Some games exude love and care. This is one of them.

Tiny Bang Story is a labyrinth of pitch-perfect puzzles enveloped in a gallery of kinetic hand-drawn art. Its creators have cited classic Dutch paintings as an inspiration, as well as Machinarium, and it's easy to see how these inspirations coalesce in their work.

But this game has a visual tone and style of its own, and each screen is packed with detail for the player to ponder. My 3-year-old has become an expert puzzle-piece-locator, and Colibri has done a terrific job of hiding things in places that are fun to explore. Tedium could easily have crept into Tiny Bang Story, but its devs, to their credit, avoid that pitfall.

We're seeing a lovely renaissance of hand-drawn art in point-and-click style games. Windowsill, Machinarium, and Mateusz Skutnik's Daymare Town stories are among the best of these, and I'm sure I'm overlooking many others. Along with the continuing vitality of simple pixel-art-style games, these beautiful games illustrate that talented visual artists can find a venue for their expression in contemporary video games.

Hey, while you're here, why not check out a couple of other Tiny Bang Story screenshots in all their glory:

Click me

And me too

If you feel misled by my L.A. Noire tease at the top of this post, not to worry. I promise to return to that game soon...with a little help from a few friends. Oh, I'm such a tease. :-)

In the meantime, check out this wonderful making-of video for Tiny Bang Story. It beautifully illustrates the care that went into just one visual element of the game.

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