2012 Aggie Award Nominees feature

This year may be shaping up to be "the" year of the adventure, with Kickstarter bringing everyone's favourite Golden Era designers out of hibernation, but don't tell that to the genre's existing developers who offered us so many fine games in 2012. To honour their great contributions, it's once again time to recognize the nominees for the Aggie Awards!

For a while it felt like a slow year, particularly for console adventures, but as always, by the time all the calendar days ticked off there were so many worthy candidates that we were bickering like George and Nico about which games deserved to make the cut for each category. There are some very, very good games that didn't even make this list. Further narrowing it down from five to one is going to be TOUGH. We're talking Riven-level tough, and you know that's saying something.

There are no changes to the award categories since last year's presentation (if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? – isn't that the adventure community motto?), so you all know what to expect this time around. Or if you're a newcomer... well, it really isn't that complicated. Once again we've included awards for both traditional and non-traditional adventure games, so people who give themselves ulcers arguing genre definitions can breathe easier. (And if you're wondering, here's ours. Hasn't changed in over a decade; only the games are delightfully different today.)

Even though it's utterly unthinkable that anyone may, in fact, have a different opinion than us, rest assured that you will once again get a chance to have your say in our upcoming reader poll, so keep your point-and-clicker ready over the course of the next few days.

The final Aggie Awards presentation will run from Wednesday to Friday, February 20-22, so don't wander off if you want to know which of the following finalists (listed in alphabetical order) will take home the coveted golden hardware.
 



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.

The Cat Lady
Resonance
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
The Walking Dead
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward


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 Ballads of Reemus: When the Bed Bites
The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles
Deponia (series)
Edna & Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes
The Journey Down: Chapter One


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.

The Cat Lady
Primordia
Resonance
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
The Walking Dead


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.

Tree creatures (Botanicula)
Bwana (The Journey Down: Chapter One)
Clementine and Lee (The Walking Dead)
Mobot (J.U.L.I.A. )
Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty (The Testament of Sherlock Holmes)

(Note: Clementine and Lee, Sherlock and Moriarty are all separate nominees.)



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.

Botanicula
J.U.L.I.A.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
Resonance
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes


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.  

BlindSide
Miasmata
Papo & Yo
Reperfection: Volume 1
Resonance


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.

Botanicula
Deponia (series)
Journey
Primordia
The Unfinished Swan


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. 

Botanicula
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
Journey
The Journey Down: Chapter One
Lost Chronicles of Zerzura


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. 

Botanicula
Deponia (series)
Journey
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
The Walking Dead


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.

Botanicula
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 1: The Hangman
Journey
The Journey Down: Chapter One
The Walking Dead


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.

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 1: The Hangman
The Journey Down: Chapter One
Primordia
The Walking Dead
Yesterday


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. 

BlindSide
The Cat Lady
Miasmata
The Walking Dead
Yesterday


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.

Botanicula
The Cat Lady
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 1: The Hangman
The Journey Down: Chapter One
Resonance


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.

Journey
Papo & Yo
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
The Unfinished Swan
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward


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.

Botanicula
The Cat Lady
Journey
Kairo
The Walking Dead


Best Traditional Adventure

Why mess with a good thing? 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.

Deponia (series)
The Journey Down: Chapter One
Primordia
Resonance
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes


Best Adventure of 2012

Oooooh, no. Telling now would be tipping our hand on some of the other categories. Can't have that! So you'll just have to wait to see which five duked it out for top spot (and, of course, which actually wins). But you won't have long to wait, as our grand awards ceremony from February 20-22 is approaching fast! Stay tuned. Don't touch that mouse!

Continued on the next page...






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Comments

Say Say
Feb 8, 2013

Oh my goodness! This is so exciting! What an honor for Phoenix Online Studios and Cognition crew. THANK YOU so much for the nominations Adventure Gamers Smile

Advie Advie
Feb 8, 2013

I actually don’t care much about categorizing Adventure with Comedy - Drama - Gameplaying - Voice acting ...etc , but 2 things i see from all those nominations ,1st-2nd : this year didn’t have any great production adventures (i had seem greater & better productions 7-8 year ago (‘04-‘05)) and all the good adventures of 2012 are listed at the Best Independent Adventure Section (putting 10 lines under the latter three words)

KatieHal KatieHal
Feb 9, 2013

AWESOME!!! *dances* Go Cognition, go! Thank you!! And congrats to all of the nominees! Grin

Primate Ryan Primate Ryan
Feb 9, 2013

The main thing I take away from these nominations is that I really need to get started on The Cat Lady (stopped after the first meeting with another character) and The Testament of Sherlock Holmes.

