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ORBIENT
CUBELLO
ROTOHEX
AQUIA

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PiCTOBiTS
BOXLIFE
BASE 10

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ZENGAGE
precipice
DIGIDRIVE

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light trax
Rotozoa

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by Braxton Mott - February 14, 2017

The Art Style series was made for a similar purpose as was the bit Generations lineup, to catch people's interest in the WiiWare and DSiWare services. The games were released early on in the services’ time, and so none of the games were doomed to Japan-only exclusivity like the popular examples Rhythm Tengoku, Mother 3, or the bit Generations games themselves. Given that these two services were digital, they still exist on the Wii and DSi/3DS systems with the games up for the same prices, $6 for the five released on the Wii Shop and $5 for any of the seven on the DSi/eShop. .

Before the lineup started near the end of 2008, Skip had their hands on the multiplayer-only LOL (or Bakushow/Arukime DS in Europe and Japan) for the DS and the eccentric Captain Rainbow for the Wii, just to give some chronological perspective.

ORBIENT / ORBITAL - Wii (WiiWare) (Sept. 29, 2008)

Title Screen

ORBIENT was the first game in the Art Style lineup and is a remake of the original Game Boy Advance title in many senses of the word. The premise of the game was left unchanged although there are slight differences in the physic mechanics and other features of the level design; to make the game more appealing to those that had played ORBITAL on their Game Boy Advance already. The scoring system was not changed, and the controls are still A to attract and B to repel; sorry, the Wii Remote’s signature waggle is not found here, although you can move a pointer around the game’s menus.

Just a quick reminder, for those who decided not to take a look at the article for the original, you control a star and must attract itself to and repel itself from others in order to grow in size by absorbing other stars of the same size. You can catch smaller gray stars in your own orbit (which in turn become part of your life stock) and must snatch the yellow goal star when you have grown large enough to do so. Larger stars are made red and the player can enter their orbits for stars they may need or a change of trajectory.

This game has ten levels added for a grand total of 50 levels throughout the entire game, and some of the more tedious levels from the GBA version seem to have been taken out. The first six galaxies seem very much the same on the surface, and an “Extreme” and “Merciless” galaxy join the ranks of the trying “Extra” and “Final” galaxies.

The screen of the GBA only takes up a few square inches of space, and so on a large TV screen the visuals seem to look worse. Backgrounds feature plenty of still imagery and pixelated decor on the stars and such; sometimes the levels get this strange clash of decent 3D models and odd 2D graphics. Still, the game maintains a very smooth running speed and brings in more ambient aesthetics that give the floating bodies a nice glow to them. There is also no more of that quirky undulating animation on the level select screen, instead there are full-motion dioramas that show how the stars move around, what is orbiting them and what they are orbiting. Of course, the developers must have taken note of the god awful size of the Wii’s system hard drive, since ORBIENT only takes up around 60 blocks of space with it’s early GameCube era look.

The asteroids are a great example of the effort to reduce development cost and system space taken.

As expected, the sound design and scores of the levels have been beefed up with nice sharp pangs, beeps, chords, and electronic doots that really amplify the calmed senses that are evoked here, a television’s surround sound will most definitely capture the atmospheric feel of the universe held inside ORBIENT. A good example of this being the satellite’s theme, which was extended and revised to hold a new melody after the original theme chimes in.

Skip had made the spatial adventure more accessible by adding a radar that tracks where the goal star is on the neverending maps of the levels, after the player has made it possible to catch it in its orbit. Orbit lines are also marked with a small runway of white dots showing you where you’ll enter and a thin band wrapping itself around the star while you are in orbit, sparks also fly in between the stars to help players make out where they are being attracted to or repelled from. Black holes were also introduced, making sure that your celestial body can be swayed by its gravitational pull, and then have you and one of your lives ripped to shreds; the pains these guys cause are really just being the fact that you must start the level from the beginning. The invincibility time given when you hit something has also been increased, so there really is enough time to go and reposition yourself without having to deal with that annoying “pinball” effect.

Other small touch ups include: a file selection screen, so the game isn’t limited to just one save, an options menu with brightness settings, and three new credits scenes that replace the two from ORBITAL. The third one even has a humorous heavy metal song complete with screams and UFOs shooting towards the screen. With all the minutiae, ORBIENT is most definitely a solid remake of a fantastic GBA obscurity, and now, that 600 Wii Point price tag really does look way too cheap.

