Best Non-Traditional Adventure: Samorost 3
Amanita’s Samorost games have always been more than a little bit eccentric, full of creative organic worlds that ooze with whimsical charm. Samorost 3 takes that already impressive foundation and incorporates it into a full-length adventure for the first time, setting its little gnome's travels within a larger story featuring killer space squid, giant robots animated by lumps of dark matter, and magic trumpets. Not that it’s become a plot-driven puzzler, mind you, The experience is still very much about the journey rather than the destination. You visit a host of lush, exotic places, all inviting you to just relax, explore, poke around and play to see what happens. Practically everything you touch reacts to you in some way, and there's plenty to fiddle with just for fun. It's easy to get carried away stacking cockroaches or teasing monkeys and forget what you're really supposed to be doing!
The puzzles are more challenging this time around, and the rewards are many and varied, from watching technicolour insects dance to orchestrating the work song of imps in a volcano. As always, it's a story told without words – just occasional speech bubbles full of pictograms and a comic book to fill in the background narrative gaps – but it's filled to the brim with unique music and sound. Creatures everywhere express themselves by chirruping and singing, and many of the game's best moments arise when they come together to perform in harmony. The places you visit are often in a bad way when you arrive, but the way the sad melodies shift and develop and eventually burst out in jubilation would melt the coldest heart.
Childlike joy and curiosity is at the core of the experience, even more than the beautifully animated graphics or the delightful soundscape. Seeing the pint-sized protagonist whoop with glee or just take a moment to sit back and enjoy the show is utterly endearing and contributes to an atmosphere quite unlike any other. It's somewhat reminiscent of The Little Prince, and like any good children's story it's packed with wide-eyed wonder and flamboyant imagination. Add in the inimitable settings, the adorable characters and the warmth that radiates from every screen, and it's clear why Samorost 3 deserves to win the Aggie for Best Non-traditional Adventure.
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Readers’ Choice: Samorost 3
Samorost 3 is a brilliant game, on that we’re agreed. But what makes it non-traditional? After all, it’s a point-and-click, third-person adventure filled with hotspots to click and puzzles to solve. What’s so unusual about that? Well, like most innovations, it’s all in the execution. Without the benefit of intelligible language, we are invited to truly engage with the many little organic worlds to understand them. Anything and everything might react to our actions, richly rewarding thorough experimentation in a way that few others can match. If it feels almost conventional by now, that’s only because like any trailblazer, Amanita Design has spawned numerous imitators over the years. But by earning both staff and reader awards for Best Non-Traditional Adventure of the year, clearly they’re still the masters of their particular craft.
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Next up: Best Traditional Adventure... the envelope, please!