Best Graphic Design: A New Beginning
In an industry dominated by cutting-edge 3D graphics, hand-drawn 2D adventures are generally considered quaint and antiquated, at best given backhanded compliments like “classically styled”. Undeterred, Daedalic Entertainment designed A New Beginning the old-fashioned way, and did so with such impeccable artistry that it managed to edge out the fiercest of competition. The vividly coloured, skillfully illustrated screens of this thought-provoking eco-thriller are as distinctive as its premise of desperate time travellers trying to stem an impending environmental catastrophe. Each setting is individually captivating, whether the verdant, idyllic Scandinavian forests of today; a climate conference set against an ominous purple haze caused by smoke-spewing power plants; a dusty, devastated San Francisco drowned by an overflowing Pacific in 2050; or the alien, treeless world of 2500 about to be annihilated by a solar flare. The larger picture for mankind isn’t always pretty, but the artwork displaying it surely is.
Unusual viewing perspectives add to the game’s visual distinctiveness, while the clever interplay of light and shadow to go with day and night transitions add fascinating realism to the backdrops. The cast of characters are just as well-drawn as their world, and emote credibly despite being two-dimensional and outlined in black ink. Cinematics are made of stylishly sketched and dramatically animated panels, which play out sequentially to create comic book-style pages. Coloured clips are often juxtaposed with black-and-white or silhouetted ones to enhance their impact, both in terms of design and as a storytelling device. The flourishes even carry over to utilities like the main menu and saved game archive, creating a cohesive visual experience throughout. For proving with great élan that hand-drawn craftsmanship is not a lost art form, A New Beginning wins the coveted title of Best Graphic Design for 2011.
Runners-Up: Stacking, Drawn: Trail of Shadows, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, L.A. Noire
Readers’ Choice: The Book of Unwritten Tales
From the top of a Mount Doom-like tower against a blood red sky to the burbling acidic gullet of a monstrous creature; from the hazy green swamps of Death’s pirate ship abode to the sweltering volcanic home of a dragon, the scenery in The Book of Unwritten Tales is fantastic in every sense of the word, with lush, detailed backdrops in vivid colour that made them a joy to explore. So much so, it’s your winner for the year’s best graphic design, decided by a gnome’s whisker in a rousing competition.
Runners-Up: L.A. Noire, Gray Matter, Black Mirror III, Portal 2
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Next up: Best Animation... the envelope, please!