Quick Info:

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  • Skip

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Themes:


ORBIENT (Wii)

ORBIENT (Wii)

ORBIENT (Wii)

ORBIENT (Wii)


Additional Screenshots


CUBELLO / CUBELEO - Wii (WiiWare) (Oct. 13, 2008)

Logo

Perhaps the Art Style game that was given the highest regards to, and best sales, was CUBELLO, a puzzle shooter of sorts. To jump right into its concept, you have got yourself a giant cluster of colored cubes called a “cubello”. You need clear every single one of these cubes, except for the shiny core cube in the center, by using your handy Wii Remote’s pointer to shoot them with other cubes via the A button. Clearing the cubes can be done by linking up four or more cubes of the same color from any of their six facial directions, and with a huge blocky blob of color at the center of the screen, the number of cubes left is up in top-right corner of it. Every cube that strikes the cubello will make it spin in that direction, almost like zero-gravity; minus the entire bit about spinning endlessly until something else stops it, as it would in space.

You always have to pay attention the given amount (and color) of the cubes in your “magazine”, which is filled with three cubes every time you clear some of the cubello for a maximum of ten. Lose all of your cubes and the game ends, and also, if you don’t spend enough time clearing cubes, the slow-moving cubello will eventually crash into the screen and drain a good amount of your cubes from the magazine.

Somewhat of a power-up that the game offers is a slot machine that starts up every time cubes are cleared, the number of slots (or grids as the game calls them) can vary from four to six depending on how many you clear at a time. “Bonus Time” is the randomly dished out reward for matching at least four of these slots and gives you a small amount of time to unleash unlimited cubes of a designated color, where upon clearing every cube of that color allows you to move onto another one. “Super Bonus Time” is also possible to get, but is made harder to get by chance. Here you can shoot a block of any color, and the cube that lands will be the same color as the cube it is landing on. “Bonus Time” also makes the cubello approach the screen so much faster than normal, that it may hit the screen and make the stage go to back normal before the timer actually ends.

The “Stages” mode holds six levels each with six stages, making for a total of 36 stages that quickly grow in difficulty. Later levels becoming time consuming when cubes are fired here and there mindlessly, so it’s a great idea to look for a good starting point and to take a methodical approach to find a way to break down cubes and spin the cubello in the right direction. The player’s best time and number of turns are recorded as well. Unfortunately, it stays local when CUBELLO, and every other Art Style game, do not feature any online connectivity, so there aren’t any leaderboards or multiplayer matches to be had with people from any other part of the globe.

“Endless” is unlocked after finishing most of the game’s levels and takes the main game’s stages and gives them a score-based feel where combos matter just a bit more than they usually do. It’s during the gameplay here in “Endless” and in the main stages when getting closer to the cubello’s core is slowed down by cubic stalks that shoot out of the cubello, as well as needing the right cubes in your magazine to finish. If you’re in a bad mood, that can be tedious, and sometimes that back and forth play with the last four cubes can result in the your magazine running empty, yet the game’s fast-paced concentration generally eases things up.

The art style itself is very minimalistic and hosts a nice cyberspace guise to it, although the computerized voice that reads you the tutorial, calls out your every shot, and shouts “NICE, GREAT, AWESOME!” during your high combos get awfully tiresome. The soundtrack uses a really sweet combination of MIDI voices, 8-bit waves, and great simplistic percussion sounds to top the off addictive feeling and gameplay the game gives. Yes, CUBELLO is a very fun game, despite being low on a variety of content, but its inventive play style, visuals, and sound, truly up the replay value found here. Besides, people tend to find best selling titles more intriguing anyways, so why not give that floating cubello a few good spins?

Quick Info:

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  • Skip

Publisher:

Genre:

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CUBELLO (Wii)

CUBELLO (Wii)


Additional Screenshots


ROTOHEX / DIALHEX - Wii (WiiWare) (Oct. 27, 2008)

Logo

Just like the other games of the bit Generations series that were given recognition in the form of a remake (or sequel in dotstream’s case), DIALHEX was also given a sequel-esque remake on the Wii. To give a recap on how the game works; the player must make hexagons by moving their hexagonal cursor around in a hexagonal field, and taking the triangles that fall into the field and rotating them into hexagons. The game takes practice to master because of the initial awkwardness that comes from trying to make hexes, and this can be said about any of the bit Generations/Art Style series’ puzzlers. Due to the sloping insides of the hexagon, triangles will also slide down until they stop from running into the center column or another triangle. Details on how the game’s visuals, sound, and gameplay have been expanded and properly reworked can be found below. However, it’s important to note that although it is a far better game than DIALHEX, this remake does not have any of the portable appeal that DIALHEX had (as the Wii is clearly not a handheld), and this certainly detracts slightly from ROTOHEX due to its nature as an action puzzle game.

