Bronze: Shelter by Might and Delight
While overall Shelter doesn't deliver on its promises of survival and danger, the origami art style of Might and Delight's badger simulator is thoroughly accomplished. The papercraft art style isn't foreign to the video game industry (Paper Mario and Tearaway come immediately to mind), but Shelter goes in a different direction with it. Instead of trying to create a cutesy and goofy look, Shelter plays its handcrafted look with a straight face. The result is something that is awe-inspiring and unsettling familiar. As I stared up at Shelter's interpretation of the night sky, I realized that its art style evokes the other-worldliness of nature and the wilderness but manages to look unique on its own. So while Shelter was disappointing as a game, its world haunts me still.
- Isaac Wagner
Silver: BIT. TRIP Presents Runner 2 by Gaijin Games
Runner 2 is easily one of the most charming games I played all year round. That is in large part thanks to the gorgeous art style that the game has. It's not the most immediately striking art style ever, it goes for a cutesy look that you are probably familiar with but combining it with the fun rhythmic gameplay and the chilling soundtrack, it all clicks together to make for an incredible game. While I really enjoyed the original BIT.TRIP RUNNER, the pixel art flavour of that game didn't quite click with me, the same way smooth, fully 3D visuals do in Runner 2. Without such an amazing art style, Runner 2 wouldn't be nearly as good, it's as simple as that!
- Ross Hartley
Gold: BioShock Infinite by Irrational Games
Even though the floating city of Columbia isn't quite as striking at first glance as the underwater Rapture was, Irrational Games' crazy new world in BioShock Infinite was still striking and imaginative in ways that's entirely unique to those folks in Boston. The bright colors and clouds are in stark contrast to the dark hallways and watery depths that we've grown so used and attached to which is remarkable for a game still called "BioShock". It's a "Utopian" city upon a hill with a lighthouse serving as its gateway like Rapture, but Columbia is memorable in its own way. First off Comstock's civilization in the middle of collapse while Andrew Ryan's empire was long past dead, and thematically is intricately tied together with its themes of American manifest destiny and its imagined sense of religious and ethical superiority, subjects that are rarely touched upon in games. Even if it may not be an example of an exemplary playing game, BioShock Infinite is beautiful and creative in ways that no other game has been since that fateful plane crash in 2007, and should be recognized for this.
- Isaac Wagner