Here's a platformer mockup fresh from the creative oven, my head.
My main goal was to keep the play area readable: the interactive elements take visual priority over the background. This is a simple concept, yet I feel many modern platform games overlook this, resulting in colorful confusion.
The secondary goal was to produce an art direction with an epic feel, but with art that would work in an actual game. The sprite style is simple enough for the animation process to be quick and consistent.
The snake thing at the bottom of the screen is an elaborate health bar. When the character takes damage, tail segments disappear from left to right until only the skull remains. The next hit the character receives will kill him and he loses a life (indicated by the number to the skull's right).
I used 16 colors or fewer per element (HUD, sky layer, etc.). The tiles are based on a 16x16 grid (the platform edge pieces are 8 pixels wide).
EDIT: I've put this piece up for criticism on Pixelation. You can find the thread here: http://www.wayofthepixel.net/pixelation/index.php?topic=7798.0
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