I also expected The Sea Will Claim Everything to be in there somewhere, but the nominations are all fairly predictable and there’s not much in there I strongly disagree with.

jfrisby
Feb 9, 2013

Journey Down, Resonance, Primordia ALL THE WAY! WOOO

zeebarf
Feb 9, 2013

Amazing! Thank you so much for the nomination!

Rem
Feb 9, 2013

The Cat Lady vs The Walking Dead- I can’t see myself winning this one;) But I loved every second of TWD and won’t feel bad at all if (when) it wins. I also wanted to say it’s an honour to be nominated (and in several categories!) and wish everyone good luck!;)

R Michalski, Harvester Games

The list of eligible games is missing Quantum Conundrum. This Portal clone puzzler has excellent puzzles and a great story. I would have selected it for best non-traditional adventure.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 9, 2013

Quantum Conundrum isn’t an adventure. Unlike Portal, it has no story whatsoever, and lots of challenging platforming.

While Quantum Conundrum has nowhere near as much story as Portal 2, it has about as much story as Portal 1. It is true that many of the puzzles do involve platforming.

gray pierce gray pierce
Feb 9, 2013

Shame Chains of Satinav wasn’t nominated in more catgeories. I mean it makes sense considering Adventure Gamers wasn’t very fond of it but for me it was the best game I played this year hands down.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 9, 2013

“Wander a house, power a machine” isn’t a story. There was much more to even the first Portal than that. So no, not eligible. (We will be covering QC in an upcoming almost-adventure article, however.)

Iznogood Iznogood
Feb 9, 2013

The first thing that comes to mind when seeing the nominees, is that there is some great games i stiil haven’t played yet. The Cat Lady and Cognition beeing at the top of my list.

Interplay Interplay
Feb 9, 2013

I think this has been a really great year for adventure games.  I can only imagine what the list is going to look like next year.  There’s been more innovation this year than in many past.  Resonance should be a lock for gameplay; it had such an innovative design.  I’m sure Walking Dead will win a lot, but I would love for The Cat Lady or Resonance to steal some away.

The only big surprise was J.U.L.I.A. in the gameplay category.  I personally enjoyed the game, but it’s basically just a bunch of puzzles/minigames strung together similar to what you would find in a casual game, combined with text adventure segments that you can’t not progress through.

I wasn’t sure if Cognition would be held over until next year, but I’m glad to see it get some nomination love.  Well deserved.

VinceTwelve VinceTwelve
Feb 9, 2013

Thanks for all the nominations, Adventure Gamers!!!

There are about 26 games on this list that I’ve been dying to play, most of them being games that I know that I will absolutely love. Sadly, the only 2012 adventure game I found the time to play so far was Botanicula. I’m glad I chose to play that one since it was excellent. I have a lot of catching up to do on my backlog!

UPtimist UPtimist
Feb 10, 2013

I have a feeling next year this is going to be a pretty spectacular competition… I mean, already there are all these fantastic games here (most of which I still haven’t played *facepalm*), but then this year all the Kickstarter games are going to kick in - Pinkerton Road, Double Fine, Revolution (or, Jane Jensen, Tim Schaefer, Charles Cecil etc.).

I have a very good feeling about this year… Smile

Niclas Niclas
Feb 10, 2013

Resonance, Cognition, Primordia, Lost Chronicles of Zerzura have my vote.

Sonia65x Sonia65x
Feb 12, 2013

how do I vote?

Jackal Jackal
Feb 12, 2013

You don’t vote on these.  These are the staff-only nominees.  The reader poll is here: http://www.adventuregamers.com/articles/view/23963

Sonia65x Sonia65x
Feb 12, 2013

Thank you Jackal !!

Steve@ClickShake Steve@ClickShake
Feb 13, 2013

It’s really an honor to see Ballads of Reemus up for nomination.  Thanks for the love AG!

Dara100 Dara100
Feb 21, 2013

The Dream Machine didn’t make it?  Granted, it’s not finished, at least the last two chapters aren’t, so I hope it will be eligible next year.  It’a a clay and cardboard mini-masterpiece to rival The Neverhood, imo, in five chapters that would fit nicely into several categories and a good story to boot.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 21, 2013

It’ll be eligible any year there’s an episode released. None were in 2012.



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