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Night Game • WiiWare/PC • Nicalis • www

Nominated for: Excellence in Design, Seumas McNally Grand Prize

You would be forgiven for drawing a quick comparison between the non-scrolling single-screen design and serene environment of Nicalis’s Night Game to freeware hit Knytt Stories: both are the work of none other than Nicklas ‘Nifflas’ Nygren, Night Game being his first commercial title.

Falling somewhere between Gish, Marble Madness, and, of course, Knytt, Night Game is a silhouetted and physics-enhanced 2D adventure fronted by no more a character than a simple marble, using all of the ramp- and momentum-based puzzles you might expect to traverse its sparsely populated landscape.

As its description notes, there are no enemies, per se, other than friction and gravity, both of which come under your control in certain areas of the game. Between this and their partnership with Japanese indie designer Pixel to port and update the latter’s groundbreaking freeware hit Cave Story for WiiWare, Nicalis is due to become as big a name as World of Goo‘s 2D Boy or LostWinds‘ Frontier on the service very soon.

A deeper look at Knytt Stories – Offworld
WiiWare Cave Story getting new DLC content – Offworld

Osmos • PC • Hemisphere Games • www

Nominated for: Excellence in Design, Technical Excellence, Seumas McNally Grand Prize

Somewhere between the survivalist instincts of fl0w or Spore‘s creature stage and a more fluidly dynamic version of Nintendo’s bit Generations oddity Orbital (on WiiWare as Orbient), Osmos takes a simple mechanic — a backward propulsion technique which slowly deflates you — and spins out very smartly devised variations to keep it fresh throughout. And, as a bonus: any game that lends itself so perfectly to the sparse tones of Loscil (as seen above) is a winner in our book.

PixelJunk Eden • PS3 • Q-Games • www

Nominated for: Excellence in Visual Art, Excellence in Audio, Technical Excellence

We’ve mentioned this game so often in the short time that Offworld has been online that there’s almost nothing more to say, other than it deserved every nomination it received and perfectly highlights exactly what it does right: take fantastic art with a soundtrack of a kind rarely heard in games and mesh them with its fantastic blossoming vector engine. What it might do, though, is reignite debates over what defines ‘indie’ (which are surely beyond the scope of this article), with a budget that surely exceeds that of the usual 1-3 person teams.

PixelJunk Eden patch promises mercy – Offworld
Sony's own inspired holiday sales – Offworld
The Offworld 20: 2008's Best Indie and Overlooked – Offworld

Retro/Grade • PC • 24 Caret Games • www

Nominated for: Excellence in Audio, Excellence in Design

Another of the few games that refused to play nice with my own set of hardware, you can get nearly everything you need from the video above. Retro/Grade’s a brilliant take on what turns out not to be a shooter, but a rhythm game in deep disguise, rewinding through an unplayed battle and syncing shots and dodges so as not to damage the space-time continuum. Surely one of this year’s best left-field ideas.


Snapshot • PC • Kyle Pulver and Peter Jones • www

Nominated for: Excellence in Design

On the surface, Snapshot is one of the most traditional of the games nominated this year — a run and jump platformer that looks nothing if not Yoshi’s Island‘s second-cousin — but the persistent focal-frame hovering over your character is your first hint that something deeper’s happening, and indeed it is. By manipulating that frame with the controller’s right thumbstick, you can take photos of objects in the world, then tack down those photos elsewhere to use the captured item, from placing crates to elephant-trampolines (!) to doorways elsewhere: a fantastic twist on its otherwise familiar feel.


You Have To Burn The Rope • Web • Kian Bashiri • www

Nominated for: Innovation Award

It would probably take less time for you to read this paragraph than it would to play You Have To Burn The Rope from beginning to end, and chances are that if you’ve read this you’ve probably already done so by now. Its mid-game rug-pull is almost the industry’s version of a rickroll, and goes meta on so many levels I’m not even sure which to address, but what it does do — and more games to take a lesson from — is make you feel brilliant via its end credits song, for doing nothing less than precisely, literally what it told you to do as soon as you first dropped in.

Zeno Clash • PC • ACE Team Software • www

Nominated for: Excellence for Visual Art

The game that will probably have the least amount of trouble transitioning itself into a commercial proposition, Chilean-developed Zeno Clash takes the first person punch-em-up brutality of Starbreeze’s Chronicles of Riddick or Namco’s Breakdown and mixes it with a previously unheard of breed of alien Neanderthal/native punk that, powered by Valve’s Source engine, does indeed look fantastic, and carries real solidity behind every hook and jab. It’s still a bit rough around the edges of its pacing, but is a very confident development for a debut title from a recently formed team.

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