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2012 Aggie Award Nominees

AG generic
AG generic

This year may be shaping up to be "the" year of the adventure, with Kickstarter bringing everyone's favourite Golden Era designers out of hibernation, but don't tell that to the genre's existing developers who offered us so many fine games in 2012. To honour their great contributions, it's once again time to recognize the nominees for the Aggie Awards!

For a while it felt like a slow year, particularly for console adventures, but as always, by the time all the calendar days ticked off there were so many worthy candidates that we were bickering like George and Nico about which games deserved to make the cut for each category. There are some very, very good games that didn't even make this list. Further narrowing it down from five to one is going to be TOUGH. We're talking Riven-level tough, and you know that's saying something.

Image #1There are no changes to the award categories since last year's presentation (if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? – isn't that the adventure community motto?), so you all know what to expect this time around. Or if you're a newcomer... well, it really isn't that complicated. Once again we've included awards for both traditional and non-traditional adventure games, so people who give themselves ulcers arguing genre definitions can breathe easier. (And if you're wondering, here's ours. Hasn't changed in over a decade; only the games are delightfully different today.)

Even though it's utterly unthinkable that anyone may, in fact, have a different opinion than us, rest assured that you will once again get a chance to have your say in our upcoming reader poll, so keep your point-and-clicker ready over the course of the next few days.

The final Aggie Awards presentation will run from Wednesday to Friday, February 20-22, so don't wander off if you want to know which of the following finalists (listed in alphabetical order) will take home the coveted golden hardware.
 



Best Story

One of the core components of any adventure, the game’s narrative must engage the player’s interest and imagination. Entertaining in its own right, a good story also immerses the player in a believable game world and serves as motivation to overcome the challenges presented. While often accompanied by quality writing, the plot is a distinct feature that may or may not be ably supported by the actual dialogue.

The Cat Lady
Resonance
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
The Walking Dead
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward


Best Writing – Comedy

Arguably the hardest genre to write well, comedy done right has the ability both to amuse and uplift, finding humour in the ordinary and laughter in the unexpected. Often dismissed for not being “serious writing” (oh, the irony!), comedy has long been a beloved adventure staple and deserves appropriate recognition.

The Ballads of Reemus: When the Bed Bites
The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles
Deponia (series)
Edna & Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes
The Journey Down: Chapter One


Best Writing – Drama

If comedy lifts the soul, then drama explores and challenges it. Though sometimes misrepresented as dry and boring or overly theatrical, a gripping drama simply engages players on a deeper emotional level. Quality writing is essential in maintaining the player’s connection to the characters, game world, and the story unfolding.

The Cat Lady
Primordia
Resonance
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
The Walking Dead


Best Character

Gabriel Knight... Tex Murphy... April Ryan... Guybrush Threepwood. These names roll off the tongue of any adventure gamer as a testament to the importance of compelling protagonists in an adventure. But just as important are the villains, sidekicks, and significant supporting characters, which are often the juiciest parts. This category recognizes those who have made the most memorable contribution, regardless of role.

Tree creatures (Botanicula)
Bwana (The Journey Down: Chapter One)
Clementine and Lee (The Walking Dead)
Mobot (J.U.L.I.A. )
Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty (The Testament of Sherlock Holmes)

(Note: Clementine and Lee, Sherlock and Moriarty are all separate nominees.)



Best Gameplay

Puzzles are an integral aspect of adventure gameplay, but not the only one. Good pacing, rich exploration, and variety of activities are all factors in player enjoyment as well, all suitably integrated into the storyline. The best games seek the right balance of these elements for the most rewarding gameplay experience.

Botanicula
J.U.L.I.A.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
Resonance
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes


Best Concept

A somewhat ambiguous category meant to highlight any unusual, distinctive element. A creative concept can run the gamut from story premise to game mechanics, from stylistic choice to technical innovation. It doesn’t even need to have been successfully implemented, as it’s the idea itself that deserves the acknowledgement in a genre renowned for its conservative approach.  

