Sometimes it's hard to tell where the line between videogames and art is drawn (just check out this week’s feature, “Applied Ludology”). It may be easy to argue that blood and guts and gore in gaming isn't art but gratuitous violence, but what do you suppose early critics of Hamlet or Macbeth said about the bodies lying on the floor? Many videogames are visually appealing and jam-packed with detailed storylines and character development. While videogames may not traditionally be art, they surely have crossed into the artistic domain, and with the rise of free, casual gaming on the Web, it's never been easier to indulge in some modern art.
The dark ambience of Bloxorz makes my heart race like I've just downed six cups of black coffee. Bloxorz is a puzzle game in which the objective is to maneuver a block through a maze and down a hole—not as simple as it would sometimes seem. But it's a puzzle game! It's not supposed to make my pulse rate increase or make me jumpy. It's supposed to be calming and refocusing. Dang, I love it. The simple game play is easy to pick up, but there are enough quirky bits to keep it highly entertaining.
Point-and-click adventures are my favorite category of casual game. Puzzle games, card games, action shoot-’em-up games are common on all videogame fronts, but not point-and-click adventures. Hapland is already a classic. The objective is ... well, you don't really know what it is, but as you start clicking around on different objects and things start to explode, it becomes apparent the goal is to accomplish something. Just try not to kill the stick-figure guys—they really do come in handy.
Many a stuffed animal has helped a child through a traumatic event in his or her life. Those cuddly toys are there to listen and to hug, and to punch repeatedly when hitting the true object of our anger is out of the question. Lucky for them, they're stuffed animals. But what if they could become traumatized from such abuse? Die Anstalt, or The Asylum, is a psychiatric clinic for abused cuddly toys. You're job is to treat and cure four cute creatures back to their old cuddly selves. While low in action, this game is high on creative storyline and adorability. Just a note: The therapeutic process takes some time, so be ready to get slightly invested.
Just a couple weekends ago, I got together with a few work friends and played some Wii. Our collective favorite game was Wario Ware: Smooth Moves—a fast-paced frenzy of minigames strung together in two- to three-minute blocks of nonstop silliness. Four Second Firestorm is the same kind of game. Each game is only four seconds long, though sometimes they take more than four seconds to understand. Like Wario Ware, this game has a learning curve, but once you start figuring them out, you'll be hooked.
This text-based game is the r0x0rs (l33t speak for very awesome). It's based on a webcomic on Homestarrunner.com about a mythical dragon-like thing named Trogdor. In Peasant’s Quest, you are a peasant whose home has been burninated by Trogdor and seeks revenge, but before you can see the legendary creature you must get stinky, dress in a burlap sack and be lit on fire. Yeah, totally silly and totally awesome. This game will send you reeling back into the old-school days of computer games—text only with 8-bit graphics. Genius.