Best Independent Adventure: Gemini Rue
Joshua Nuernberger’s Gemini Rue was such a resounding success, drawing well-earned parallels to past classics like Beneath a Steel Sky and Blade Runner, that it’s easy to forget that the entire project is largely the work of one young man with a vision. The UCLA student has become a celebrated story of DIY game design, but there was no funding or acclaim initially. For two years, Nuernberger laboured over all aspects of the game himself, including art, writing, and design, with no promise that he would ever see a commercial release. Then, a prominent win at the 2010 Independent Games Festival put this game on course for a spectacularly successful release, and we can all be thankful it did.
Gemini Rue may be light on challenging gameplay, but this focus wisely shines the spotlight on its brilliant sci-fi tale. Yet although it plays like an interactive page-turner, there is much more to the game than just that. Its lo-res backdrops are perfectly suited to its bleak, dreary environments of rain-soaked, drug-addled Pittsburg and the sterile, sinister hallways of the Center 7 rehabilitation facility. The music, though sparse, is excellent, the voice acting of the lead characters is solid, and there’s plenty of impressive animation, adding the sort of polish that’s lacking from most small-team endeavours. It’s titles like this that remind us that independent development never has to mean a compromise in quality, and for that it’s a deserving winner of our Best Independent Adventure award for 2011.
Runners-Up: To the Moon, Blackwell Deception, Metal Dead, Alpha Polaris
Readers’ Choice: Gemini Rue
Some adventures are praised as good games “for an indie”, like a consolation prize for something that can’t compete with the heavy hitters. Some games are just great, period, and even more remarkable that they’re the work of a small team with a small budget and a big dream that goes a long way. Gemini Rue is one of those games, so no arguments here that Joshua Nuernberger’s sci-fi tale is the runaway winner of best independent adventure of the year.
Runners-Up: Blackwell Deception, To the Moon, Alpha Polaris, Last Half of Darkness: Society of the Serpent Moon
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Next up: Best Console/Handheld Adventure... the envelope, please!