Best Non-Traditional Adventure: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons/Gone Home (tie)
Our top two finalists in this rapidly-burgeoning Aggie category couldn’t be any less traditional, nor could they be any less alike. One is an action-packed epic journey through a perilously beautiful fantasy world, while the other is an almost claustrophobic stay-at-home adventure in a single sprawling household in Portland. One is the wordless adventure of two brothers controlled simultaneously in union, while the other is a solitary first-person explorer filled with personal diaries and convincing voice recordings from a missing sister. One involves solving complex spatial puzzles and dexterity-challenging platforming elements, while the other requires nothing more than complicated than rummaging through drawers as you seek to untangle a mysterious, uncomfortably intimate family backstory. One has sweeping, timeless majestic orchestral scores, the other a variety of gritty punk tracks from renowned Riot Grrrl bands of the 1990s. But Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and Gone Home have one thing very much in common: both are brilliant at what they do.
The two games are similar in at least one other way as well. Although you wouldn’t necessarily suspect it from either premise, both of these entirely unconventional interactive experiences tell remarkably poignant tales of love and loss, of hope and despair, of family bonds that can never be shattered no matter the obstacle. You don’t need to be a medieval-era farm boy or a teenage American girl to share the deep connections the protagonists have with their troubled siblings. If you don’t feel even the slightest pangs of heartache and loneliness (or at least the disquieting sense of unease from imposed separation) in playing through either game, you’d best check for a pulse to see if you’ve still got a heart to break. So how did we choose the “better” of two such different yet evenly-impressive games? We didn’t! We know ties are a bit like kissing a sibling, but since both games are all about enduring family relationships, that image is entirely fitting. And so, for just the second time in Aggie history, we have co-winners of an award, this time for Best Non-Traditional Adventure of 2013. Both are deserving, and we just can’t break them up. (At least, not yet...)
Runners-Up: Kentucky Route Zero: Acts 1-2, BEYOND: Two Souls, Lilly Looking Through
Readers’ Choice: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Like us, you readers had a tough call between the top two finishers, but in your case the brothers beat the sisters outright, albeit by only a tiny margin. The winning combination of poignant story, stunning production values, epic fantasy setting, unique controls, and a variety of both mind- and reflex-challenging gameplay proved impossible to resist. Not everyone may like the genre’s increasing shift away from traditional adventure formulas, but for those in the mood for something a little different, you couldn’t ask for better in 2013 than Starbreeze Studios’ A Tale of Two Sons.
Runners-Up: Gone Home, BEYOND: Two Souls, Kentucky Route Zero: Acts 1-2, Papers, Please
Next up: Best Traditional Adventure... the envelope, please!