There are generally two kinds of artbooks: those that are interesting as ‘souvenirs’ of their subject, and those that are interesting on their own merit. The categories aren’t mutually exclusive, of course.
The Art of 5TH Cell falls in the former category, though that’s not an indictment: for fans of the featured games, the book is filled with promotional images, concept art, and more that’s sure to please.
The book is divided into sections for five of 5TH Cell’s games, Scribblenauts, Lock’s Quest, Drawn to Life, Hybrid, and Run Roo Run, plus an “Edison Yan Sketchbook” section. It ends with a listing of 5TH Cell’s games with descriptions, screenshots, and information, and one page devoted to concept art from games that never made it to release.
The sections for each game contain all kinds of different art: magazine covers from Nintendo Power and Game Developer, plus sketches and line art for the same; promotional artwork; concept artwork; box art and preliminary concepts for box art; character art including early concepts; logo concepts; and lots more.
The “Edison Yan Sketchbook” section includes artwork for some of 5TH Cell’s older games from Edison Yan, who has worked with them both as an artist for their early games and Art Director for their later games, including most of those featured in this book. It’s even got preliminary artwork for the cover of this very book, a pleasingly meta addition.
I have only two real complains about The Art of 5TH Cell. The first is that it’s a book–so I can’t use the artwork in it as desktop wallpaper. I’m pretty sure that some of it originally was intended for just that purpose, so it’s a shame. The second is that I’d like to see a little more commentary from the artists. It’s great to devote so much space to the art, but a page or two of prose for each game would be welcome.
If you’d like to see for yourself what kind of art you’ll find, you can have a look at Edison Yan’s website, which includes a few of the illustrations featured in the book, as well as original artwork.
The Art of 5TH Cell was published on October 28, 2014 by UDON Entertainment.
Disclosure: this review is based on an advance copy received free for review.