Best Sound Effects: Samorost 3
We’re rarely very aware of sounds unless something seems wrong. A glass smashes on the ground, a baby screams, or a siren wails and our ears perk right up. But otherwise we’re surrounded by hustle and bustle every day, so we become accustomed to tuning them out. This is true of games as well, as we take for granted the simple white noise of life, however pleasant or unpleasant it might be. But here’s the thing when it comes to games: they are inherently silent! Each and every sound we hear needs to be put there manually to create that authentic soundscape that we dutifully disregard, unaware of its subtle but important impact on our immersion. Many games prefer to drown the silence with an endless looping score, while others, like our Aggie Award Winner for Best Sound Effects, go the extra mile in creating a full-fledged backdrop of environmental ambience.
Samorost 3 won’t blow you away with overbearing effects, but rather encompass you in a natural atmosphere that make its organic settings feel truly alive. Listen closely and you’ll discern faint creature calls, whistling wind, machines humming, and the context-specific patter of little gnome footfall on grass, wood, stone, and metal. But these fantastical worlds don’t really spring to life until you begin to poke around, which this game implores you to do. You even get a magic horn to hear better, giving you an up-close-and-personal concert of sound: that rat-a-tatting woodpecker becomes an amplified symphony of odd percussion. Often it’s very musical, blurring the line between “sound effects” and “soundtrack” as a pond tinks with various notes each time you touch it, and insect antennae sproing when gently batted. And as you progress, the little protagonist utters delightful yelps, gasps, and anxious sighs, imbuing him with his own charming personality. For making us feel like these worlds could really exist, knowing that there’d be nothing but moving pictures without the superb sound design to support them, Amanita Design claims the top audio prize this year.
The Last Door: Season Two
Readers’ Choice: Samorost 3
Anyone object to this unanimous declaration of Samorost 3 for Best Sound Effects in 2016? (Cue crickets – oh wait, we don’t have SFX!) Actually, as is often the case, the overwhelming winner in this category was really “No answer”. It’s a hard category, right? We don’t listen for sound effects, we just expect them to be there, enveloping us subconsciously (though often they aren’t, and don’t). But for games as surreal as Amanita Design’s, even more care must be taken to maintain the illusion of reality, and with their little gnome’s first full-length outing, the Czech developer had us all abuzz. Who knew that plinks and plunks and clinks and clops could sound so musical, so magical? (Cue victory trumpe… oh, never mind.)
Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet
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Next up: The Silver Aggies... the envelope, please!
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