2011 Aggie Awards

Honourary Aggies

 

The games taking home our golden Aggie statuettes are the true stars of the show, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only adventures worth taking some time to acknowledge. Each year there are other titles that surprised and impressed us, though they fell just short of Aggie consideration for one reason or another. So once again we want to stop and recognize a handful of games that didn’t claim a regular award but still deserve attention for their noteworthy accomplishments.

 

Black Mirror III

 

 

In a worthy capper to the dark, haunting Black Mirror series, Cranberry Production brought forth a solid “final chapter” in Black Mirror III. Solid… but unspectacular, earning the game plenty of consideration for an Aggie Award, and yet never excelling enough in any one area to win one. After the cliffhanger ending of its predecessor; the series finale resolves all of the Gordon family storylines in a disturbingly satisfying way, going back to the cult-hit original game for much of its inspiration. The ongoing saga of erstwhile American Darren Michaels featured a grim but richly detailed landscape to explore in and around the secluded English town of Willow Creek, with gorgeous art and eerie sounds providing a haunting backdrop to the dark storyline of a young man’s attempt to come to grips with his troubling identity and destiny. This reflection of tortured souls and ancient family curses may not have been able to been able to beat out its competitors, but it put up a bloody good fight, earning it 2011’s “Best of the Rest” honourary nod.

To The Moon

 

 

It’s not unusual for indie games to break a few rules, but Kan Gao’s To the Moon breaks more than most. It doesn’t look like a point-and-click adventure game, but rather a 16-bit RPG. It’s a time travel story that gives you the massive responsibility of changing a dying man’s fate, but there’s almost no gameplay. The story is told backward. The highly emotional tale is punctuated with frequent laugh-out-loud moments. Dialogue trees are sparse, and although you can look in your inventory, you never make use of it. Clearly it is not an adventure game like we’re used to, and that’s probably why so many players have passed it by, but it is nevertheless one of the most impressive releases of 2011. Its story is so captivating that you’ll hardly notice the lack of puzzles, and even without voice acting, the incredible piano soundtrack skillfully carries the mood from sad to bittersweet to suspenseful and back again. And the touching last fifteen minutes may well be the most fulfilling finale in years. It may only have won the dubious honour of this year’s “Best Game No One Has Played,” but for those of you who haven’t, it’s never too late to rectify the mistakes of your past.

Drawn: Trail of Shadows

 

 

It almost isn’t fair. Amidst a sea of derivative hidden object adventures emerged a third installment to Big Fish Games’ sublimely beautiful and inventive casual series that towers above the rest. In Drawn: Trail Of Shadows, players were invited to enter a new set of gorgeous but somewhat sinister worlds filled with impressive art and fantasy puzzles. This time around, a young boy with the power to bring paintings to life has been captured by an evil wizard intent on using this talent to re-imagine the world as a dark, desolate place. The pursuit of the boy propels a fun-filled exploration through lands of wonder and imagination filled with creative obstacles that require both wits and painterly skills to overcome. Despite its brevity, it’s a lovely game that raises casual adventures to new artistic heights and feels quite unlike any other game available (except its own predecessors). In the process, it wiped out all other competition for our “Best Casual Game” distinction in one bold stroke.

Metal Dead

 

 

We’d never even heard of Walk Thru Walls' Metal Dead when it suddenly clawed to life like a zombie in a graveyard late last year, but the unheralded indie adventure spins a wild and funny (and unapologetically gory) tale of music, friendship, and desperation in the face of a sudden invasion of the undead. With no prior gamee-making experience, the developers got just about every element right on the first try, from puzzle design to the user interface, whimsical character models and fluid animation. And the writing is some of the best and funniest in recent years. The game boasts a variety of locations, a memorable cast of quirky characters, epic set pieces, and one of the strangest and funniest “boss” encounters around. Even from a veteran studio, Metal Dead would be an impressive game. The fact that it was done by just two guys with a dream makes it doubly so, and the winner of our “Most Unexpected Surprise” honour.

