Insignificant Little Vermin
Great, straightforward presentation of a fun Dungeons and Dragons type adventure. Awesome art, descriptions, and intuitive, player-friendly UI. It reminded me of the Sorcery! remake (although not nearly so unforgivingly twisty!) The short-ish cycles did a great job ramping me up towards the idea of reaching my goal.
There is an unappreciated beauty in well-designed symbols, but even an untrained eye could see that this game was absolutely gorgeous. I loved the way that it represented non-standard communication (possibly sign language, but I don’t think it was ever explicitly stated) and it was rough going through the parts with less-than-stellar parenting. I feel like this game is a rousing success all around, a beautifully raw slice of life.
Guttersnipe: St. Hesper’s Asylum for the Criminally Mischievous
Great grenadine grapesnickets, this was an amazing game. Wonderful tone, wonderful puzzles, wonderful characters, wonderful feelies. And it’s well-paced and well-written all up and down. This game, more than any I’ve played over the last few years evokes the tone and style of SCUMM style games (while ditching some of their more annoying design decisions). This is straight-up one of the best adventure games I’ve seen in years. Is this the year that a Quest game with the competition? I know it’s too early for me to call anything but gee whiz, I sure hope that it does. I know I’m planning to replay this one with my husband for funsies. Cheers to the author! And for sure, I’m checking out that Guttersnipe comic.
The Fifth Sunday (bad sound balance - my fault)
I know that some players get upset at translated works, but I love playing them. I’ll happily overlook any English errors and dive right into the meat of the works. Unfortunately, that was a little trickier with a murder mystery where you need to hang onto every word and every clue. That trouble was compounded by the fact that there were some annoyances with the system. The game was clearly meant to be replayed repeatedly down different branches, but there was no fast-forward button. The text color was difficult to read against the background, but there was no way to select it to highlight it. I’ll replay because I’m curious who the killer was, but I feel like this game would have been better served with a different system (Ren’Py?) and maybe with help from a native English speaking friend.
This is definitely the year of homebrewed systems! And I love seeing them really shine this year. I liked that the system had space for pictures, the buttons all made sense (somewhat reminiscent of the SCUMM system), and I heard (didn’t test) that it works well on phones. I feel like this system compares most directly to the Quest system, and I’m curious what the intended benefit of this homebrewed system was (perhaps phone accessibility?)
The story was pretty standard, but competently executed, and I had a fun time scribbling down the different times and combing for inconsistencies or gaps. I really only ran into one snag where I forgot an important detail of my side quest and got stuck for a bit. The art was certainly programmer art, but since it’s better than what I can do and since there’s art for every location and most of the NPCs, I was actually impressed.
AND WHEN I SQUINT IT LOOKS LIKE CHRISTMAS
I love this game on so many levels. I think it’s an amazing story with amazing writing by itself, but considering it as a children’s story just elevates that. Like a Miyazaki film, it depicts a childhood that contains wonder, happiness, and beauty alongside sadness, fear, frustration, and just… all the emotions. It’s a real kid meeting real people, here. Furthermore, it depicts a reality where people who are disabled or shunned are shown living their lives, achieving victories, helping each other out, and just being awesome, all without feeling like tokens meant to evoke pity or gratitude. I had occasional suggestions about how to make this game more marketable to actual kids/parents-reading-it-to-their-kids, but I don’t think any of those things should stand in the way of any of the judges enjoying it. If this game won, I’d definitely smile and wipe a tear from my eye.