In the world of pixel art, it’s often the details that make an animation shine. A smooth transition or distinct style can do wonders to distinguish a game. So when I saw this cute pixelated town bubbling up in a matter of seconds, I couldn’t help but stop and watch. The hexagonal style looks ripped right out of the popular board game, Settlers of Catan. And now, I can’t stop imagining how the game would look as a pixelated world.
We have this and more in Cool WIP, Polygon’s weekly roundup of eye-catching clips and screenshots of works in progress. Each week, the Polygon staff scours the internet and highlights eye-catching games — especially those that aren’t finished yet. It’s a sampling of the coolest up-and-coming projects that you can’t play quite yet.
This week we have a game where you run a sushi shop, a dinosaur-ranching game, a cartoony mech game, and a GIF of Astroboy’s head blowing up. (Yeah, I don’t know either, but I just had to include it. Trust me on this one.)
Settlers of Catan as a pixelated building sim
The aforementioned animation was created and animated by the pixel artist HexBug. The GIF depicts a city popping up with the smoothest of animations as roads, cities, and forests populate each hexagon. The concept isn’t for any announced game, but it sure makes me long for a pixelated Catan-style settlement game.
Not quite Bugsnax, but close
Rolling Hills is a life sim where you open a sushi restaurant and make friends. This GIF highlighting a clip of development shows a closeup on colorful caterpillar rolls transforming into a beautiful Butterfly Roll — which looks like a bunch of rolls fashioned into wings. The game is early in development so it’s unclear how much of the game will have you making rolls, but they look delicious already. A studio called Catch & Release is making the game, but it doesn’t have a release date. You can follow updates on the game’s Twitter page.
Lots of sushi restaurants can prepare a Caterpillar Roll, but only in Rolling Hills does it have a chance of blossoming into a Butterfly Roll!#indiegames | #gamedev | #sushi pic.twitter.com/88XFN575jJ— Rolling Hills: Make Sushi, Make Friends (@rollinghills) July 26, 2021
Ride Ducky from The Land Before Time (sort of)
Paleo Pines is a game where you ranch and raise dinosaurs. I would say that this game is my childhood dream game come true, except for the fact that it still looks like something I’d enjoy today. This clip shows a character riding (what looks to be) a Parasaurolophus as it trots through lush scenery. The smooth, almost clay-like look of the dinosaurs evokes a youthful feeling. It’s being developed by Italic Pig, and it’s slated to come out sometime in 2021.
Heya Ranchers! As we ramp up development we want to start sharing the gentle green hills of Veridian Valley... Here is your first sneak peek!— Paleo Pines (@PaleoPines) May 26, 2021
Isn't it gorgeous?!
| #indiedev | #paleopines | #indiegame | pic.twitter.com/hHa937RXMM
A cel-shaded mecha game
Zecha Tactics is a mecha tactics RPG created by Bit Egg. This clip shows a “peek” at a battle animation where a chunky mecha peers around a corner and steps out briefly to shoot. The cel-shaded style helps the details in the robot’s armor and weapons pop. There aren’t a ton of details on the game, but it’s coming to early access in 2021.
And now, a really relatable GIF
Over the course of starting this column, I’ve come to adore ShawnTheMiller’s work. A self-described animation artist and “Toy Maker,” they animate figurines in Unity. Their previous work has brought intricate 3D models of toys to life, many of which look inspired by classic toys like Transformers or Hot Wheels.
They’ve been documenting an ongoing project to create and animate the classic manga character, Astro Boy. They posted an animated clip where Astro Boy’s faceplate blows off and then breaks down piece by piece. In a Reddit post, they explained that they love it when games have visual feedback on playable characters; for example, a character might pant or look more tired when they’re low on health or stamina. “There’s a lot of storytelling that can happen in that space,” they wrote, and this clip shows just how expressive an animation can be.