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OldGamer Game of the Year 2016: Best Adventure
A depressing year for adventure players...
...but not the way you might think now. As a matter of fact, 2016 brought a nice load of great titles in a genre that seemed forgotten few years ago. However, the very best aventures of 2016 had one thing in common: All of them had a certain melancholic streak to them, sometimes even on the brink of outright depressive.
I am not sure if I like that or not. I was a huge fan of the glorious LucasArts games that were based on puzzles and humour, always with a light-hearted note attached and occasionally a full-fledged comedy epxerience (Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max...).
However, having grown old now and belonging to the 40+ generation, I find myself more intrigued by the serious stories, by depth and dark beauty, so perhaps this is ine of the reasons thy my toplist this year is a piece of melancholy.
#3 - The Lion's Song
Holy Stephansdom, what a game!
What is it with Vienna?
To me, it's one of the most beautiful cities in the world. History is around every corner, Fiakers are driving through the streets (well, at least in the tourist zones), many buildings have signs telling us which famous composer or artist once lived and worked here. People living in Vienna are assuring me it's not that nice and bright in daily live, but as tourist, visiting it twice a year, I really enjoy Austrias capitol. Especially as everything is so cheap there...
...well, compared to our Swiss costs of living ^^
However, even as an occasional guest you can't miss that there is a certain morbidity in the air, a sense of "the death waits just around the corner" and a part of the Viennese soul embraces this aspect. Google "Zentralfriedhof", if you don't believe me...
...and from Vienna, made by a Vienna games developer, comes a game about Vienna that captures that perfectly:
The Lion's Song
This is one of the most unusual games I have ever layed my hands on, and I both love and play almost every weird game that comes along. But this isn't even weird - it's clever, unique and outright beautiful.
Set against the scenario of Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century, in the last golden days of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, The Lion's Song is a series of 4 episodes (two of them already released), each one telling the story of a young, gifted artist on the verge of his / her final breakthrough. The struggle with inspiration, staying true to yourself, with love, friendship, admirers and mentors, is a key part of the story and one of the reasons the characters have so much depth.
As a game, it's pretty much clicking only in the first episode, and a really neat P & C adventure with walking around Vienna in the second, somehow reminding me of early Indiana Jones games. The decisions you make have huge influence, even across episodes, and the narration is top-notch. Add one impressive art style and a really glorious soundtrack to the great characters and storytelling, and you have worthy third place.
To be honest, If I were more into pixel art, it could have taken the top spot easily. But perhaps next year?
There is no free lunch...
...except you are a current or future fan of Mi'pu'mi Games - because they released the first episode for free.
As the game doesn't feature voice overs, there are already hundreds of videos on Youtube, where dedicated Let's Players dub the dialogues - of all characters.
You shouldn't miss that!
#2 - "Silence"
The most beautiful game - ever.
Tip your hats to German Daedalic. Not only have they almost single-handed driven the adventure genre through times where it was deeply neglected by most other companies, they have even managed to top their previous masterpeace "The Whispered World" with this kinda-sequel that left me staring at the screen - stunned.
Using a self-developed 3D projection technology, Silence brings the most beautiful adventure scenes and characters I have ever seen. And as eye candy alone wouldn't spark my praise, they have also a deep, moving story with characters so unique and lovingly created you can feel the heart-blood of the developers run through every single pixel on your monitor.
It's pure beauty.
As I am not sure what to tell without having to use a spoiler tag (something I usually despise), I have grabbed the synopsis straight from Daedalics website:
"War rages on. During an air raid, 16 year old Noah and his little sister Renie seek shelter in a bunker. There, not only are they protected from the deadly bombardment, but are also at the crossroads of a world between life and death: Silence. When Noah’s sister gets lost in Silence, he is forced to venture into this idyllic yet threatening world to find her."
This is the opening to an adventure that abandons certain Point & Click mechanics like a classical inventory, but in the end does everything right when it comes to balancing puzzles versus narration, story versus exploring.
And, did I already mention how awesome it looks?
So, the bottom line for "Silence" is:
If you intend to play only one "real" adventure from 2016, get this one.
But why then only #2 ?
Because it takes some time to get emotionally connected to the characters - and then, after you finally feel with them (and there are feelings!), it rushes towards the end, cutting short several paths and the ending has a potential to leave you unsatisfied - especially when you didn't expect the game to be that short.
But that still doesn't change the fact it's gorgeous!
And the winner is...
If you have read most of my articles here throughout the years or even my gaming columns in Swiss regional papers, you know I have a huge soft spot for the B-Movie creations of Austrian Indie Team "Homegrown Games" - so huge, that I might be called a fanboy and totally biased in my choices here. Nevertheless I have to start the laudatio with a big rant first.
Dear Homegrown Games, please get your sh*t together and release once, only once, a f*cking tested & polished game!
Without the patches that came along Halloween, Father's Island would have barely made it to the Top 3. And that was 4 months after launch. 4 long months, in which the game ran slow even on the best gaming PCs, looked "ok to good" and, most annoying problem at all, refused to work properly with saved and loaded games.
Now it works as (hopefully) intended and looks "good to gorgeous" depending on where the hell you are - a good question in an open world walking simulator.
A walking simulator? Seriously?
Yes - at least partially. It is also an adventure, as there are some puzzles. And a visual novel carried by FMV green-screen cutscenes placed into the open world. Sounds weird? Yes, it is!
You start as John Richards, a convict right after serving his five years in Providence state prison. John swears to the player that he was innocent - but the problem is, his memories can't be trusted. Basically, he has none prior to his 10th birthday. His only clue is the location of a remote Island not far from the New England coast.
Providence state prison, New England - that sounds familiar. And soon enough you stumble into the same Nazi / Project Paperclip Conspiracy that links the game to "Into the Dark" and even "Legacy of Cthulhu", the previous Homegrown games.
However, if you expect a comedy trash feast now, you would be disappointed: While there are some pieces of grim and sarcastic humour, the (awesome) soundtrack and dark-red mood and loneliness on the island soon trigger a heavy feeling of melancholy, despair and even depression- which makes it a good fit in this years top adventures.
You have been warned...
The main reason for climbing to #1 are, in a nutshell:
- Deep storyline with a lot of layers interwoven
- Excellent narration by John J. Dick (Serious Sam) meeting batshit-crazy video dad
- Lot's of hints and references to politics and society from 1930 till now
- 4 totally different endings (one of them REALLY disturbing)
- Only 5$ for several hours of exploration in a huge, detailed and lovely crafted world
- Few non-key puzzles, but those logical
- Awesome dynamic soundtrack reacting to where you are and what you see
- +10% bonus rating for being Homegrown and linked to their other games
- THE SHEEP!