Aggie Awards
Aggie Awards

The Aggie Awards - The Best Adventure Games of 2014


The Silver Aggies


Back by popular demand (or at least, what we assumed would be popular had anyone actually demanded it) are the Silver Aggies! These are the honourable mentions – awards that don’t fit neatly into the main event, having a narrower focus and/or a shallower pool to choose from. There may be slightly less prestige involved, but the games merit a little extra attention nonetheless. Don’t think of it like a second-place finish at the Adventure Gaming Olympics, but rather a first-place finish in the demonstration sports!
 



Best of the Rest – Detective Grimoire


This is the award dedicated to the game that consistently rated well in our regular categories, yet never managed to win a golden Aggie. (Too-late spoiler alert!) Topping our list of honourable mentions this year is Detective Grimoire, SFB Games’ lite mystery romp through Boggy’s Bog, a wacky theme park haunted by a mythical swamp monster.

When the park owner is discovered dead, the monster is serendipitously fingered as the likely perpetrator. Enter Detective Grimoire, who confronts a slew of quirky suspects using an interrogation system that allows the expertly voiced characters to gossip freely and facetiously about one another. Challenges include matching clues, suspects, and sentence fragments, plus minigames that require the correct patterning of various elements. Such tasks suit the game’s lighthearted hand-painted environments and vivid cartoon-like characters. It’s far from the deepest or longest of adventures, but Detective Grimoire oozes charm and makes for an enjoyable diversion. If you’ve overlooked it until now, put those sleuthing skills to work, track down a copy and see for yourself.

 

Best Update/Remake – J.U.L.I.A. Among the Stars


To understand this award, let’s be clear about our criterion. This is not an acknowledgement of the “best game that got updated” but rather the “game that got the best update”. That’s an important distinction, or Gabriel Knight would have mopped the floor with the competition, despite their stellar quality. But while Jane Jensen’s remade classic had plenty of fans on staff (as did several others), the game that benefited most from its update was CBE’s sci-fi adventure J.U.L.I.A. Among the Stars.

We were already supportive of the experimental, indie-to-the-point-of-being-avant-garde 2012 original, but a successful crowdfunding campaign allowed developers Jan Kavan and Lukáš Medek to revisit the game and implement a host of impressive new features, including a significant high-definition graphical overhaul, new cinematics and character models, a more intuitive interface, both new and revised backstory details, and redesigned puzzles. In many ways it feels like an all-new game built upon the same basic premise, while still retaining enough of its predecessor’s indie sensibilities to make the game stand out from the competition. This is a remake done right.

 

Best Game No One Has Played – Hadean Lands


This is the award a developer least wants their game to win, but may be happiest that it did. For a variety of reasons, some high quality adventures inevitably slip through the cracks of mainstream attention. This year that distinction goes to Andrew Plotkin’s Hadean Lands in particular, a text adventure that squarely places it in a niche-within-a-niche. The Interactive Fiction community is still alive and well, but for all those who think that text games disappeared with Infocom, this clever sci-fi offering likely didn’t even register on their radar. But it deserves to, for this is very much a modern-day IF classic – and no, that is not a contradiction in terms.

First seeing the austere parser interface may trick you into thinking Hadean Lands a throwback to the 1980s, but it is actually very innovative, duly nodding to the past while making every effort to modernize and perfect the craft. Stranded on a damaged spaceship, players are left to tackle a fantastically complex puzzle system of alchemic formulas and piece together a story fragmented by fractures in time. Combined with a massive, richly detailed map to explore and a wonderful playfulness in the prose that balances an otherwise eerie atmosphere, players will find themselves stranded in a thoroughly immersive, involving world for countless hours. If you like to read and enjoy solving challenging puzzles but have written off text adventures as a thing of the past, now’s the time to reconsider. What the Hadean Lands have you got to lose?

