Best Animation: The Little Acre
If there’s one area that indie adventures routinely get short-shrift, it’s animation. And for good reason: it’s time-consuming, costly, and difficult to do well. If corners need to be cut, that’s where it usually happens, whether with fade-to-blacks, hidden cheats, or generic action loops. Not so The Little Acre, which goes far above and beyond the call of duty by infusing every scene with vibrant activity. The game looks lovely enough in screenshots, with its meticulously hand-painted brush stroke backgrounds and colourful cartoon-styled characters. But it’s only in motion that the charming fantasy adventure from Dublin studio Pewter Games comes brilliantly to life. There’s loving detail everywhere in backgrounds filled with ambient activity. Birds fly through clouds as the chimney smokes atop a rustic rural cottage, animals scurry through the green undergrowth and ambers rise from glowing lights, all lending to the sense that this world – in fact, two very different worlds – are alive.
But the artists didn’t stop there, as it’s the extensive character action that really sets the game apart. To illustrate, when young Lily wants to make some porridge, she almost ends up trashing the place, saved only by the family’s attentive dog. It’s wonderfully kinetic, with Lily scrambling up furniture as her wide-eyed pooch chases after her in frustration and alarm, until finally the wayward goop hits the ceiling and satisfyingly plops down into the bowl below. There are countless other examples too, like the dynamic frenzy of a cat scuffling with a guard, or a giant monster lurching from the caverns of an alien land, all fluidly rendered in-game. Plus there are many subtle touches, like the bouncing inquisitiveness of a friendly green creature or Lily’s hair bobbing as she jumps. While its bigger-budget 3D competition was impressive, it’s the tremendous hand-crafted attention evident in The Little Acre that makes it so charming to play, and a deserving winner of our Best Animation award.
The Last Guardian
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter
Readers’ Choice: King’s Quest
Remember how we keep telling you that every vote in the reader poll counts? Nowhere was that more true than the Best Animation category, as the five top games were separated by the slimmest of margins. You certainly couldn’t go wrong choosing the King’s Quest reboot, which is packed with generous animations. Environments are alive with amusing detail, whether shrubs that tremble and roar or castle guards galloping about piggyback-style. Graham himself is the epitome of animated, from his gangly gait with rippling cape to vivid facial expressions to unbridled bursts of enthusiasm. Lively set pieces abound, whether our hero is evading a rampaging monster, rescuing valuables from a fire, scaling an icy tower, or even smooching his eventual bride (however awkwardly). Some of the most exciting scenes were interrupted originally by Quick Time Events, until the developers wisely dropped them so we could just sit back and enjoy. Even stuck in his bed, King Graham managed to deliver one of the most active adventures in years.
The Last Guardian
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