There is something so visually pleasing about 2D animation. It has a fluidity and bounciness that take me back to the simple joys of watching Saturday morning cartoons. But great animation in games is more than just fun wrapping paper. When done well, it plays an integral part in teaching mechanics, communicating a game's overall atmosphere, and plays an important role in how we interact with the game's world. Being pretty certainly helps, though. When I see a game with a fun cartoony art style I know I'll be in for a treat and a recent handful of games have particularly captured this charm.
SBF Games' point and click detective game Tangle Tower is a great example. Detective games involve a lot of talking. You want to squeeze every last bit of information you can out of suspects, pick every dialogue option, and go over certain details just one more time to make sure you haven't missed anything.
Having to chat with the same suspect over and over again can be frustrating, but Tangle Tower makes sure that speaking to its cast is a delight. Grimoire's bouncy bouffant, the flow of Felix's cape as he moves, and Penelope's graceful arm movements—all the characters have the little quirks that keep them interesting and fun to chat to. This is vital in a detective game where you're bouncing between suspects, often speaking to a character multiple times, waving new clues in their faces.
Interacting with lively characters is also the charm of point-and-click comedy Later Alligator. In addition to its gator gang, there is a whole city to explore. Pillow Fight has teamed up with SmallBü Animation to make Later Alligator's hand-drawn metropolis bustle with activity. There are moving cars, NPCs walking on the sidewalk, shops open for business, alligators hanging out of windows, aeroplanes flying in the sky. It makes me want to explore and click on everything.
Every gator is designed to be so bizarre that even after the 100th character you've spoken to —and there really are 100 alligators—I remember exactly who Nana Rue is because she's the fur-wearing, purple-haired alligator who owns the antique store and challenged me to a game of Old Maid. After you're done chatting with Alligator New York City peppy residents there are also goofy mini-games and cutscenes, which are also fully animated.
Like Later Alligator, Slothwerk's deck-building roguelike Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale is a game with energetic animation. It's a deck-building dungeon crawler where you battle through a shopkeeper's box of magical cards and beat up a number of tongue-in-cheek fantasy creatures like bearbearians and snotwolves. Evgeny Viitlan's lively animations make whacking enemies feel fun. You can play as two characters, the first is Bruno, a pouty, sassy knight, waving his sword in an enemy's face right before he whacks them. The second, which you have to unlock, is Greybeard—the crack-pot wizard who is grasping his grubby book of spells.
Each enemy moves in a way that enforces their particular attack. An angry farmstead constantly poking her pitchfork at you is a funny reminder that she has an ability to pierce through your armour. Yes, there are symbols to remind you that she can do this, but it's fun that the game also communicates her deadly shield piercing attack in a different way.
Tangle Tower, Later Alligator, and Metorfall: Krumit's Tale all use animation to breathe life and inject humour into their worlds. Animation doesn't have to be all about comedy, Spirit Farer, is a hand-drawn game that handles the topic of hope, death and the afterlife. Spirit Farer releases next year and with Mineko's Night Market, Luna and the Shadow Dust, Guinea Pig Parkour, Inkulinati, Minute of Island, and more to still be released, there's plenty of animated worlds to look forward to.