BlindSide
Miasmata
Papo & Yo
Reperfection: Volume 1
Resonance


Best Setting

Adventures can transport us to memorable places we’ve never been before, including those we never even imagined. Or perhaps to locales we’ve visited already, but never quite like this, making them feel fresh and new and awe-inspiring all over again. This category can refer to an overall game world or even a single environment in a given game so long as it’s a relevant location.

Botanicula
Deponia (series)
Journey
Primordia
The Unfinished Swan


Best Graphic Design

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this category speaks volumes. Regardless of style, this award recognizes games that are not only visually attractive but stylistically distinctive. One look at a screenshot should elicit a “Wow!” followed by “Hey, that’s from…!” Includes both game world and character design, but not cinematics. 

Botanicula
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
Journey
The Journey Down: Chapter One
Lost Chronicles of Zerzura


Best Animation

From “bustling” city streets that look deserted to clouds that never move, animation is rarely a genre strong suit, often the victim of budget constraints. But richly animated adventures add so much to player immersion that any game that goes the extra mile in this area is deserving of appreciation. This category includes in-game character and ambient animations, plus cinematic cutscenes. 

Botanicula
Deponia (series)
Journey
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
The Walking Dead


Best Music

As a complementary element playing in the background, often a game’s soundtrack is noticeable only when it becomes intrusive, but a strong score and attention to pacing can add so much to a game’s ambience. A catchy theme song can likewise make game music memorable, and an in-game musical number even more so. Whatever its particular strengths, the rare game that excels musically deserves its accolades.

Botanicula
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 1: The Hangman
Journey
The Journey Down: Chapter One
The Walking Dead


Best Voice Acting

Often under-valued by publishers but never by gamers, quality voice acting can enhance a player’s investment in characters as surely as poor acting can ruin it. With so much international localization, voiceovers can be difficult to skillfully oversee, but any game benefits greatly from proper direction and believable acting. This category refers to the overall quality of vocal roles in a game, not to individual characters.

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 1: The Hangman
The Journey Down: Chapter One
Primordia
The Walking Dead
Yesterday


Best Sound Effects

As with music, sound effects are frequently given short shrift in adventures, but effective use of audio adds a vital layer of moody ambience. You may not be able to put your finger on the reason, but some games make you feel like you’re really there, and often the atmospheric sounds have drawn you in subconsciously. 

BlindSide
The Cat Lady
Miasmata
The Walking Dead
Yesterday


Best Independent Adventure

Some independent studios release their games commercially, but with no external publisher backing or secure distribution channels (at least at first). These self-published titles rarely get the attention (or sales) they often deserve, and the best of them merit a closer look from anyone who’s overlooked them to date. This list does not include games from companies fully established as publishers, even if they develop games internally.

Botanicula
The Cat Lady
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 1: The Hangman
The Journey Down: Chapter One
Resonance


Best Console/Handheld Adventure (Exclusive)

The home console and handheld platforms haven’t quite championed a genre resurgence like we once hoped they might, but there were still several quality titles released in the past year. To avoid duplication, the following includes only those games exclusive to non-PC platforms. Ports are not deemed to be original releases, and are therefore ineligible.

Journey
Papo & Yo
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
The Unfinished Swan
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward


Best Non-Traditional Adventure

For a genre that’s remained largely unchanged for decades, it’s actually got a rich history of experimental titles that push the creative envelope in unique, memorable ways. They don’t “evolve” or “redefine” adventures, but rather expand our understanding of what an adventure can we with their bold vision. Purists may resist, but this award honours those games that stretch beyond traditional genre conventions to offer something completely new, or at least present the familiar in imaginative new ways.

Botanicula
The Cat Lady
Journey
Kairo
The Walking Dead


Best Traditional Adventure

Why mess with a good thing? While innovative adventures provide a welcome breath of fresh air, the lifeblood of the genre continues to be the many games that closely adhere to the comfortable, tried-and-true design formulas. Full of inventory and logic puzzles, memorable character dialogue, epic storylines and immersive exploration controlled with an intuitive point-and-click interface, they may not have changed much since Monkey Island and Myst, but they’re no less enjoyable when done well.

