Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Quick Fix: IGF 2014 Finalists (and my personal choices)

All the way back in October, I told you about IGF 2014 and the many indie games submitted to be judged. Today, the finalists have finally been revealed; you can read the full list here. Congratulations to the many titles selected, ranging from the innovative IOS adventure Device 6 to the witty and meta Stanley Parable and the document inspection simulator Papers Please. Even one of my favorites, the stylish SuperHOT, was an honorable mention for the Nuovo Award.

Personally I wanted to nominate the games I considered worthy and certainly excellent in the various finalist categories. I'm only considering games I've played or had seen footage of.

Excellence in Visuals
Hero of Many uses its subdued visuals and otherworldly atmosphere to tell a wordless tale of desperate survival against overwhelming odds and relentless predators.
Icycle: On Thin Ice impressed with its weird and abstract level design, only made more interesting by the constantly shifting and moving environments
I haven't played Myriad yet, but the footage I've seen show an experience of explosive color and psychedelic visuals that only enhance the shoot-em-up gameplay
Shelter's angular and pleasing visuals breathed life into the game's tale of motherly protection and survival. 
Cuphead is another game I'm eager to play, but the footage has proven one thing: the developers have absolutely perfected the old 1930's cartoon look and animations.
Type:Rider used the history of typography to craft an endlessly inventive, unique, and atmospheric world of fonts and letters.

Excellence In Design
SuperHOT is still merely just the genesis of a upcoming expanded game, but this early version is still incredibly well-designed, down to the slick slow motion effect, the minimalist visuals, and the puzzle-shooter gameplay
The Swapper combines so many polished elements in a single package, all working in harmony: the unsettling atmosphere, the visually cool uses of the Swapper device, its tactile clay art style
Rain World is a game that has grown and evolved since its early concepts, but its vision has remained true: crafting an atmospheric world to survive in, a unique organic pixel style, impressive AI, and subtle narrative.
Badland may be simple to control, but that's what makes the game so impressive. Not only does the game have a style all its own, the diverse, varied mix of physics puzzles and fast paced action was molded from a one touch control scheme.

Excellence in Audio
Sounddodger+ is probably an easy choice, and if this was 2013, Hotline Miami would surely have a place here, but for me, it was Sounddodger's fantastic soundtrack that made the game more than just twitchy evasion. It's rare for me to seek out the whole soundtrack of a game after playing, but Sounddodger's music was excellently crafted.

Excellence in Narrative
Gods Will Be Watching was like reading a short story. It was a confined and taut experience, laser-focused on delivering its bleak hopeless tale, but that only made its moral quandaries and tough choices that much more tense.
The Swapper impressed me with its subdued storytelling. The story is never in-your-face, aside from the rare moments of dialogue from another individual, but for the most part, the story was told through the ominous atmosphere of the ship you traversed and the unsettling consequences of your Swapper device. Even the logs you found were never clear or straightforward, giving the whole game this tense and creepy tone.
The Stanley Parable was a two-fold narrative; on one hand, it presented the ever-twisting mobius strip that was Stanley's journey and on the other, it was your story. Only a subtle line separated the two, and the game expertly knew how and when to blur that line, to engaging and humorous effect.

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