Blackwell Deception

 

 

Load up Wadjet Eye’s Blackwell Deception and you might think you’re back in adventure gaming’s “golden age” due to its low-res graphics and earnest desire to tell a good story with gameplay to match. Putting new spins on old conventions with dialogue, inventory, and research puzzles just as clever as the ones that stumped us back then (but far less frustrating!), the fourth Blackwell adventure has already made it farther than most modern franchises, and the feeling of meeting up with old friends mimics the bygone tradition of digging into the latest Quest game. And much like those bygone classics, the series is getting better with age, with Deception’s design, interface, and storytelling benefiting from lessons designer Dave Gilbert has learned from the previous installments. Its ghost and spirit medium protagonists have an entirely unique partnership and its New York setting is grounded in the here-and-now, but playing Blackwell Deception feels just like the good old days, making it this year’s pick for “Most Nostalgic Adventure”.


Next up: Best Independent Adventure... the envelope, please!

Continued on the next page...



AD Gemini Rue can be purchased at:
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About the Author

Comments

MoonBird MoonBird
Feb 15, 2012

Why Gray Matter is there? And where is Black Mirror 3?

Miranna
Feb 16, 2012

I’m glad the reader’s choices were different (mostly) from the team’s. Not that I don’t like Portal 2, but really, you can’t compare it to other adventure games. It had a huge budget, to begin with, which wasn’t the case of Gray Matter, The Book of Unwritten Tales, or almost any adventure that came out this year…

Necrosis Thanatos
Feb 16, 2012

@MoonBird:  Since Gray Matter is clearly an adventure game and was released in 2011, it was a potential candidate for any of the Aggie awards.  Apparently, a majority of the AG staff and the readers who voted felt that the quality of its writing was the best among all other dramatic adventure games released last year.  Its inclusion here doesn’t seem to be all that puzzling.

As for Black Mirror 3, it appears that not enough of the AG staff nor this site’s readers felt it deserved any of the awards announced as of Wednesday, February 15, 2011.  Its exclusion does not seem to be a particularly deep enigma.

Oscar Oscar
Feb 16, 2012

I thought Gray Matter was 2010.

aimless
Feb 16, 2012

I totally see Stacking as the best concept.  Right on, staff.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 16, 2012

Gray Matter was released in Germany with an English language version in 2010, but our rules for eligibility require release in a major English language market (which didn’t happen until 2011).

smulan smulan
Feb 16, 2012

“Not that I don’t like Portal 2, but really, you can’t compare it to other adventure games. It had a huge budget”

- It shows that sometimes big budget produces good quality and sometimes small budget produces…eeh, good quality.

pfranzen
Feb 16, 2012

Glad to see an award for A New Beginning! Between this and Whispered World, Daedalic Entertainment is really starting to establish a pedigree for itself.

CoyoteAG CoyoteAG
Feb 16, 2012

I replayed Gray Matter a couple of weeks ago and I STILL have that freakin’ song in my head.

tsampikos tsampikos
Feb 17, 2012

Nice Award presentation. Nicely done!  Book of Unwritten tales earns the title of the best Adventure game of the year 2011. It was the logical and expected choce. The readers choices in some cases “corrected” the staff’s choices.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 17, 2012

Well, the reader vote shows a slightly more traditional leaning, but that’s hardly a surprise. All games are deserving winners, though, reader and staff results alike.

pfranzen
Feb 17, 2012

Man, what is with all the love for Book of Unwritten Tales?! It was a fine adventure game, sure, but marred by mediocre translation and voice acting, and nearly beaten to death by some of the most forced pop-culture references in a genre already strangled by them. If the game removed nearly all of them and stopped making fun of itself so much, it would’ve been so better off for it.

pfranzen
Feb 17, 2012

But beyond that—great awards presentation, as always, of course. I look forward to reading this every year.

dekaneas297 dekaneas297
Feb 17, 2012

As always I find readers’ choices more fair. 7 out of 17 in choise similarity is food for thought.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 18, 2012

Reader polls are ultimately popularity contests. Staff votes are not. Both are equally valid for what they are; neither has anything to do with other. Not much to think about beyond that.

rtrooney rtrooney
Feb 18, 2012

Nice to see To The Moon getting some well-deserved mentions.

seanparkerfilms
Feb 18, 2012

Wow! That’s a lot of love for Portal 2. Seeing as how I bought that game months ago, I should really get crackin’ on it.

