2011 Aggie Award Nominees feature

If they’re dragging Billy Crystal out of semi-retirement, that can only mean one thing… it’s award season once again! Clearly the Oscars are desperate for ratings these days, but who can blame them? After all, the only ceremony that really matters anymore is the one, the only… Aggie Awards from Adventure Gamers!

We realize that after just completing our staggering Top 100 all-time adventure list there’s a risk of burning everyone out on too much adventurey goodness… but nah, who are we kidding? Everyone loves lists! And this time around, you’ll probably have played most of these! (And if you haven’t yet, we bet you will soon.)

As always, we kick things off with our list of nominee finalists, arrived at by a mainly-democratic-except-when-it-wasn’t vote among AG staffers. No animals were harmed in the making of this list, but we can’t say the same for feelings. This is such a strong year among top competitors that we expanded each category by two nominees, and there were still some personal favourites left out for each of us. Good problem to have, though, isn’t it?

The only change to last year’s categories is the replacement of Best First-Person and Best Third-Person Adventures with Best Traditional and Best Non-Traditional Adventures. We’ve been blessed with an insanely brilliant year for innovative, imaginative adventures that don’t fit neatly into the “collect everything that isn’t nailed down” and “use X on Y” formulas we’ve come to know and love. This way we can celebrate the best of both worlds, honouring the top games in both respective fields.

And speaking of non-traditional adventures, let’s establish this once and for all. Adventure Gamers has long operated under the definition of “adventure” as any game whose primary focus is on puzzle-solving within a narrative framework, with generally little to no action. This is the ultimate criterion for all games covered on this site, and that holds true for the Aggies as well. So yes, Portal 2 isn’t like any adventure game to come before it, but anyone who claims it contradicts our definition of adventure obviously hasn’t played it. L.A. Noire has car chases and gunfights, sure, but most are optional if so desired. Is that really any different than a modern day Police Quest? Those aren’t the only two, but go right on down the line and you’ll find that all games eligible for Aggies have every right to be here.

Even though we’re absolutely, positively… okay, sorta, kinda confident that you’ll share our assessment of 2011’s best adventures, a Readers’ Choice poll will be posted on Monday, February 6th for you to confirm it! Or even – gasp! – disagree! (Hard as that is to believe.)

The final Aggie Awards presentation will run from Wednesday to Friday, February 15-17th. So not much longer to wait, but for now we leave you with the nominees that will be duking it out for top honours.

And so, without further ado, the 2011 Aggie Awards finalists (in alphabetical order) are:

Best Story

One of the core components of any adventure, the game’s narrative must engage the player’s interest and imagination. Entertaining in its own right, a good story also immerses the player in a believable game world and serves as motivation to overcome the challenges presented. While often accompanied by quality writing, the plot is a distinct feature that may or may not be ably supported by the actual dialogue.

Gemini Rue

Ghost Trick

L.A. Noire

A New Beginning

To the Moon

Best Writing – Comedy

Arguably the hardest genre to write well, comedy done right has the ability both to amuse and uplift, finding humour in the ordinary and laughter in the unexpected. Often dismissed for not being “serious writing” (oh, the irony!), comedy has long been a beloved adventure staple and deserves appropriate recognition.

The Book of Unwritten Tales

Edna & Harvey: The Breakout

Hector: Badge of Carnage – Episode 2 and Episode 3

Metal Dead

Portal 2

Best Writing – Drama

If comedy lifts the soul, then drama explores and challenges it. Though sometimes misrepresented as dry and boring or overly theatrical, a gripping drama simply engages players on a deeper emotional level. Quality writing is essential in maintaining the player’s connection to the characters, game world, and the story unfolding.

Gemini Rue

Gray Matter

L.A. Noire

A New Beginning

To the Moon

Best Character

Gabriel Knight... Tex Murphy... April Ryan... Guybrush Threepwood. These names roll off the tongue of any adventure gamer as a testament to the importance of compelling protagonists in an adventure. But just as important are the villains, sidekicks, and significant supporting characters, which are often the juiciest parts. This category recognizes those who have made the most memorable contribution, regardless of role.

Doc Brown – Back to the Future: The Game

GLaDOS and Wheatley – Portal 2

Harvey – Edna & Harvey: The Breakout

Sissel – Ghost Trick

Wilbur Weathervane and Critter – The Book of Unwritten Tales

Best Gameplay

Puzzles are an integral aspect of adventure gameplay, but not the only one. Good pacing, rich exploration, and variety of activities are all factors in player enjoyment as well, all suitably integrated into the storyline. The best games seek the right balance of these elements for the most rewarding gameplay experience.

The Book of Unwritten Tales

Ghost Trick

L.A. Noire

Portal 2

Stacking

Best Concept

A somewhat ambiguous category meant to highlight any unusual, distinctive element. A creative concept can run the gamut from story premise to game mechanics, from stylistic choice to technical innovation. It doesn’t even need to have been successfully implemented, as it’s the idea itself that deserves the acknowledgement in a genre renowned for its conservative approach.