In ROTOHEX there were minor additions to the amount of content and aesthetics at hand so making hexes is instantly more satisfying. The three modes that were in the original are still here and very much the same. Although in “ENDLESS”, changes to the color scheme and musical themes happen every time the player makes six hexes of the target color. A great improvement throughout the entire game, as a matter of fact, is that ROTOHEX’s musical repertoire is altogether larger and not as nearly as repetitive as the original’s. “VS” now requires that a shared area is used in order to empty the trash bin instead of making hexes with the target color. The mode is also now played with just two Wii Remotes, making it more accessible to be played without needing the amount of hardware that was required with DIALHEX through the advent of the GBA Wireless Adapter. The shared area idea is nice, but if your friends like to hog it, then things will be a little frustrating. The updated mode also allows for each player to choose their difficulty, which was not possible previously.

“SOLO” is very much the same, however its eight color capacity is also put to good use in the brand new “SPRINT” mode. In “SPRINT” there is a challenge to make six hexagons of one specified color with the choice of three to the maximum of eight colors on screen. Where the sprinting applies is with the half-full playing field and quickly falling pieces, and there aren’t any water breaks until it’s over, so go set a new best time record! Wait, before you get excited about that, just remember that there are no online leaderboards whatsoever in any of the Art Style games. Leaderboards are sadly only in their local form, so this can and will be competitive with friends and family, but not with people on the other side of the world that you have never met before (and still will never meet).

Some of the prevalent gameplay tweaks include the pause menu now filling the whole screen, meaning there isn’t ever a chance to stop and think about where to make a hexagon before the game is lost (like there was with the small banner that moved along the bottom of the screen in DIALHEX). More importantly is the ability to either play the game using the D-Pad with the Wii Remote on its side or using its pointer. The pointer is a bit harder to use and master, but once it has been, it can allow for speedier saves and faster movement around the playing field.

The awesome aesthetics of ROTOHEX give this sort of late night feel, like when taking a nice trip down a freeway at that time of day; it look and feels nice. The tiles look like they are indestructible pieces of stained glass with creamy animations and much gentler and comfier sounds. There’s more music (as stated previously) and it’s all new and makes for a better listening time by not being as repetitive as the original. Even the staff credits are nicer to look at; point is, if you liked DIALHEX as a portable time waster, you won’t get that here, but the hexagon making found here with all of the slight improvements really proves how an innovative gameplay concept can evolve with so little.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Skip

Publisher:

Genre:

Themes:


ROTOHEX (Wii)

ROTOHEX (Wii)

ROTOHEX (Wii)


Additional Screenshots


AQUIA / AQUITE / AQUARIO - DS (DSiWare) / 3DS (eShop) (Apr. 5, 2009)

Logo

When the DSiWare service first went up and running, it had conceivably received a small handful of games to go along with it such as Birds and Beans, simplified versions of Brian Age and Master of Illusion (Math and Funny Face respectively), and the poorly regarded WarioWare: Snapped!. Even physical releases were going around as well, with the US version of Rhythm Tengoku Gold being published on the day of the DSi’s release. A good day to have AQUIA slipped in their as well, where its trailers on the Wii’s Nintendo Channel, easily appealing pictures, and 500 DSi Point price caught people’s attention for sure. The modern-day answer as to why people were interested in this? Match-three puzzler. Yes it’s a match-three action puzzle game, joining a genre that has been so overcooked by the likes of Bejeweled and Candy Crush, but AQUIA (as expected) isn’t like the others, so let's find out why.

First off, in AQUIA you are controlling a small group of blocks situated on the outside of a large tube that runs through the center of both screens; what you must do with your active blocks is simple, insert the blocks into the side of the tube which in turn pushes some blocks out onto the other side. After using your trusty A button to perform this action, you’ll now be able use the blocks you pushed out as your own, and therein lies the back-and-forth gameplay movements of AQUIA. As far as the other controls go, you’ll be moving along the outside of the tube with up and down on the D-Pad, and spinning or switching your batch of active blocks with L and R or Y and B. Might I add that it was a smart choice to have Y and B as a less comfortable alternative to this, since the triggers on the DSi are prone to becoming unusable after dust easily gets inside.