Deponia (series)
The Journey Down: Chapter One
Primordia
Resonance
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes


Best Adventure of 2012

Oooooh, no. Telling now would be tipping our hand on some of the other categories. Can't have that! So you'll just have to wait to see which five duked it out for top spot (and, of course, which actually wins). But you won't have long to wait, as our grand awards ceremony from February 20-22 is approaching fast! Stay tuned. Don't touch that mouse!


Final Notes

To be eligible, a game must have been launched through digital distribution, self-published online, or  commercially released in either North America or the United Kingdom in the calendar year 2012.

For the sake of administrative simplicity, Deponia and Chaos on Deponia have been listed as a single entity.

Although the first episode debuted late in 2011, the complete season of Law & Order: Legacies was carried over to 2012.
 



Complete list of eligible games


PC/Mac (includes multi-platform releases)


1953: KGB Unleashed
2299: The Game
Aaron Crane: Paintings Come Alive
About to Blow Up
Adam's Venture: Episode 3 - Revelations
Alt-Minds
Amber's Blood
Anastronaut: The Moon Hopper
Anna
Anna's Quest: Vol. 1 - Winfriede's Tower
The Ballads of Reemus: When the Bed Bites
BlindSide
The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles
Botanicula
Captain Morgane and the Golden Turtle
The Cat Lady
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 1: The Hangman
Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting
The Cross Formula
CYPHER: Cyberpunk Text Adventure
Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass
Dark Alleys: Penumbra Motel
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
Dark Secrets
Deponia (series)
Doc Apocalypse
Edna & Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes
The Five Cores
The Fool and His Money
Gothic Fiction: Dark Saga
Haunted
Haunting at Cliffhouse
Hoodwink
J.U.L.I.A.
James Peris: No Licence Nor Control
The Journey Down: Chapter One
Kairo
Law & Order: Legacies
Louisiana Adventure
Lost Chronicles of Zerzura
Lucius
MacGuffin's Curse
Mark T. Ross: A Private in Paris - Episode 1
Miasmata
Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen
Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device
The Odyssey HD
Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos
Primordia
Reality Show: Fatal Shot
Red Johnson's Chronicles: One Against All
Reperfection: Volume 1
Resonance
The Sea Will Claim Everything
Secret Files 3
Shadows on the Vatican: Act 1 - Greed
The Shine of a Star
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
Twilight Phenomena: The Lodgers of House 13
Versailles Mysteries: Oscar and the Athanor
Versailles Mysteries: The Royal Spy
The Walking Dead
Where Angels Cry
Yesterday


Console/Handheld (exclusives)


Forever Lost: Episode 1 (iOS)
Journey (PS3)
Life in the Dorms (Xbox 360)
Papo & Yo (PS3)
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (3DS)
Quiet, Please! (iOS, Xbox 360)
Quiet Christmas (iOS)
Reversion: Chapter 1 - The Escape
Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Frozen City (3DS)
The Unfinished Swan (PS3)
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (3DS)

 

