Game of the Year 2019! The Art Direction award

5 mins read

Awards by the DDNet Team

It’s that time of year again, where we look back at the year that was, and pick our top three games across a host of categories! As with years past we’ll reveal one award winner per day, and this year we’ve got a massive 17 different awards to share out. It was a difficult process to choose the winners this year! While 2019 might not have had quite as many spectacularly big blockbuster releases as years past, the quality of games that were released with far less fanfare than they deserves is truly incredible. 
It goes without saying that art direction is critical to the success of a game. Video games are an inherently visual medium, so if we don’t like what we see when we look at one, that game immediately has a big mark against it. It might be possible to overcome that initial impression, but in most cases developers would be far better off getting the initial impression right.

Note, though that “art direction” does not mean “realism.” We’ll be frank and name-drop here: Days Gone may well have been the most expensive game that was made this year, in terms of the raw budget that was thrown into making the environments look as detailed and “real” as possible. Days Gone was never even in consideration for this award. You hang a nicely realistic picture of a stream or lake in your toilet. You go to an art gallery to see a Picasso. Realism is an inherently inferior form of art because it’s in abstraction that we get a sense of the artist’s creativity and thought. That’s what this award recognises at DDNet.


Yoshi’s Crafted World (Read our review here)

For years now Yoshi has headlined Nintendo at its most whimsical, and Yoshi’s Crafted World is the most perfect realisation of that vision to date. Every square inch of this most delightful platformer has the most delightful handcrafted aesthetic to it… and you even get to see the tape and tacks that hold it all together, in a wonderfully aware bit of self-awareness to the artificiality of it all. Yoshi himself is one of the most delightful, charming protagonists, and the careful eye for detail at Nintendo has given him a personality well beyond what should be possible for a rather dopey dino.


Spirit Hunter: NG (Read our review here)
Horror is hard to do well. Anyone half decent can draw spurts of blood and dismemberment, but that’s not really horror. That’s too pedestrian to be horror. Real horror is about so much more. It’s about creating that unsettling clash between the real and unreal. It’s about reflecting the fine line between terror and eroticism that the masters – from Stephen King to Bram Stoker and Clive Barker – have been so effective at over the many years. Horror’s about challenging us by tapping into the fears that we – and our society around us – would rather not question. Very few horror games achieve this on any level, but Spirit Hunter: NG, much as its predecessor, Death Mark, is one of the rare few genuine horror masterpieces, and a huge part of that is the incredible art, from the characters right through to the environments and key scenes. Experience Inc. has the most darkly beautiful visual novel ever created here, and it should not be missed.


The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince (Read our review here)
NISA’s clever, crafty little puzzle platformer isn’t the first time a game developer has taken the Grimm brothers aesthetic and tone and tried to do something interesting with it. It’s not even close to the first. Grimm is a ridiculously common source of inspiration for game development. It’s rarely been done with such subversive or intelligent energy as we’ve seen in Liar Princess, however. NISA’s mastery of the theme and tone of the fairy tale has been put to expert use against a visual aesthetic that is truly original and majestic in application.

Stay tuned for the next award tomorrow!

– DDNet Team

This is the bio under which all legacy articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

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