The IGF finalists have been announced, and it's a fantastic list. Very deserving games. But there are others, ones that didn't make the grade, and I want to stand up and salute them in public. As a first round judge on the awards, I played a whole bunch of the 650 entries, and there are some real gems in there that are no longer in the running. (Obviously I didn't play all the entries, so there will be many more great games that still go unrecognised, and that's sad.) So, as we did last year, here are the Second Annual Horace Awards For Forgotten IGF Entrants.
The Horace Award For Being Bloody Good But Not Quite Finished: Secrets Of Rætikon - Broken Rules
Also winner of the Horace Award For The Stupidest, Least Memorable, And Most Difficult To Spell Game Title Of The Year, this is one to keep an eye on. It's just appeared on Early Access, and we'll be writing about it very soon. In the meantime, know that this is a visually striking and utterly spellbinding exploration puzzler, and I suspect will be far more widely recognised over the year.
The Horace Award For Being Just A Really Fun Game To Play: Eldritch - Minor Key Games
There were a lot of roguelites in the field this year, but it's still a shame that Eldritch didn't see recognition. The Lovecraft-inspired first-person... something absolutely won me over straight away. Perhaps by being so easy for the first randomly generated collection of dungeons, and then being so stupendously hard by the second. I WILL DEFEAT YOU, SECOND BOOK. Yes, it's probably a shame it went for Minecraft-style graphics, but they quickly stop mattering, and being alive starts. With some really nice twists on the format (killing enemies is often the last thing you should do), and a fantastic ability to scare, this is a treat.
The Horace Award For Being The Best Puzzle Game Since Slitherlink: Hexcells - Matthew Brown
Behind the scenes of the IGFs there's a place where judges can discuss each entry. Someone left a comment saying this was just Minesweeper, and I exploded. In response to my messy death a few other judges took a look, and people began commenting on just how splendid it is. Not enough, it seems. That's not too surprising, I suppose - a pure puzzle game is a hard sell in the categories making up the awards. But there's only one game that I've been repeatedly contacted about in the last few months, multiple people getting in touch to thank me for pointing them toward it, and that's Hexcells. It's stunning.
The Horace Award For Nepotism: Sir, You Are Being Hunted - Big Robot
While I obviously did not vote for Sir in the awards, what with it being made by Jim, I'm surprised that others didn't in greater numbers. While I'm as biased as it gets, it's a very splendid and interesting game, seemingly like solid IGF fodder. ROBBED, he was! ROBBED!
The Horace Award For Being Really Very Incredibly Pretty Again: Apotheon - Alientrap
Winning a Horace two years running, this ridiculously gorgeous-looking game once again mysteriously lacks a Visual Art nomination. Designed to match the art style of Grecian urns, and succeeding at it, this huge, sprawling platformer is only every very beautiful. Still in development after a very long time, it still feels to undirected to me, too easy to get lost in. But it's a stunner, and richly deserves its second infinite gong.
The Horace Award For Being On 3DS At The Time So Not Standing A Chance Of Getting Enough Votes: SteamWorld Dig - Image & Form
I really do think that had they had the PC version available for judges, this would have fared a lot better. It's an incredibly slick, professional, and enormously fun digging/plaform game, and you can read my review about why, here. It's very hard for games that aren't either mobile or PC to get through the IGFs, and especially hard for something as niche as a 3DS download-only. But the PC version is now out, for all to enjoy.
The Horace Award For Huh? What? How On Earth Didn't This Get Picked?: Rogue Legacy - Cellar Door Games
Huh? What? How on Earth didn't this get picked?
The Horace Award For Worrying Us With Its Honest Portrayal Of Suicide: Actual Sunlight - Will O'Neill
I don't think Actual Sunlight helped itself with its 3D re-release this year. The original 2D version was superior, the 3D build certainly more atmospheric, but clumsy and problematic to control. I imagine this may have put a good few judges off experiencing what I think should have been a shoo-in for a Narrative nom. It's incredibly problematic, and writing about it terrifies me, but I think this only further underlines why it's so deserving of recognition for its provocative, even dangerous writing.
The Horace Award For Looking Absolutely Incredible Despite Only Being About Fifteen Minutes Of The Game: The Franz Kafka Videogame
A perennial problem with the IGFs is people entering games that are only partially complete, or just demos. They're often far too short to judge. That was definitely the case for The Franz Kafka Videogame, which despite being a very promising puzzle adventure ends far too soon to know if it will work. However, there's no doubt that the art is phenomenal. Check out the trailer to see.
And there concludes our ceremony. Obviously I'm going to have missed lots of great games, but these are the ones that caught my eye, that I then didn't see make it to the finalists or honourable mentions. I encourage indie devs who think their game should have appeared here to get in touch with us and let us know why. All the best to all the entries that have made it through - it's a fine collection of games indeed.