What is the best party game of 2015? The RPS Advent Calendar highlights our favourite games from throughout the year, and behind today's door is...
Adam: Little Party places you in the role of a person on the periphery of other peoples' fun. You're a spectator to and facilitator of the good times that a gathering of youths are enjoying. One of those artsy young people is your daughter. You are a mum.
Everything about the set up is unusual. How often do you play as a mum? How often do you play as the person excluded from the central event of a game? How often are you a real character in the real world with real concerns?
Aesthetically, Carter Lodwick and Ian Endsley's game is wonderful. Gentle music and sounds, and a house that feels half-painted half-remembered. It doesn't look quite like anything else I've ever played, marrying a fidelity of place and feeling with art that can both exaggerate and subdue those feelings.
What's truly remarkable is that the entire game filled me with a sense of anxiety. Helping my daughter to prepare for this party, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Who among her friends would ruin everything? What secrets would come out into the open as the night unfolded? I listened and looked for unkindnesses, vigilant and defensive.
That attitude perhaps says as much about me, and what I've been trained to expect from games (and maybe even what I expect from social situations, ffs), as it does about Little Party. I won't say whether the unease was entirely unfounded because you can play the game right now for a price of your choosing. It seemed absurd to be so guarded in such a tranquil environment but the situation seemed so precious that I was convinced it might shatter, and terrified that the quiet of that pre-party mood could never be reconstructed if it were shown to be so fragile. Little Party is a delicate thing but the craft behind it is strong.
Graham: I've always thought of 2.5D games as a cheap compromise for games whose technology or budget didn't allow for three-dimensional models. It's hard to imagine Little Party being half as evocative and beautiful however if it wasn't for its flat-drawn characters. In still frames, the whole world looks like a hand-drawn cartoon, and I'm nuts about its colour palette. I found myself composing shots like a camerawoman so I could screenshot the nighttime green trees, the warm red house, the deep blue water...
Just like Adam, I felt vigilant throughout the entire experience. Even now I think there are hints at events that go unnoticed by you as you move around the home, but I might just be filling in the blanks with my own assumptions. Certainly those hints don't present themselves either through the interactions with objects or via the conversations you have with your daughter and her friends.
Those lingering fears aside, the overall experience is one of comfort. From music to art to writing, Little Party is a wonderful place to spend some time - and one of the most delightful games of the year.
Go here for more of our picks for the best PC games of 2015.