L.A. Noire

Ghost Trick

Portal 2

Stacking

To the Moon

Best Setting

Adventures can transport us to memorable places we’ve never been before, including those we never even imagined. Or perhaps to locales we’ve visited already, but never quite like this, making them feel fresh and new and awe-inspiring all over again. This category can refer to an overall game world or even a single environment in a given game so long as it’s a relevant location.

Back to the Future: The Game

Black Mirror III

L.A. Noire

Portal 2

Stacking

Best Graphic Design

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this category speaks volumes. Regardless of style, this award recognizes games that are not only visually attractive but stylistically distinctive. One look at a screenshot should elicit a “Wow!” followed by “Hey, that’s from…!” Includes both game world and character design, but not cinematics.

Drawn: Trail of Shadows

Ghost Trick

L.A. Noire

A New Beginning

Stacking

Best Animation

From “bustling” city streets that look deserted to clouds that never move, animation is rarely a genre strong suit, often the victim of budget constraints. But richly animated adventures add so much to player immersion that any game that goes the extra mile in this area is deserving of appreciation. This category includes in-game character and ambient animations, plus cinematic cutscenes.

The Book of Unwritten Tales

L.A. Noire

Portal 2

Professor Layton and the Last Specter/Spectre's Call

The Next BIG Thing

Best Music

As a complementary element playing in the background, often a game’s soundtrack is noticeable only when it becomes intrusive, but a strong score and attention to pacing can add so much to a game’s ambience. A catchy theme song can likewise make game music memorable, and an in-game musical number even more so. Whatever its particular strengths, the rare game that excels musically deserves its accolades.

Back to the Future: The Game

Gray Matter

L.A. Noire

Portal 2

Stacking

Best Voice Acting

Often under-valued by publishers but never by gamers, quality voice acting can enhance a player’s investment in characters as surely as poor acting can ruin it. With so much international localization, voiceovers can be difficult to skillfully oversee, but any game benefits greatly from proper direction and believable acting. This category refers to the overall quality of vocal roles in a game, not to individual characters.

Back to the Future: The Game

The Book of Unwritten Tales

L.A. Noire

The Next BIG Thing

Portal 2

Best Sound Effects

As with music, sound effects are frequently given short shrift in adventures, but effective use of audio adds a vital layer of moody ambience. You may not be able to put your finger on the reason, but some games make you feel like you’re really there, and often the atmospheric sounds have drawn you in subconsciously.

Back to the Future: The Game

The Book of Unwritten Tales

Jurassic Park: The Game

L.A. Noire

Portal 2

Best Independent Adventure

Some independent studios release their games commercially, but with no external publisher backing or secure distribution channels (at least at first). These self-published titles rarely get the attention (or sales) they often deserve, and the best of them merit a closer look from anyone who’s overlooked them to date. This list does not include games from companies fully established as publishers, even if they develop games internally.

Alpha Polaris

Gemini Rue

To the Moon

Blackwell Deception

Metal Dead

Best Console/Handheld Adventure (Exclusive)

The home console and handheld platforms haven’t quite championed a genre resurgence like we once hoped they might, but there were still several quality titles released in the past year. To avoid duplication, the following includes only those games exclusive to non-PC platforms. Ports are not deemed to be original releases, and are therefore ineligible.

Ghost Trick

Stacking

Professor Layton and the Last Specter/Spectre's Call

Red Johnson's Chronicles

The Secret of Chateau de Moreau

Best Non-Traditional Adventure

For a genre that’s remained largely unchanged for decades, it’s actually got a rich history of experimental titles that push the creative envelope in unique, memorable ways. They don’t “evolve” or “redefine” adventures, but rather expand our understanding of what an adventure can we with their bold vision. Purists may resist, but this award honours those games that stretch beyond traditional genre conventions to offer something completely new, or at least present the familiar in imaginative new ways.

Ghost Trick

L.A. Noire

Portal 2

Stacking

To the Moon

Best Traditional Adventure

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! While innovative adventures provide a welcome breath of fresh air, the lifeblood of the genre continues to be the many games that closely adhere to the comfortable, tried-and-true design formulas. Full of inventory and logic puzzles, memorable character dialogue, epic storylines and immersive exploration controlled with an intuitive point-and-click interface, they may not have changed much since Monkey Island and Myst, but they’re no less enjoyable when done well.

Black Mirror III

The Book of Unwritten Tales

Gemini Rue

Gray Matter

A New Beginning

Best Adventure of 2011

Wouldn’t you like to know! Wouldn’t we!! But no sneak peeks. We’ve still got another week to argue amongst ourselves. To find out which game takes home the most coveted Aggie hardware, tune into our grand awards ceremony from February 15-17th!