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Community Comments

It'll be eligible any year there's an episode released. None were in 2012.
Feb 21, 2013
The Dream Machine didn't make it? Granted, it's not finished, at least the last two chapters aren't, so I hope it will be eligible next year. It'a a clay and cardboard mini-masterpiece to rival The Neverhood, imo, in five chapters that would fit nicely into several categories and a good story to boot.
Feb 21, 2013
It's really an honor to see Ballads of Reemus up for nomination. Thanks for the love AG!
Feb 13, 2013
Thank you Jackal !!
Feb 12, 2013
You don't vote on these. These are the staff-only nominees. The reader poll is here: http://www.adventuregamers.com/articles/view/23963
Feb 12, 2013
how do I vote?
Feb 12, 2013
Resonance, Cognition, Primordia, Lost Chronicles of Zerzura have my vote.
Feb 10, 2013
I have a feeling next year this is going to be a pretty spectacular competition... I mean, already there are all these fantastic games here (most of which I still haven't played *facepalm*), but then this year all the Kickstarter games are going to kick in - Pinkerton Road, Double Fine, Revolution (or, Jane Jensen, Tim Schaefer, Charles Cecil etc.). I have a very good feeling about this year... :)
Feb 10, 2013
There are about 26 games on this list that I’ve been dying to play, most of them being games that I know that I will absolutely love. Sadly, the only 2012 adventure game I found the time to play so far was Botanicula. I’m glad I chose to play that one since it was excellent. I have a lot of catching up to do on my backlog!
Feb 9, 2013
Thanks for all the nominations, Adventure Gamers!!!
Feb 9, 2013
I think this has been a really great year for adventure games. I can only imagine what the list is going to look like next year. There's been more innovation this year than in many past. Resonance should be a lock for gameplay; it had such an innovative design. I'm sure Walking Dead will win a lot, but I would love for The Cat Lady or Resonance to steal some away. The only big surprise was J.U.L.I.A. in the gameplay category. I personally enjoyed the game, but it's basically just a bunch of puzzles/minigames strung together similar to what you would find in a casual game, combined with text adventure segments that you can't not progress through. I wasn't sure if Cognition would be held over until next year, but I'm glad to see it get some nomination love. Well deserved.
Feb 9, 2013
The first thing that comes to mind when seeing the nominees, is that there is some great games i stiil haven't played yet. The Cat Lady and Cognition beeing at the top of my list.
Feb 9, 2013
"Wander a house, power a machine" isn't a story. There was much more to even the first Portal than that. So no, not eligible. (We will be covering QC in an upcoming almost-adventure article, however.)
Feb 9, 2013
Shame Chains of Satinav wasn't nominated in more catgeories. I mean it makes sense considering Adventure Gamers wasn't very fond of it but for me it was the best game I played this year hands down.
Feb 9, 2013
While Quantum Conundrum has nowhere near as much story as Portal 2, it has about as much story as Portal 1. It is true that many of the puzzles do involve platforming.
Feb 9, 2013
Quantum Conundrum isn't an adventure. Unlike Portal, it has no story whatsoever, and lots of challenging platforming.
Feb 9, 2013
The list of eligible games is missing Quantum Conundrum. This Portal clone puzzler has excellent puzzles and a great story. I would have selected it for best non-traditional adventure.
Feb 9, 2013
Rem
The Cat Lady vs The Walking Dead- I can't see myself winning this one;) But I loved every second of TWD and won't feel bad at all if (when) it wins. I also wanted to say it's an honour to be nominated (and in several categories!) and wish everyone good luck!;) R Michalski, Harvester Games
Feb 8, 2013
Amazing! Thank you so much for the nomination!
Feb 8, 2013
Journey Down, Resonance, Primordia ALL THE WAY! WOOO
Feb 8, 2013
The main thing I take away from these nominations is that I really need to get started on The Cat Lady (stopped after the first meeting with another character) and The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. I also expected The Sea Will Claim Everything to be in there somewhere, but the nominations are all fairly predictable and there's not much in there I strongly disagree with.
Feb 8, 2013
AWESOME!!! *dances* Go Cognition, go! Thank you!! And congrats to all of the nominees! :D
Feb 8, 2013
I actually don't care much about categorizing Adventure with Comedy - Drama - Gameplaying - Voice acting ...etc , but 2 things i see from all those nominations ,1st-2nd : this year didn't have any great production adventures (i had seem greater & better productions 7-8 year ago ('04-'05)) and all the good adventures of 2012 are listed at the Best Independent Adventure Section (putting 10 lines under the latter three words)
Feb 8, 2013
Say
Oh my goodness! This is so exciting! What an honor for Phoenix Online Studios and Cognition crew. THANK YOU so much for the nominations Adventure Gamers :)
Feb 8, 2013
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