In the past people used computers purely for working and mobile phones were simply for making calls or sending texts on the move, but the tremendous tech advances of the past twenty years have turned these devices into multimedia leisure centres.
Nowadays people watch television and movies or play games on computers and phones all the time and the creators of gaming apps are competing for their attention with ever better designed titles. These are some of the best and most surprising games app designs on the market at the moment.
Poker 8 is the latest app from the 888 Poker brand and anyone who is familiar with playing poker in this way will be instantly struck by the innovative design of it. This is more than just a standard upgrade of the company’s poker app, although it does offer design continuity with previous versions – most notably keeping the same look for the cash game and tournament lobbies as before.
It is the ‘settings’ option that introduces the surprising aspects of Poker 8, with players given the option of playing in portrait mode as well as the landscape one that has always been the default for poker apps. They will also encounter a brand new look for the poker tables that is less cluttered and provides greater space between the players. Player avatars are now rendered in HD for improved clarity and automatically fade out if they fold.
Fans of puzzle games had grown accustomed to apps offering a very basic design, with the focus being on the puzzle itself rather than the look. For that reason, the astonishing visual beauty and sophistication of the Monument Valley game from UsTwo came as a real shock when it was released. This app presents the player with a fully-realised fantasy world brought to life with stunning graphics that drew inspiration from a range of artistic sources, including minimalist sculpture and M.C. Escher artworks.
Through this it redefined what is possible for a puzzle game design and led players to expect more in terms of visual quality from these games. However, the imagery did not come at the expense of the actual puzzle, which asks players to guide Princess Ida across levels of ever increasing difficulty and complexity. The result of all this was sales of more than 25 million.
Colour Switch took the simple UI and visual style typical of hyper-casual games apps and improved it by embedding colour coordination and clean graphics with heavy contrast between the different colours and shapes. Opting for a simple black backdrop to the bright falling shapes ensures that these stand out very effectively, which in turn makes it easier for users to avoid getting lost while playing the game.
Another strong game design feature of Colour Switch is the decision to go with plain white for the star symbols, which ensures they contrast firmly not only with the background but also with the other multi-coloured game symbols. This app showed an advanced awareness of how colour can enhance game-play while retaining the straightforward visuals common to hyper-casual games.
When this adventure game was released it became clear that the creators Frogmind had found a way to address a common problem in the design of fantasy adventure apps. These titles often require gamers to locate certain objects that are essential to the play in visual landscapes that are dark and forbidding, with the latter making the former extremely difficult.
The developers behind Badlands tackled this by an innovative design tweak that provided these important objects with a subtly rendered glowing quality to help them stand out better. That makes it a great example of games developers listening to gamers and using design to improve the playability of games within the action adventure genre that little bit. Badland also takes the immersive feel of fantasy action games and improves it by developing a consistently dreamy and seductive world for players to lose themselves in.
Crossy Road is a game that aims to provide an answer to the famous ‘why did the chicken cross the road’ question and it does so in a way that is both fun and surprising. Creators Hipster Whale used a boxy style to bring characters like the chicken to life that is reminiscent of older video games as well as the smash hit Minecraft series. Beyond this though, the graphic design also shows the influence of retro artistic movements such as 1960s pop art.
This was a pretty bold design move at a time when the visual style of games apps is getting ever slicker and more sophisticated, but it proved to be a smart counterintuitive one. The vaguely primitive and old-fashioned look of Crossy Road was precisely what caught the attention of gamers who have an ever greater numbers of titles to choose from. It also won Hipster Whale a prestigious award at the 2015 WWDC developer’s conference organised by Apple.
In their different ways, these games apps all feature designs that surprised their audiences and that offered something innovative and unique to enable them to stand out from the crowd or solve specific problems. Whether the result of this was award wins, massive sales, or a combination of the two, it shows that the rewards are there for games designers who push the boundaries.