During the rare moments when I do have a connection I've been discovering 3D handcrafted video games. This is a genre of games which use traditional 3D animation techniques in place of more conventional computer graphics.
One of the first (or possibly the first) was The Neverhood released on CD ROM in 1996. It is a point and click adventure using claymation sets and characters. The static nature of the point and click mode allows almost any style of images to be used, so while visually innovative, the title did not make any advances technologically. The use of claymation was very probably a response to the critical and commercial success of the film A Nightmare Before Christmas, released in 1993. Indeed, there were two other 'claymation' games in the early 90s (Claymates and the ClayFighter series, both on the SNES) but these was conventional looking games, which adopted the claymation aesthetic for their pixel-based sprites and cover art.
A sequel, Skullmonkeys, was released in 1998, this time on the PlayStation. This title is a platform game and successfully combines claymation figures and sets into a fully animated gaming experience interdispersed with claymation cut scenes. The plot has you collecting clay balls, which seems to be a wry but clunky way of justifying the use of claymation in the videogame marketplace.
While 2D animated games abounded over the years, there seems to have been a bit of a break on the 3D handmade scene until The Dream Machine in 2010 from Cockroach. This is a mystery puzzle game in which a claymation protagonist uncovers some rather odd goings-on in his new flat. Although brightly lit and colourful, the style of the puppets reminds me of the expressionistic Eastern European work that terrified me as a child.
2011 saw the release of Lume, from State of Play games. Rather than claymation, it picks up on the recent trend for using relief and layered paper and card to create images. It's a beautiful, friendly looking piece which harks back to the 60s and 70s childrens illustrations which used blocks of colour with wobbley hand-drawn lines as detail.
The Swapper by Facepalm Games was released only a few weeks ago and is available on Steam. It is a side-scrolling platform adventure where the bulk of the environments are miniature sets. I love the juxtaposition between the gritty, dirty world, and the luminous HUD overlays. There is also a bit of a late 70s vibe going on with the protagonist(s) sporting silver visors atop their bulky environment suits.
Lumino City is State of Play's forthcoming sequel to the aforementioned Lume. From the teaser it seems that they talented folk in South London have turned up the volume on its predecessor to create an amazing blend of animation and physical models. I particularly love the use of depth of field, makding everything seem very intimate.
Via Awesome Robo