PadanFain
Feb 19, 2012

A New Beginning was a much better adventure than Book of Unwritten Tales, both story and pacing-wise. I urge anyone who didn’t play to check it out. Whispered World also.

dekaneas297 dekaneas297
Feb 19, 2012

No they are not popularity contests and staffs’ aren’t more highly evaluated/appreciated because they derive from “the elit delegates”. That’s your opinion. They are equal not for what they are, they are equal just because they come from equal opinions.

LiK
Feb 19, 2012

Gray Matter was the Reader’s Choice? I’m kinda shocked. I thought it had a terrible story and a dreadful ending.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 19, 2012

Don’t put words in my mouth, dekaneas, especially when you’re incapable of doing so even remotely correctly. I most certainly didn’t say our votes were elite. I said they didn’t rely strictly on popularity (read: number of votes for games played by the most people). That’s simply a fact. And if you don’t think the likes of Gray Matter got far more reader votes than, say, To the Moon simply because far more people have played the former, you’re dreaming.

TechSmurfy TechSmurfy
Feb 19, 2012

Good point by @Jackal; I’ve been in the staff’s place of organizing yearly award events and know exactly how it is - @dekaneas don’t try to undermine their selections; if there weren’t for them, we WOULD be served reader awards for only the mainstream ones (even in the indie gaming spectrum).

It’s simple math nature. And if there are games that deserve more recognition and acclaim than what they already got, it’s for the far-more-experienced-than-us editors to grab these chances and balance the injustice gaps, in their own, but respected, subjectivity.

I’ll be sure to check out the winners posted in this article - as you can excuse me, I’m an old gamer and haven’t played a memorable adventure since… good ol’ Tex. Next in my play queue are adventures from the early ‘00s, so Gemini Rue and Gray Matter will have to wait a little bit.

Glad AG is alive and kickin’ though, I hate the whole game industry distorting traditional adventure and rpg genres into action-oriented gameplay. I guess they have to somehow justify the use of their multi-billion dollar hardware. We, on the other hand, don’t have to Smile

tsa tsa
Feb 20, 2012

The Aggies are a fun read every year, but every year it pains me to see that I didn’t play nearly enough adventure games to be able to have an opinion on any of the categories!

dekaneas297 dekaneas297
Feb 20, 2012

A poll is complete and capable to produce coclusions when it covers all possible questions. You may refer to sales, marketing or even number of topics created, but if there wasn’t a question “which games of the list did you play?”, your popularity argument is ultimately an assumption and a logical leap. And as long as I can’t see such question in the poll, I can continue to dream.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 20, 2012

If you responded to the poll and didn’t personally play all 67 eligible games, you already know you’re believing a lie. So hey, whatever works for you, but as I said, no food for thought whatsoever.

subbi
Feb 21, 2012

It’s obvious that Dekaneas has no background in statistical analysis! There is no way that the average respondent has played all of the games. I’d be surprised if they, on average, have played more than 5 or 6 from the list. This indeed makes it nothing more or less than a popularity contest..i.e. only popular games were considered by the broaded group and likely gotten most of the votes.

Another thing altogether is whether the AG reviewers have played all or most of them…I would doubt that aswel, but between them they most likely covered the whole list in a reasonably fair manner….
100% objectivity does not exist!

Jackal Jackal
Feb 21, 2012

As a staff, all eligible games were played and represented by at least one person, but none of us played all the games personally, no. Some of us played very few. But that’s why we don’t make ours a purely democratic result. A very strong showing for some games only a few played in some cases counts for more than games with more votes for games played by far more people. It doesn’t happen all that often—there’s usually a good reason why the popular game are popular—but it’s the only way to at least partly level the playing field so all games have a chance.

Pumba!Ramba
Feb 23, 2012

Looks like the staff awards were more of a popularity contest since Portal 2 and LA Noire are crazy popular mainstream stuff, while Book of Unwritten Tales is an obscure genre game.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 23, 2012

Not around hardcore adventure gamers, it isn’t, which are the people who visit this site the most.

rtrooney rtrooney
Feb 23, 2012

This is such a tiresome argument. In a few weeks the Academy Awards will have been presented. Will the Oscars for Best Picture et al, as decided by the members of The Academy, match my personal selections? Highly unlikely. Does that make me a better judge of movies than them, or vice versa? Despite personal opinion to the contrary, no. I’ve also learned to live with the fact that To the Moon got an honorable mention rather than best in show. The results are what they are.



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