 

Best Episode – The Dream Machine: Chapter 5


Ideally there would be no “episodes” up for individual Aggies, and in cases like Broken Age, Dreamfall Chapters, and Game of Thrones we’ve held off award eligibility until the games are complete. But not all episodes are created equal, so we’ve made concessions for series that will take YEARS to finish (if ever), and whose episodes feel more like actual sequels than mere serial installments. Still, as incomplete games they’re at a competitive disadvantage, so it’s only fitting that we acknowledge the best of an outstanding crop.

This year, proving that anything worth having is worth waiting for, the fifth episode of the under-appreciated Dream Machine series set a new standard of excellence. Once again hand-crafted entirely from clay and cardboard and filmed using stop-motion animation, the stunning locations take players into two surreal dream worlds, including a darkened, Escher-like cubist void and a scenic forest tormented by a thief stealing body organs. There you encounter a bevy of clever and challenging puzzles that refuse to hold your hand, ensuring a substantial 5-7 hours of compelling gameplay. It’s very much the penultimate episode of a six-part series, so you can’t jump straight in cold. But for those who invest in a thoroughly engaging series, this installment itself puts many standalone contemporaries to shame.

 

Best Surprise – The Fall: Episode One


Don’t you just love when you go into a game with zero expectations and are pleasantly surprised? Such was the case with Over the Moon’s The Fall, a three-part sci-fi adventure that debuted in 2014. It’s not that the first episode underwhelmed us prior to release, it simply fooled us. We mistakenly presumed it to be a Metroidvania-style side-scroller with a few adventure elements tacked on, so we were delighted to discover that it’s really the other way around.

The Fall successfully mixes morose atmosphere, suspenseful setting, and a unique twist on its playable protagonist. Injured after a fall from orbit onto a seemingly abandoned planet, astronaut Josephs is near death and only kept alive by his space suit's life support system, an AI named A.R.I.D. With Josephs' recovery as its prime directive, A.R.I.D. takes over the suit's motor functions, and enters a dismantled droid repurposing facility that seems abandoned, but isn't quite. Through a thrilling blend of classic adventure puzzles and interaction with the facility's remaining automated systems that have been slowly sinking into a kind of computerized madness, players will gradually uncover the dark and startling events that took place so long ago... and what ancient ghosts still haunt these mechanical ruins to this day. If you’ve missed out so far, don’t let this Fall slip right through the cracks.

 

Best "Almost" Adventure – 80 Days


As everybody knows by now, genre barriers are being crossed at unprecedented rates these days. Nothing makes sense anymore. Platformers are full of puzzles, story games have no challenge… human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria! To us, the best “almost” adventure (if not quite meeting even our liberal interpretation of the word) of the past year was 80 Days, in which author Meg Jayanth took Jules Verne's classic story and developed layers of interactive intrigue that invite continued exploration – all through the power of the written word (supported by an accessible, minimal graphic interface).

As a gamebook highlighting player choice, 80 Days deftly creates a real living, breathing world that continues to amuse and delight through multiple playthroughs. Not only does it provide a global playground for a whirlwind steampunk journey, each individual location introduces singular characters and compelling plots and intrigue to get caught up in. It might not be a classic adventure game, but it certainly provides all the elements of a classic adventure.

 

Best Crowdfunded Adventure – Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse


The Silver Aggies are meant to highlight games that wouldn’t win an award otherwise, but in many ways, this may be the most intriguing head-to-head contest of all. Ever since Tim Schafer blew the lid off the Kickstarter craze, we’ve been treated to wave after wave of beloved design legends emerging from the woodwork to embrace the genre once again. Sadly, Schafer himself failed to cross the finish line in 2014, along with the Two Guys from Andromeda, the Quest for Glory Coles, and the clay wizards behind Armikrog, among others. But still… Jane Jensen, Charles Cecil, Chris Jones et al. back making adventures? Someone pinch us; we’re still not convinced we aren’t dreaming. (Ow! Okay, guess we aren’t.) And that’s not counting the little, lesser-known indies made possible only through crowd-sourcing.

