Wednesday, December 1, 2010

EXP Podcast #106: Poking the Cute Aesthetic

In a series of posts lavishing praise on Nintendo's latest iteration on the Kirby Franchise, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Michael Abbot of the Brainy Gamer has been exploring the game's charming concept. It seems these days you can't shake your Wiimote without hitting a title, from both indie and traditional developers, that exploits some of the tactile art designs, lullaby-like musical themes or children's book narration that comprise some of the elements of the "cute aesthetic." Join us this week while Scott and I discuss the adorable betrayals, cuddly characters, and charming anomalies of "cute" games. As always, we encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments section below and check out Michael's insightful articles in the show notes.

Discussion starters:

- If you had a chance to play Kirby's Epic Yarn, what did you think of the art design? Does it make the game feel "childish" in a bad way?
- Is the textured approach to art design growing old?
- Does the cute aesthetic hold up to the test of time better than other art designs?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 28 min 17 sec
- "Kirby's Epic Concept" by Michael Abbot, via The Brainy Gamer
- "Plush Tech," Ibid.
- "Kirby's Epic Sound," Ibid.
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. Kirby has had a strangle-hold on the cute factor since the addition of Rick the Hamster in Kirby's Dream Land 2.

  2. I was somewhat surprised that the "cute 'em up" genre wasn't mentioned on this episode. It was, as you can probably guess by the name, a shooter sub-genre that introduced more cutesy aesthetic elements. Most people say that this genre originated with TwinBee, an arcade shooter that came out in '85 in Japan. I thought it was interesting that there was a genre distinction made based on its cuteness alone, as it still played much like any other shoot 'em up. This might have been the good historic example that you guys were looking for.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. @Bear

    They should make Rick spin-off game. Buddy could do the mo-cap.


    Somehow, I had never heard the phrase "cute 'em up," but you're right: it's a great example of deceptively cuddly games. Thanks for stopping by!