As you eliminate the blocks from the tube, more will settle in from the bottom; not only that, but a diver on the right side of the screen marks the player’s progress through a stage by delving deeper with the continuous clearing of blocks or more blocks cleared simultaneously. With time passing as you play the game, the diver will gradually run out of air to breathe, and while this is happening darkness will enter the screen from above. The obscured blocks can still be cleared, but good luck with that. If you can manage to get some chains the darkness will recede a bit, otherwise, once the entire screen is darkened it is game over.

Other than the normal color blocks that you are clearing vertically and horizontally, there are also neutral blocks that inherit the color of a block that is cleared adjacent to it. Air blocks completely refill your air supply, and when they are forming, the center of a permanently designated spot in the tube will flash. Making enough matches and chains will make the air block mobile, and of course you’ll need three of these because of AQUIA’s nature.

Chains are vital to getting high scores in the game, and they aren’t difficult to make either; you know you are able to still make chains when your active blocks are glowing. A chain bonus can also be earned when a match is made on the first insertion, and any insertions after the first will be smaller. The game’s aqueous presentation will show you bubbles rising to the surface on either side of the tube with the number of chains you have so far, and a simple harmony to go along with the music in the background.

The two modes to choose from are “TIMED DIVE” and “FREE DIVE”. “TIMED” is the stage mode that features two challenges in every level. Challenge One is the basic gameplay portion where you are reaching for the star at the bottom of the touchscreen with the diver. Challenge Two is more cerebral in that you must connect a few blocks to create a simple image that is shown before the picture becomes shuffled. Your air supply dwindles in the second challenge as well, but not with a cloud of darkness, instead there is a red line that sweeps over the screen, so as to not prevent the player from finishing the level because they can’t see what they are doing and have to restart in a different place.

The are three active block shapes to choose from: a vertical block that is easy to grasp the gameplay with, despite the simplicity of it hampering its mastery; a horizontal block that gives easy access to the blocks found in the center of the tube; and a two-by-two block that gives the best of both worlds, and each one requires a different approach to its use when playing. In “TIMED” there are simply ten levels for each block with the best times and chains for each saved on record. While playing a stage, a red arrow moves like ghost data that shows your best time to still be bested. “FREE” instead gives you the three shapes, a choice of background music, and your best chains and furthest depth (score). “FREE” is endless block clearing, and the star at the bottom now means the next level you’ll be going to, which provides a change of scenery, color schemes, and difficulty. In the chance that you'd actually like to reset your best scores and progress, all you have press is A, B, X, Y, L, and R on startup in order to delete your save data.

“AQUARIUM” is one of the game’s neat little extras, each entry shows an excellently cel-shaded animation of marine life that appears near and at the end of every level. As always the much more essential addition to the game is it’s wonderful soundtrack. The scores share a few handfuls of Starfy, mixed with some Electroplankton-like noises and the occasional sprinkles of Animal Crossing on top (the first-mentioned series essentially being an example of two-dimensional sidescrolling and underwater platforming at its best, ever). It’s good soothing music, and when paired up with its art style, it’s hard to say no to the fluid cel-shaded graphics combined with the solid and pixelated colors of everything else.

Calming, open, fast-paced; three very simple adjectives that go a long way to represent the power of this match-three puzzler, and truly good match-threes have forever been a challenge to find with the exception of the dormant Puzzle League series.

If the Art Style series' later to come Rotozoa was a redefining way to look at microbes, primordial sap, and microscopic tentacles, then AQUIA was most definitely a new simplistic way to look at schools of fish, divers, eels, squids, and tubes that need blocks to be rammed into its sides over and over and over again. It’s a portable arcade masterpiece that is easy to pick up, easy to play, and easy to enjoy, and the exact reason why Nintendo loved Skip so much, their ability to create addictive pick-up-and-play games that people will find fun, zany, and above all different. It wasn’t the best selling Art Style game, but with its style and substance it was able to show the magic of a handheld online shopping service and the power of five dollars.

To be all chronological again, in between some of the US releases of the DSiWare titles to follow, Skip released the New Play Control! version of the GameCube’s Chibi-Robo! on the Wii and Okaeri! Chibi-Robo! Happy Richie Ohsouji! on the DS in Japan.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Skip

Publisher:

Genre:

Themes:


AQUIA (DSi)

AQUIA (DSi)

AQUIA (DSi)


Additional Screenshots


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Page 1:
ORBIENT
CUBELLO
ROTOHEX
AQUIA

Page 2:
PiCTOBiTS
BOXLIFE
BASE 10

Page 3:
ZENGAGE
precipice
DIGIDRIVE

Page 4:
light trax
Rotozoa

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