Best Casual Adventure: Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the trend towards more “casual” adventure-like experiences has grown in leaps and bounds of late. So many titles now weave between the boundaries of hidden object hunts, lite puzzle games, and full-fledged adventures, it’s hard to know where one genre ends and another begins anymore. But while they may defy classification, they certainly can’t be ignored, and this year the best of them deserve their own recognition. Even without its own Aggie category, last year Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst earned plenty of notice, so it should come as no surprise that the award for Best Casual Adventure goes to Dire Grove, a sequel that moves the franchise forward in even more impressive ways.
Unlike standard seek-and-find titles, Dire Grove emphasizes free exploration of its wintry rural environs as you attempt to get to the bottom of an intriguing little ghost story. The game does include many hidden object sequences that aren’t organically integrated, but there are many more noteworthy aspects that make it stand out: an FMV backdrop filmed à la Blair Witch Project with a powerful and satisfying finale, many traditional inventory obstacles and a collection of standalone puzzles, plus its remarkable production values are just some of the reasons why this game might appeal not only to existing casual gamers, but to any adventurer searching for a "lite" gameplay experience between more traditional fare.
Runners-Up: 3 Cards to Midnight, Drawn: The Painted Tower
Readers’ Choice: 3 Cards to Midnight
If there was any fear that Tex Murphy masterminds Chris Jones and Aaron Conners had lost their storytelling touch in a decade away from the genre, it was put to rest in the debut of their new casual series. It wasn’t Tex and wasn’t the full-blown adventure game many yearned for, but this unique style of “story game” told a riveting tale that kept you coming back for more, with word-based gameplay doing the same in between the previous twist and the next unexpected turn.
Runners-Up: Drawn: The Painted Tower, Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove
Next up: Best Independent Adventure... the envelope, please!Continued on the next page...