Best Story: Time Hollow
Ethan Kairos wakes up on the morning of his seventeenth birthday to find everyone he knows behaving as if his parents went missing twelve years ago. But that's impossible -- he just had dinner with them last night. Or did he? With the help of a supernatural hollow pen, Ethan must isolate and alter moments in the past to resolve this paradox, but his attempts to set things right sometimes deepens the rift between past and present while a malevolent force threatens to consume the people he cares about most.
This is the premise of Junko Kawano's latest game, Time Hollow, and the story that develops as Ethan searches for the truth is every bit as engaging as her last adventure, 2001's Shadow of Destiny. The complex time travel mystery exhibits all of the important elements of good storytelling. The plot is unusual and compelling, while the characters are sympathetic and well developed, leaving you caring what happens to them -- a critically important quality in a story about the protagonist's attempts to save his friends and family. Tension builds throughout, with the actions Ethan expected would fix the present only deepening the problems and raising the stakes if he fails. It all peaks with an exciting climax and a satisfying, poignant conclusion.
If Time Hollow were a novel, it would be a page-turner. As a game, some players have complained that the puzzles are lacking, but that might be missing the point. Time Hollow unapologetically puts story first and allows the gameplay to follow, resulting in an interactive storytelling experience that delivers the player the same urgent need to find out how it ends as a New York Times best seller.
Runners-Up: Overclocked: A History of Violence, Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon
Overclocked: A History of Violence
With a much larger PC gamer base than the Nintendo DS, it's no surprise that the popular votes were cast for PC adventures. Even so, there was nothing straightforward about this vote, as the backwards-winding Overclocked edged out its closest competitors. All genres were well represented, with The Lost Crown and A Vampyre Story claiming the honourable mentions.
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Next up: Best Writing – Comedy... the envelope, please.