Between • PC • Jason Rohrer • www • Available now
Nominated for: Innovation Award
Rather than directly model an essential human experience (as he did with his landmark Passage), Rohrer’s Esquire-featured Between is a multiplayer exercise in non-communication. Two players rely on each other to create secondary-color mixed blocks out of their own primary shades, but have to do without speaking directly (bar cheating). Especially given its online-only model, a touching metaphor for long distance interrelations, and a type of play which spawned a new term with Ian Bogost’s “disjunctive” descriptor.
Blueberry Garden • PC • Erik Svedang • www
Nominated for: Excellence in Audio, Seumas McNally Grand Prize
Dishearteningly (but par for the course with IGF entrants), Blueberry Garden is one of very few finalists that no combination of my own hardware and software would run — most disappointing, because via the video above, it’s one that I looked forward to playing most for all its surrealist illustrative leanings (and the undeniable appeal of its kissing party-hatted.. enemies?), and those that did get to experience it were obviously struck.
Most intriguingly, Svedang has said the games that most inspired Blueberry include: Shadow of the Colossus, Starcraft, Go, Worms and Super Mario Bros 3, and there is almost no conceivable way to wrap my head around that combination. Updates will land here if I manage to get this one under my belt.
BrainPipe • PC • Digital Eel • www • Available now
Nominated for: Excellence in Audio
My shameful admission up front: I completely underestimated my first several minutes in the BrainPipe. The sum total interaction in this take on tunnel vision (literally, your vantage being that of a wireframe eyeball moving through the titular pipe) is limited to simply leaning with your mouse to avoid dangerous objects and collect passing glyphs — no more a game than those ubiquitous 2D tunnel games where you hold or release a mouse button to rise and fall.
But by the end of level four, I found myself surprisingly transfixed and genuinely a bit terrified. The subtle doppler effect on the constant and schizophrenic audio-visual assault positions you squarely inside the game in ways that most struggle at, and, especially as you progress further and your speed increases, it becomes just like the simulation of madness that the Weird Worlds creators intended.
CarneyVale Showtime • Xbox 360 • Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab • www • Available now
Nominated for: Seumas McNally Grand Prize
If you’ve by chance played Nintendo’s GBA/DS grip-and-flip vertical scaler DK King of Swing you’ll be right at home here: Game Lab’s particular innovation is to imbue that swinging, flinging idea with more physical momentum and punching it home with ragdoll physics and an olde-time (and vastly underused) carnival theme to make your stunts feel that much more acrobatic.
Born out of Microsoft’s XNA ‘Dream Build Play’ student contest, the game’s already become one of the showcase titles of its new Xbox 360 Community Games service (next to other small-team works like Weapon of Choice), has all the smarts and energy you’d want out of a young team’s debut game.
Cletus Clay • Xbox Live Arcade/PC • TunaSnax • www
Nominated for: Excellence in Visual Art
It’s a shame we haven’t seen as many clay-modeled games since Doug TenNapel’s Neverhood heyday, but it’s surely with good reason: it must be an excruciatingly meticulous way to create and animate a game. It’s possible that was less true for sidescrolling shooter Platypus, designer Anthony Flack’s first clay outing, but Cletus is a co-op 2D brawler, and a surprisingly pleasingly raucous one, that should be lauded for simply even trying, especially without a massive crew behind it.