Continued on the next page...






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Comments

tsampikos tsampikos
Feb 3, 2012

Lol….portal 2….again…. Smile))

Jackal Jackal
Feb 3, 2012

Yes, well, for those who need its inclusion spelled out, that’s done in the intro. Wink May as well end the argument before it begins this time.

Interplay Interplay
Feb 3, 2012

All purism aside, I expect the categories to be dominated by LA Noire and Portal 2.  I guess we’ll see.

Oscar Oscar
Feb 3, 2012

Disappointed that Last Half of Darkness: Society of the Serpent Moon didn’t get any nominations, especially when the extremely average Black Mirror 3, A New Beginning and BTTF got so many,

...nah, not really - who cares about awards anyway?

aimless
Feb 3, 2012

I agree with exactly two of those games’ inclusion in most categories but who cares?  I’m still hugging Grim Fandango’s #1 in the All Time Best so I’m happy.

lewuz lewuz
Feb 4, 2012

Not that i would care much, but i was sure that To the Moon gets Best Music nomination.

DrFrankenstein DrFrankenstein
Feb 4, 2012

Darn… Too many games that I haven’t had time to play are amongst the nominees. No time to catch up with them in time for the voting, so I guess I won’t be voting this year in the interest of not throwing in narrow biases in the polls. Oh well…

Still, I will be interested in reading about the outcome. Smile

Jackal Jackal
Feb 4, 2012

The reader poll is based on all games released in 2011, so you can vote for whatever you want. These our just our own finalists.

SplinterX
Feb 4, 2012

Anyway I am curios Why AG nominated (as finalist) Blackwell Deception in only one nomination, in spite of previous episodes got much more nomination. You like this one less than others?

Jackal Jackal
Feb 5, 2012

Simple. We liked other games better this year.

adipocere adipocere
Feb 5, 2012

Do you remember what it was like back when TV’s had antennas and a movie was on you really wanted to see, but in order to watch it, you had to perform contortionist acts with the antenna, and to make it worse the movie wasn’t even very good?  Playing LA Noire is a lot like that.

In my opinion (for what it’s worth) is that LA Noire has been WAY over-hyped here, and not fairly re-reviewed on PC platform. I think that the editors here (who reviewed it for console) have been so dazzled by the production quality that they effectively are wearing blinders when it comes to it’s basic gameplay, which is at best brainless and redefines the concept of a pixel hunt. This is a perfect example of a game that was pushed for release, and ruined in the process.  The problems in the PC design are bad enough to make the game almost unplayable, and despite all the superficial beauty of the game, it’s an illogical yawn-fest that plays itself.

dekaneas297 dekaneas297
Feb 5, 2012

LA Noire, Portal 2, LA Noire, Portal. Oh and LA Noire and Portal 2…

Jackal Jackal
Feb 5, 2012

Adipocere, I’m actually halfway through playing the PC version of LA Noire, and haven’t had any problems at all. Seems like your experience isn’t everyone’s. Same thing for gameplay tastes, obviously.

Gabe Gabe
Feb 6, 2012

Can you believe that,The Book of Unwritten Tales not nominated for best setting and best graphic design features?

gray pierce gray pierce
Feb 6, 2012

I think it’s interesting A New Beginning is nominated in so many substantial categories. To my mind it’s a failed attempt at making something mature and meaningful that ended up being quite childish due to an overly simplistic storyline and poor writing.

Contrary TNBT is underpresented here. It’s not a masterpiece but at least it succeded in what it tried to be: a completely whacky comedic adventure.

Also TBOUT should’ve been nominated for best concept, setting and music. Simply becaues it is outstanding in those regards imo.

Anyway that’s just my opinion. To each his own I suppose

colpet colpet
Feb 6, 2012

I’ve only played one nominated game - Drawn: Trail of Shadows- and I wasn’t that impressed with it.
(sigh) Can I even call myself an Adventure Gamer anymore?

thom-22
Feb 6, 2012

Is the list of eligible games meant to be all adventure games released in the 2011 time frame, or has it been pared down for quality?

Are remakes / fangames automatically ineligible?

Jackal Jackal
Feb 6, 2012

All commercial games first released in 2011. Far too many freeware adventures to include those.

thom-22
Feb 6, 2012

I looked at my list of 2011 adventure games I played and saw Lume, but it’s not on your list. Not that I think it deserves any awards, mind you :-) but it made me wonder how the list was constructed.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 6, 2012

Ah, right, Lume. Okay, I guess we did do some editorializing after all, though it was back at the time of release. Lume was excluded (for review as well as the Aggies) because it’s less than an hour and essentially just a puzzle game. We covered it in one of our casual game round-ups at the time but didn’t really feel it warranted any further follow-up.