It’s already crystal clear which game our readers preferred, but which did we find gave the most bang for its publicly-funded buck? None other than Broken Sword 5. The series’ enduring appeal is based on the charming, bantering, will-they-or-won't-they relationship of George and Nico, laid on top of a grandiose conspiracy theory and wrapped in beautiful, hand-drawn 2D graphics and one of Barrington Pheloung's lush orchestral scores. Many felt Revolution were starting to lose their way in recent years, but The Serpent's Curse is a roaring return to form for the series, celebrating everything that made the original so great. It would never have happened without public support, so take a bow, backers!
 



Next up: Best Console/Handheld Adventure... the envelope, please!

Continued on the next page...

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Related Games

The Blackwell Epiphany

Platform(s): iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch, PC

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The fifth adventure of George Stobbart and Nico Collard in the acclaimed series from Revolution.

The Wolf Among Us

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An episodic adventure from Telltale based on the popular FABLES comic series.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

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A new adventure in the acclaimed Tex Murphy series.

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Set in WW1, Valiant Heart tells the story of five characters whose destinies are linked.

The Journey Down: Chapter Two

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FRACT OSC

Platform(s): Mac, PC

Detective Grimoire

Platform(s): Android, iPad, Mac, PC, Linux

J.U.L.I.A. Among the Stars

Platform(s): Mac, PC, Linux

Hadean Lands

Platform(s): iPad, Mac, PC, Linux

The Dream Machine: Chapter 5

Platform(s): Mac, PC

The Fall: Part 1

Platform(s): Mac, PC, WiiU, Xbox One, Linux



About the Author



Comments

lobo pampeano
Feb 18, 2015

Can you please let us know how many readers voted? I’d like to have an idea how many active memebers we have.
Thank you..

threerings threerings
Feb 18, 2015

I totally agree with the Best Story choice.  The Blackwell Epiphany is one of the few (only?) games this year to make me cry.

Skywalker333 Skywalker333
Feb 19, 2015

whoa, huge community love for Tex Muprhy! I must say I didn’t expect it even if i loved the game Smile

gamrgrl gamrgrl
Feb 19, 2015

Really loved the video! Wonderfully edited to some super-haunting music.

DrFrankenstein DrFrankenstein
Feb 19, 2015

What’s with the Tex Murphy domination of the reader awards? Feels like a prank of sorts.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 19, 2015

It’s not a prank, and there’s no sign of voter fraud of any kind. (We looked.)

There are just a boatload of people who love Tex and Tesla Effect, it seems.

after a brisk nap
Feb 19, 2015

Thanks for clarifying that, Jack. The list did look a little fishy. Guess I should try to get around to Tesla Effect at some point!

SunshineSlayer
Feb 19, 2015

So happy for Tesla Effect.  Well deserved.  Here’s to hoping that wasn’t the end for Tex.

zane
Feb 19, 2015

haha…. For a change im agreeing with the site choices more than the reader. Tesla effect was not an awful game… i backed it, i had fun… but geez… not understanding the votes here.

zane
Feb 19, 2015

And the one that really boggles me: best gameplay for tesla effect. Those puzzles… i dont know… and a large part of the game was dungeon crawling in a straight line… just eh…

Conditional Love Conditional Love
Feb 19, 2015

I feel the same DrFrankenstein. I liked Tesla Effect a bit, Tesla Effect probably deserves an award or two, but to give Tesla Effect the Best Setting award is almost ironic. The quality of Tesla Effect’s background art is often shockingly poor.

ChronoWolf ChronoWolf
Feb 19, 2015

From what I understand: “Setting” refers to the universe in which the game takes place, and how encapsulating it is in terms of story, relevancy and delivery. Graphic design is probably a more accurate category when talking about “background art”, presentation or graphics, in which case Tesla was not even a runner up.

thom-22
Feb 20, 2015

Excellent awards presentation! Your efforts are much appreciated—both the decision-making and the fun and informative write-ups. I like the inclusion of the Silver Aggies. I thought it was a great year for our genre and this year holds great promise too.

