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Coil • Web • From The Depths • www • Available now

Nominated for: Innovation Award

The cheeky way to describe Coil would be to say it’s the most interesting game about sex you’ve ever played, but, against all the expectations that might conjure, everything takes place after The Act. Split into various reproductive minigames (from fertilization to subsequent mitosis and onward), some more brutally difficult than others (I’m looking at you, third stage), the game greatly benefits from Edmund ‘Gish‘ McMillen’s by now signature twisted silent-era feel and one of the most haunting soundtracks of the IGF bunch.

Edmund McMillan gives us No Quarter – Offworld

Cortex Command • PC/OSX • Data Realms • www • Available now

Nominated for: Technical Excellence

There’s good reason for Cortex Command to get called out for its technicality, it’s one of the most complex simulations of — well, just about all of its component parts, seemingly down to the very pixel level. Its controllable characters are actual walking mechanisms, nearly everything is a system of particles that all react to the game’s bullet and grenade hell — it all adds up to a frightening intensity and solidity, but at its core is a very classic feeling technical 2D shooter.

Dyson • PC/Linux • Rudolf Kremers and Alex May • www • Available now

Nominated for: Seumas McNally Grand Prize

Not to be too obtuse, but the easiest way to describe Dyson is by drawing a parallel with a game just as potentially obscure: if you’ve played iPhone real-time strategy Galcon, you’ll be quite at home with this. Essentially a war of attrition spanning clusters of variously sized asteroids, Dyson‘s detuned-music-box ambiance and minimalist vector seed- and saplings give it a much more approachable and relaxing atmosphere than an all out combat sim, despite the similarities at the core of its code and its occasionally wicked difficulty.

FEIST • PC/OSX • Filthy Grip • www

Nominated for: Excellence in Visual Arts

It’s not often enough that we get to call games Miyazaki-esque, and it usually means we’ve stumbled across something quite nice when we do. Such is the case with Swiss team Filthy Grip’s FEIST, which there is indeed no limit to my love for.

Like Nicalis’s Night Game (see page 4), its beauty lies in the contrast of its monochromatic silhouetted foreground (which is cut only by piercing white eyes and the gleaming yellow cheshire grins of its enemies), but unlike Night Game‘s sharp pixel precision, everything about FEIST is as soft as its main character: its fluid movement, film grain filter, and the wispy trails that tail every motion.

Thanks to the enhanced physics driven by its Unity engine (the same behind Flashbang’s own knockabout titles), it’s a game with a very pronounced sense of weight and reactivity as well. Of all the games selected this year, this might be the one with the most console potential, via WiiWare, in particular.

The Graveyard • PC/OSX • Tale of Tales • www • Available now

Nominated for: Innovation Award

Like all Tale of Tales works, The Graveyard it’s hard to contextualize against the rest of the games industry — save possibly Jason Rohrer’s output (though those still pack their metaphoric punch specifically by using familiar videogame tropes). Tales are resolute something more along the lines of what they call “realtime poetry,” an apt description in Graveyard‘s case, and the primary reason it’s up for an Innovation Award.

If anything, the cultural touchstone I’d put it against is the prologue to This American Life’s first season, second TV episode (you’ll know it if you’ve seen it) — something in the hobbling dedication of its aged protagonist (itself probably a videogame first). Best left to your own discovery rather than a description (and available as a free download), it’s a clever and touching rumination, and if anything has upped my anticipation for their forthcoming teenage-girl coming-of-age-by-way-of-survival-horror game The Path (a 2008 IGF entry that’s just now entered beta).

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