I've always believed video games to be one of the more interesting forms of digital art as they offer the ability to feature cutting edge graphics, interactive sound design and dynamic gameplay that invites a player to explore art in way that can't be experienced via passive means. I can't help but feel the app store is currently the place to be when it comes to this form of creativity. Small teams of artists are able to develop and release app's fairly easily without the need of huge publishers, unleashing the opportunity for creativity without the pressure of return of investment. I'm currently fascinated with apps that adopt gameplay logic but break out of the constraints of a 'game'. Toy boxes and interactive experiences that invite a player to engage with an experience and offer massive creative rewards for smartly minimal effort. Here are my five top picks for must see app's available in the App Store right now.
Loopimal – Yatatoy (website)
Yatatoy has made two previous apps (Miximal and Drawnimal) for children with wonderful illustrations and animated characters but it’s their latest app Loopimal that I felt needed featuring. It offers an incredibly simple introduction into music sequencing that utilises their previous skills in character art and animation to create a an adorably entertaining experience. Loopimals features a few options for remixing the tracks and rhythms, and offers a lot of reward for very little effort. It’s clearly aimed at children as a ‘my first sequencer’ type app, but there’s a lot in there to enjoy if you appreciate interactive art.
Toca Nature – Tocaboca (website)
I can’t praise this app enough. I’ve been under the impression that Tocaboca are the best app developers in the game and can’t shake the feeling that Toca Nature is quite possibly the best app available. Like, out of all of them. Not only have they managed to create a beautiful interactive experience that children and ‘grown-ups’ will enjoy, but they’ve also delivered an entire eco system in an endlessly adaptable environment. From it’s humble beginnings as a tile of earth in space you’ll very soon have mountain ranges full of hungry bears looming over a giant beaver lake, surrounded in dense woodland full of wildlife. Everything you create provides purpose and sustenance for each creature that is born. You are offered the power of a god to nurture the well being of the life you have created. No, seriously.
Alto’s Adventure – Snowman (website)
The first thing that caught my attention was a snowboarding game with a vibrant colour pallet. But after about 4 months of playing it I can confirm that it’s a perfectly refined, extremely exciting snowboarding game with a persistent day/night cycle, gloriously dynamic weather effects and great sound design. I don’t want to dig into game mechanics here (however much I would love to) but instead want to explain the feeling of this game. Imagine carving down a fresh powder mountain with the sunset falling in the sky, the flares from the sun glinting in your eyes and the snow gently drifting past. You hit a ramp at full speed and glide through the air into a graceful backflip, perfecting your landing and continuing into night. Moments later the clouds have rolled in and a thunder storm is rumbling all around you. Lightning snaps and crackles in the sky as you cautiously navigate you way through candle lit mountain villages. You fight your way through the stormy night hoping for dawn to break. Eventually the sun bursts from over the mountains and your snowboarding adventure continues as you hurtling through forests, pulling the biggest airs you can imagine. That is where Alto’s Adventure excels.
Metamorphabet - Vectorpark (website)
Although this app may sell itself as an educational, alphabet app I think where it really shines is as an outrageously creative, interactive vector art and sound design showcase. The content of the app is an animated alphabet with each letter interacting to your touches. But the wonder comes in when you discover the varied and often quite darkly humorous possibilities that each letter can present and the way that each transition reacts to your touches. It’s all about how it feels. And it feels great playing with each letter to discover its related words. I’ll never tire of inflating the ball inside the igloo on an iceberg.
Hair Salon Me – Tocaboca (website)
I have to feature a second Tocaboca app (although would love to feature them all) because this app has entertained me for countless hours and train journeys. The Hair Salon series has been through a few iterations and building on each release until this latest version, which I believe has perfected the concept. Hair Salon Me invites you to take a photograph of your friend or yourself then opens up the salon as a toy box of things for you to do with your clients hair. You can wash it, colour it multiple colours, straighten it, twist it, cut it, shave it, blow dry it, shave it again, curl it, colour it, etc.. The creative possibilities are endless. The charm comes from the app recognising your photographs eyes and mouth then animating your friend while you perform outrageous feats of hairdressing on them. Once your artistic vision is complete you’re invited to accessorise your client and photograph them in front of a backdrop of your choice. Try it. You’ll be hopelessly hooked, as I am.
Monument Valley – UsTwo (website)
I’m sure you’ve already heard somebody, somewhere waxing lyrical about this app. I think it’s won multiple awards and been featured on the app store more than once. If you haven’t already experienced it then you really must. The game takes the form of a mysterious adventure in which you’re tasked with guiding a small girl through multiple levels of M. C. Escher-esque puzzle rooms. Each level features vibrant, intriguing architectural structures of pathways, platforms and ladders, often forming shapes that at first glance seem impossible to navigate. During your adventure you’ll meet and befriend wonderful characters, achieve the unachievable and quite likely fall hopelessly in love with the creativity on display. It’s really that good. Just ask the internet.