The Independent Games Festival Awards have announced their finalists, once more reflecting the esteemed opinions of RPS writers. Sad mutant blueberry simulator Mutazione is the favourite for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, and is also in the running for the Art, Audio and Narrative awards. Two thirds of Alices agree that it is well good.
Other grand prize contenders include AI and sadness visual novel Eliza, uplifting flap-about A Short Hike, irresistible card-pusher Slay The Spire, and irritable waterfowl punter Untitled Goose Game. Also in the running is Anodyne 2: Return To Dust, the only game on the list that someone at RPS hasn't thrown lavish praise at. Soz, Anodyne.
You'll find most of those games in our picks for the best games of 2019, which non-coincidentally also includes some of the best writing of 2019. Here's Alice O on Mutazione, an adventure game I didn't do justice to with that glib summary. It's about dealing with ecological and interpersonal fallout, sometimes by accepting that you can't. (Here's Alice Bee's Mutazione review, too)
"Mutazione is perhaps the only game with dialogue options where I often chose not to press matters further, where I didn’t want to wring everyone for all their stories and secrets. I wanted to know because I liked them but I couldn’t demand it. I didn’t fear rejection, I feared that these gentle people would tell me secrets they weren’t ready to share because they didn’t want to make me feel hurt."
Graham called A Short Hike "spiritually refreshing". It's up for the Excellence in Design, too. Bird-based island exploration didn't resonate with me to quite the same degree, though I still found it lovely. Top flapping, but:
"These movement systems would be nothing if the world itself wasn’t so delightful. The island is rendered with Nintendo 64-style polygons and jagged lines, but it’s teeming with detail. Flowers sway in the breeze, wind swooshes overhead, butterflies flutter around bushes, a sparkling ocean laps along the shore. Even when you stop your climb, A Short Hike’s world keeps breathing. There’s variety, too: climb far enough up the mountain and you’ll reach snow, which brings its own challenges and beauty."
For Eliza, which is also up for the Excellence in Narrative award, Sin's Eliza review says it all. Then it keeps saying things until you are as angry at the world as you should have been, but hopeful nonetheless. It's one of the best examples of how a critic can elevate an already excellent game.
"This is a beautiful game not just about trying to help people, but about the desire to help people. What do we do with it, in a world where anything useful we create will be taken by wealthy men and used to suck more marrow from our bones? Should we walk away from something that isn’t working, or stay and try to influence it for the better? Is it right to abandon this project that might be doing some good, just because it also contributes to the same parasitic system basically everything else is also shackled to?
"How do you get back into life after a long period of grieving and isolation? Can you go back? Should you?"
Katharine's "only real complaint" about Untitled Goose Game was that she wanted more of it. Check out her Untitled Goose Game review to hear her honk about the good stuff. fittingly, Goose Game is also up for Excellence in Audio.
Here are the finalists in full. There are too many worthy nominees in the other categories for me to mention them all, but I will briefly highlight Knights And Bikes, which is up for awards in both Art and Audio. It's an action adventure game about the perils and delights of childhood, with so many neat touches it could qualify as a masseuse. I said as much in my Knights And Bikes review.
IGF will announce the winners on March 18th, during the Game Developers Conference.
(Disclosure: Hannah Nicklin, who has written for us, is studio and narrative lead for Mutazione developers Die Gute Fabrik.)