Majsan Majsan
Feb 20, 2015

A little question about the extras you write about for Blackwell. Is the bloopers and the deleted scene a part of every version of the game? I have the gog version and haven’t found those two, and they only list wallpaper as extra material… Or maybe I just haven’t been “clicking” around enough Wink

smulan smulan
Feb 20, 2015

I guess Blackwell Epiphany i s the right game for best adventure ( _guess_ has to do with me playing far from all of the competitors), especially if you consider it a price for the whole Blackwell series. Tesla Effect, altough a decent game -but far from as good as its predecessors - has a ring of fanboy choice to it.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 20, 2015

Majsan, the bloopers and deleted scene are accessed in-game (via icons) at the appropriate time if you have the developer commentary turned on (which you can do through the main menu “Options” screen).

Thom-22, thanks very much. The Aggies are always a lot of work, but we hope people have fun with them.

DaveGilbert DaveGilbert
Feb 21, 2015

I don’t want to add much to this discussion for obvious reasons, but had to at least leave a message saying thanks. So… thanks!  This made my week.

incometrader
Feb 21, 2015

Odd to find so many votes for Tex Murphy when with the exception of this site and one other, the game reviewers gave it a meh 6-7 out of 10. I don’t blame people for doubting the voting.

I personally hate FMV so I’ll miss out, happy everyone else enjoyed it so much.

Ahenobarbus Ahenobarbus
Feb 21, 2015

I`m just happy for the results. Epiphany and Tex Murphy totally deserved to be in top here. They were both great but Epiphany was especially epic top quality game! Thanks for the whole Blackwell series Dave!
I`m happy to see that The Wolf Among Us and Broken Sword got prices at some categories too. In my books, they were 3. and 4. best games after Epiphany and Tex.

I hope Big Finish Games guys check these results, we need more Tex Smile

Simon_ASA Simon_ASA
Feb 21, 2015

Thanks for your work with Aggies. Once again, you somehow convinced me to check several games that I missed.

lobo pampeano
Feb 22, 2015

Hey Jackal, about my question… you know…  how many voted???

Phaid
Feb 22, 2015

I’m not at all surprised Tex won a lot of these awards.Tesla Effect was a huge surprise to me on many levels - it’s hard to bring the adventure magic of yore back to life, especially on a shoestring Kickstarter budget, but Tesla Effect 100% pulled it off. It was a grand return of Tex - funny, atmospheric, clearly a labour of love. Puzzle-wise, the final acts of the game were weaker than the preceding one, agreed, but that’s the only complaint I have.

I kind of wish The Journey Down:Chapter 2 got more love however, it was absolutely amazing, yet seems to have flown under everyone’s radar.

itseme itseme
Feb 22, 2015

guess i am the only one that voted for the goat as best character…

Jackal Jackal
Feb 22, 2015

Lobo pampeano, I forget the exact number but there were several hundred people who voted.

lobo pampeano
Feb 22, 2015

Ok, something around 400-700 votes, (less than 1000)?

Jackal Jackal
Feb 22, 2015

Definitely less than 1000, and probably closer to 400 than 700. I never actually counted them all up together, and I don’t have direct access to the data at the moment.

Plenty to determine a consensus, anyway.

lobo pampeano
Feb 22, 2015

Ok, thanks!

GreatBird
Feb 22, 2015

Why was CONSORTIUM not considered amongst all those games considered for awards in all those categories?!  Seriously, how is this game THAT over-looked??

It is often referred to as an adventure game (among other genres), and has over 20 voice actors and 4000 lines of recorded dialog as part of it’s fabric….

Jackal Jackal
Feb 23, 2015

Because the game described by its own developers as a “role-playing experience” is not considered an adventure at the only place that matters to the Aggies.

rsommerer rsommerer
Feb 24, 2015

By the way, for the next year I would like to suggest a new category - for best make up: Grim Fandango will be up for voting, as well as maybe a new episode of the Journey Down… Maybe also a new category for worst jokes would be a good idea Smile

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