Ascovel Ascovel
Feb 6, 2012

Very interesting nominations and ideas for this edition of Aggies.

But one gripe I have is about your strict separation between “non-traditional” and “traditional” adventure games. Or perhaps it’s the way that you describe the latter category that bothers me. For instance, saying that Gemini Rue is a conservative “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of game is doing a huge disservice to that game in my opinion.

Overall, this categorization is an interesting idea, but somewhat unfair to particular games.

Shame that Trauma didn’t make it onto the lists anywhere - it’s beautifully designed, especially as a personal work. The competition is indeed a bit tough this year though.

MoonBird MoonBird
Feb 7, 2012

Best animation - The Next BIG Thing? ... erhm.. I politely disagree!

smulan smulan
Feb 7, 2012

L A Noire nominated in best gameplay is a joke.

subbi
Feb 8, 2012

Now why would that be a joke? It may not be your prefered gameplay, but at least there is plenty of it. The interviewing aspect is quite innovative, unlike anything seen sofar in an adventure game…..and therefore it’s justified to be at least nominated.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 8, 2012

Our definition of adventure is stated in the intro. All games listed here are adventure games by that standard, period. And “casual” is not a genre, so there’s no reason whatsoever a game can’t be a casual adventure (though only one casual game was nominated for any award).

Jackal Jackal
Feb 9, 2012

You speak for yourself, not “the rest” of anyone. That’s been our definition as long as the site has been in existence, and you won’t find another reputable definition that’s much different than that. Perhaps you’d prefer Wikipedia’s “a video game in which the player assumes the role of protagonist in an interactive story driven by exploration and puzzle-solving instead of physical challenge.” You aren’t arguing definitions; you’re just arguing that adventures should all be like the ones you already know. Been there, done that, time to move on.

adipocere adipocere
Feb 10, 2012

Jackal -  Consider that you do have an advantage with LA Noire for having already played it on console, and are familiar with the controls. I also hope you are playing with the keyboard and not the console controller.

So skipping the actual problems, the biggest gripe I think I have is this:
I’ve seen pretty decent games get slammed on here for misdemeanors, and LA Noire got away with murder because it had a huge budget.

I take the reviews, previews etc on this site seriously, since I have I pretty brutal PC game addiction. I don’t base all my adventure game choices on the reviews, but I tend to find them (bad or good) very helpful in choosing what games I will play, ie. purchase. I also like that this site supports independant and smaller companies, not just giants who can pay for positive reviews.
When a major release like LA Noire comes out, I can find rave reviews on any corporate gamesite. So when I see them here, I have a least a certain expectation, and I’m more willing to lay out $60+ on a game developed by a company I am wary of. So that is $60 I’m not using to support the actual lifeblood of the genera. When the game sucks, it’s just $60 literally down the drain.

Regardless of personal taste, I think that major label games should be scrutinized more carefully, and their massive budgets and production quality should not really be taken into much consideration as it is the very least you can expect from them.  And they should not be allowed to hog all the spotlight because it’s just not a fair comparison. 

 

Jackal Jackal
Feb 10, 2012

I never played the console version. First I ever saw of the game was on PC, though I have played Rockstar’s GTA games before this. Claiming it “got away” with anything because it has a big budget is just wrong on every level. We don’t ask how much it cost, only how much fun we have playing them. Some people just really, really enjoyed the game, including our reviewer. Is that really so hard to accept? You apparently didn’t. Tastes differ. Same as some people dislike TLJ, Riven, Syberia and any other highly acclaimed game. No need to look for ulterior motives that don’t exist. Personally I didn’t like LA Noire as much as Nate, but I still preferred it over the huge majority of adventures released last year. Oh, and I waited until the price dropped in half. Wink

adipocere adipocere
Feb 10, 2012

For some reason I had thought you were the original reviewer.
And what it got away with was sloppy controls not optimized for PC, clumsy and pointless action sequences, and a cop that has Tourettes when he interviews people.
But seriously:  11 awards? If what you say is true about the majority of adventures released in 2011, then I guess it was just a really bad year.

“Oh, and I waited until the price dropped in half. Wink
-jerk lol

Jackal Jackal
Feb 10, 2012

It hasn’t won any awards yet. May never win any. Wink It’s just one of the top five finalists in these categories so far.

HUMDUDE
Feb 14, 2012

To the Moon didn’t get nomiated for Best Music??  I realize these lists are hard to come up with but that should have been a sure lock to win let alone be nominated.

marvio
Feb 15, 2012

“I’ve only played one nominated game - Drawn: Trail of Shadows- and I wasn’t that impressed with it.
(sigh) Can I even call myself an Adventure Gamer anymore?”

I know how you feel… Can’t remeber the last adventure game I actually enjoyed playing. I played quite a few on this list, and none of them came even close to being fair, much less good. But still, I keep playing them, I guess I’m just a masochist! Smile



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