The best thing going on here is the color palette. That chalky blue, pea green and salmon mingle delicately. I like putting together colors with shaky self-esteem so they all end up deferring to each other.
For instance, that chalky blue isn't really blue, but a gray with equal amounts of green and yellow. In context, though, it looks blue-ish... to me, anyway. There are more dramatic examples of this sort of thing. Joseph Albers did loads with it.
With the abstraction, again I was trying to suggest a world of ideas. I wrote to Jonathan that we could build the background out of different parallax layers, so the more distant ones would be variously eclipsed by others drifting in front.
Lots of games use this effect, but I wanted to avoid discrete background objects, so everything would have a fuzzy edge and blend in with stuff around it. We did use this idea; the game has watery background spaces that flow together ambiguously.
Ah, Hue Slider. The times we've had. The only significant change here is the leaves. I had this idea that leaves would drift towards the screen and settle on it, as though the background were a view looking up.
Again, it's a spatial ambiguity / thought-conjecture-world thing. But it would have been way too "in your face".
When I sent these to Jonathan, he jumped on the rectangular "cut out" on the bottom of the center platform. It was a conspicuous geometric variation in a puzzle game where the player will assume everything has been placed for a reason.
It would be bad for the player to get stuck trying to figure out the puzzle-solving purpose of something with purely aesthetic value. As we went along, I got more disciplined about eliminating stuff that might distract or confuse the player.
Now this is jumping way into the future, but here's how that long-ago prototype has morphed into a nearly-finished game. Hooray!
"Hang on, Hellman," you are probably thinking. "You said you were going to eliminate stuff that was purely aesthetic, and I can see you got paid to draw a million little fronds and algae. Isn't that intellectually dishonest?" Not at all!
The trick is to make all that foliage cohere so the player sees it in a generalized way as "a load of foliage," and doesn't waste mental energy combing it for functional, puzzle-solving items. I think the game introduces its important concepts pretty gracefully, so you learn what to look for. But I would be interested in others' perspectives on this.