Best Setting: Emerald City Confidential
At first it might seem like basing a game world around one of the most popular series of fantasy books of all time would be a no-brainer, but trying to put a unique twist on a beloved franchise is a path fraught with potential dangers. How do you make it fresh and new while staying faithful to the source material and not offending the hardcore fans? Emerald City Confidential is the answer. Designer Dave Gilbert managed to forge a noir version of the Land of Oz that is both instantly familiar and completely different. In this Emerald City, the buildings still glow a beautiful green, yet they never manage to illuminate the dark alleys.
Like any noir mystery worthy of the name, the game begins at a mysterious warehouse, and from there it travels to all the expected locations: the dockside, a seedy bar, an all-night diner, and a sinister millionaire’s hilltop mansion. The difference is, each one is infused with a particular Oz-style and charm that makes them memorable, filled with distinctive characters like Cowardly Lion the shady lawyer, Besty Bobbins the local tramp, and Petra the world-weary private eye. The number of little details (not to mention Easter Eggs) taken from the original novels is sometimes staggering, and create a sense that the environs you’re visiting existed before you arrived and will continue to after the credits roll. The hallmark of a great setting is that players want to return to it again and again, and we’re certain the world of Emerald City Confidential contains dozens more mysteries, secrets, and cover-ups just waiting for us to investigate.
Runners-Up: Machinarium, Dark Fall: Lost Souls
Readers’ Choice: Machinarium
You wouldn’t want to live there, but plenty of readers sure enjoyed visiting the rusted metallic landscapes of Machinarium. And for great reason, as the game provides a truly memorable trip from the outlying trash heaps to the very nerve center of a robot metropolis, stopping just long enough to drop quarters at the video arcade, tend plants in the dilapidated terrarium, and dance a jig at the street corner jazz show along the way.
Runners-Up: Tales of Monkey Island, Time Gentlemen, Please!
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