Best Independent Adventure (commercial): Casebook: Episode I - Kidnapped
The debut episode of this brand new series proved a courageous first effort from Areo, a promising New Zealand developer. Casebook casts the player in the silent role of an unnamed field assistant to Detective James Burton, who’s known for his unconventional approach to cases and his obstinacy in solving them. As its name suggests, Kidnapped, the first of six episodes planned, tells a compelling story about a double kidnapping that has enough twists to keep players interested from beginning to the surprising end.
Along with the high quality of its many FMV clips, what is really impressive is the original technology developed by Areo that allows the player to move through prerendered, photorealistic locations like it were a 3D environment. The goal is to find evidence and clues by carefully exploring the various crime scenes, thinking like a real forensic detective to unearth the mysteries hidden in blood and hair samples, foot and handprints, pieces of fabric and chemical reagents. The many forensic minigames are perhaps too simplistic, but with its intriguing main character, clever exploration, and gripping, hard-boiled plot, Kidnapped is a promising debut for the Casebook series, which looks like it could be a serious contender in this category in 2009 as well.
Runners-Up: Carol Reed: The Colour of Murder, The Tales of Bingwood: Chapter I - To Save a Princess
Readers’ Choice: Diamonds in the Rough
Vive la différence! While AG staff and readers alike found Casebook and the fifth Carol Reed mystery to be worthy of recognition, the top public vote goes to Diamonds in the Rough. The first commercial game from Atropos Studios tells the story of Jason Hart, a young man with a special ability to choose the correct answer when presented with multiple options. Say, sounds a little bit like the reader poll!
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Next up: Best Console/Handheld Adventure... the envelope, please.