Explore the Art History of Games with Mondrian

Lantana Games, the indie studio behind Children of Liberty – one of my long-running favorites from the IGF — have just announced another new game in a completely different genre. Mondrian: Abstraction in Beauty is a block-breaking, Arkanoid-esque game which takes its name from the famous artist but doesn’t strictly adhere to his style. Think of the name as the inspiration rather than the definition of the game’s art style which traces the history of video game art itself.

Starting out in the 1970’s, the game mimics the technological limitations of video game hardware at the time, rendering the playfield in simpler, starker colors. As video games evolve, so does Mondrian’s style, stopping at the blacks and greens of ancient terminal displays, the pulsing reds of the Virtual Boy and so on through the 1990’s. Aside from the visual treatment there’s also a museum interface with 15 initial galleries featuring “works from acknowledged masters of the medium” making Mondrian a potential all-in-one video game art history lesson.

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It’s the art aspect that grabbed me but I’m happy to see they aren’t simply redressing Breakout. Mondrian may play like a classic block-breaker but it lets you revolve your paddle 360-degrees around the space, bouncing the ball all over the screen. Forty different power-ups, paddles, balls, and borders are also unlockable to keep things interesting and the brick layouts are dynamically generated from a pool of 40,000,000 possible combinations.

With the base game in place, Lantana will support Mondrian after release with free and paid content including stages only accessible if you own specific games. How they’ll verify previous purchases is unknown but it’s a clever ideal that cross-promotes indie games and lets those devs customize Mondrian to match their individual games. Mondrian: Abstraction in Beauty will be released on Steam, itch.io, and IndieGameStand in August 2015 and I’m hoping to get access to a preview build soon.

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  • Danny Silvers

    Thanks for the lovely article, Shawns! I just hit “Accept” on distribute() so you should have a code sitting in your inbox now.

    • Excellent and thank you! I should have some more to write up and a video on YouTube this coming week at the latest.