Art style plays a big part when it comes to deciding how you want your players to perceive your game. Creepy, happy, funny etc. Sometimes when people try to make their art style too unique, however, it does more to damage the game than help it. Fortunately, the art style in Willful manages to display a large amount of originality while not sacrificing gameplay. Overall, I find the art style in this game to be pretty fantastic. The NPCs especially, with their endearing and sometimes unsettling quirks, add tons of character which a lot of other games seem to be lacking. That being said, while the game’s overall art style doesn’t have any major problems, there are some small things that I believe could benefit from adjusting.
The enemies in this game are all pretty entertaining, the wooden flying head in the forest level being my personal favorite. The only big problems that I found with bosses were with the giant rolling pig head. The wheels that the head rolls on don’t look like wheels. One of the first things I noticed about the boss area was the wheels. This also creates the problem of distracting the player from the main objective which is to kill the pig. The line through the middle is a little wonky and it makes the wheel look like an eye, so I’d suggest adding some pegs or some bolts depending on what look you’re going for. Just something to make it look more like a wheel.
This was mentioned in the article about game design, but I’d like to address it from an artistic perspective. The turrets are a little confusing. There are several different kinds of turrets in the game, which would make you think that each one would do something different. However because the turrets all do the exact same thing, it’s rather underwhelming. Some of the turrets don’t look like turrets at all, which is a problem. If turrets are one of the main obstacles in the game, you should focus on trying to make them all look good because the player is going to be seeing a lot of them, and will need to be able to pick them out from the background in order to deal with them properly.
One specific turret looks like a statue. When the player walks past it, they don’t expect it to fire at them. There are also different looking turrets in the same level, which is again confusing. Most of them don’t even follow a specific theme. I would figure out what style you want your turrets to have (steampunk, medieval, magical etc.) and stick with it. You should feel free to make different turrets, but they should do different things.
The fish is the last thing I need to address as far as enemies go. The red fish don’t look like they would hurt you. A player would jump right on top of one because they look so non-threatening. Art in a game is meant to convey things that you aren’t going to put into words, and because you chose to do a “figure it out yourself” kind of game, it would be best to make the things that are going to hurt you actually look like they are going to hurt you.
The purple fish that come along later in the game is a much better-looking enemy because they have visible teeth and more threatening faces. The red fish remind me of fish that swim in the background of Zelda games and don’t actually do anything. Something that both of the fish do kind of weird is the way that they look when they move. Fish usually move by expanding muscles on one side of their body and relaxing the other side, then switching. This propels them forward. However, the fish in the game have more of an undulating motion. This doesn’t sacrifice gameplay but it is distracting. I would lower the amount of wiggling that’s done and try to capture a smoother motion. (See picture on right)
Gems and Power Ups
The gems in this game are all over the place. I’m guessing that you were going for a more raw and uncut look rather than a polished gem, however, that makes things confusing to the player who’s accustomed to seeing specific shapes for their money/treasure. The light blue gem looks perfectly fine, and I’d suggest making all of your gems have a generally refined shape like this one instead of being a random polygon. Along with giving the gems refined shapes, I’d suggest making them all fairly similar in size. The blue one is smaller than the green one and the red one is enormous.
Not having a fairly uniform array of gems is less pleasing for the player to look at than if they all looked similar. It’s also more satisfying feeling like you’re picking up gems instead of jagged rocks.
The image that you used for the collectible upgrade is humorous, assuming that you used an up arrow trying to convey the word “upgrade”. However, it isn’t really clear what it is. The first time I saw one I thought it was trying direct the player where to go. It’s also very big. The rest of the things you collect are about half the size of Will, but the upgrade is taller than him. This is again a problem with consistency. Just like with the turrets and gems, you should mix it up a little but try to keep the same general size, shape etc.
Levels and Backdrops
Your backdrops are fantastic. I particularly liked the Old Forest backdrop, mostly because of the sense of depth it had. It gave the impression of actually being in a vast forest. However, I would suggest spicing up the menu screen a little. You want something that’s going to catch the players attention, and with the bland starry sky backdrop, it doesn’t do that. I’d suggest adding in a moving spaceship or some planets orbiting in the background. Something to make it relate more to what the game is actually about as well as make it pleasing to look at.
The levels are good overall, but there are a few minor things that I’d suggest changing. First would be the clouds. I’m not sure if you were going for wispy or fluffy clouds, but they don’t look normal and it’s distracting for the player at times. If you want to make them look wispy, then make them wispy. If you want to make them fluffy, then make them fluffy. The next thing would be the cacti. Your cacti are oddly straight and they all look pretty much the same.
Unless you want your cacti to look like they have recently started growing, I would add some variance to them. Cacti usually have arms, flowers, bulbous patches etc. They don’t all look the exact same like they do in your game. Adding variance to your cacti would make it look less fake and make the level more convincing as a desert.
I’m not sure if this belongs in an article about art or game design, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. The way that you drew your walls/impassable blocks is by making the middle of them black. Once the player becomes accustomed to seeing this, having an extra block sticking out into the black part will make the player think they can jump over to it. In certain spots, you placed a block/blocks inside of the black area, which is super confusing to players and becomes frustrating after jumping into a wall and falling because they couldn’t land on it. I’d go through and make sure there are no blocks like this. It’s not so much an art fix, but it is a visual mistake that hurts your game.
- In the article about game design, it was mentioned that the compass should be taken out entirely. If you don’t plan to do that, I would at least suggest making it look a little fancier. The way that it is right now is super unpleasing to look at, and I wasn’t sure what it was at first until I moved around a bit. Add some detail beyond just a circle and a triangle.
- The first gun that you get looks really strange. It doesn’t look like a gun.
- All of the signs in the game look bad. I don’t know if you were going for a worn look, but even then the writing is super sloppy. It’s not pleasing for the player to look at.
- The thin, bridge-like platforms look like you should be able to jump down through them.
- The blocks made of dice don’t make any sense. They don’t fit in with the rest of the levels and are distracting.
- There is a large metal building inside of the Old Forest which doesn’t make sense. Even the cult members were living inside of a tree house. The transition is strange and should be either gotten rid of or explained more.