This week, Game Friday pays homage to Amanita Design, the funky game and animation design firm behind the award-winning Samorost series and several flash-based corporate games that blend lush imagery, surreal storytelling, and surprising little puzzles.
Amanita is one of the few design firms capable of creating "game other," game experiences that stretch and change expectations about what it means to play. They are leaders in the point-and-click casual game market, but their innovations stem from wild environments rather than particularly tricky puzzles.
I often treat games like this as interactive art and use the cheat sheet walkthroughs as a way to explore the world of the game. I'm not too concerned about the competitive or addictive elements of the gameplay; most is based on an other-worldly if-then relationship between toads and flowers, carrots and carriages. This willingness on my part to abandon reliance on narrative or gameplay speaks to the power of the visual design and wonder inherent in the experience Amanita creates. There's no magic formula for what games "must" be to be successful, and the Amanita games delight with experiences and pleasures from roads less traveled.
Play to win or play to explore; either way, it's a lovely Friday sort of dream.