Wednesday, December 14, 2016

And the 2016 Award Winners are...

When it comes to real life stuff, this was a pretty rough year.  On the other hand 2016 was fairly good with regards to video games, especially compared to 2014.

Avantgarde Award:
It's a little bit hard to analyse Playdead's Inside, because no matter what your take is you're always left with more questions than answers.  In light of the gainax ending there are huge number of interpretations none of which make much sense unless you view the whole thing as a metaphor.  Regrettably, even then the vagueness means even then each person's take on the game is equally valid.  I've even heard one popular theory that the entire thing is a metaphor for game development itself!  Perhaps that makes it cutting-edge.  Regardless, I'm giving it this award simply because of the ending segment which is a triumph of procedurally generated animation.

Backlash Award:
There's a lesson to be learned hear about the dangers of over-hyping a product. Never have I seen so much wonder and anticipation turn to disgust and rage.  Additionally, the 60 dollar price tag served to exacerbate the problem to such a degree that people were doing pretty much anything and everything to get a refund.

Brutality Award:
I completed XCOM: Enemy Within on the classic difficulty setting with only one death.  When it comes to XCOM 2, on the other hand, I can't even finish the game (regardless of casualties) on anything higher than the "normal" difficulty setting.  Anyone who finishes XCOM 2 on the hardest setting deserves a medal...probably the purple heart for suffering from PTSD.

Canvas Award:
One of the potential pitfalls of using a vibrant color pallet is the risk of creating something truly garish.  Thankfully Hyper Light Drifter produces a wonderful feast for the eyes in each of it's four major locals.  Maroon cyber-trees, teal fungal-crystals, and a deadly pink energy are just a few examples of the weirdly enigmatic stuff you;ll find here.  Much like a multi-course banquet each area mangers to hold a special place on the color wheel without looking tacky.

Ecology Award:
Typically when I hear the word "sequel," I think of something that is similar to it's predecessor, but also distinct in it's own way.  However, in the case of Banner Saga 2, "sequel" really just means Act II of what will probably being a single game.  There are very few new assets here and what little there is comes mostly down to reusing or redressing of stuff that was already in the first game.

"Engrish" Award: 
When Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars started it's early access program a common complaint was the lack of a tactical withdraw option.  Enter the "Rereat" button.  Introduced as part of the first major update, it didn't work.  Then again, it wasn't spelled correctly either.  Whatever "Rereat" is supposed to mean it doesn't involve fleeing from combat.

Esoteric Award:
Paradox games have always had a certain opaqueness to them and the Hearts of Iron series is no exception.  Despite being the fourth and most approachable entry in the franchise, it still feels like you have to be a real-life World War 2 history buff to play this game...not to mention stand any chance of grasping what the heck is going on with all those fleets, airplanes and armies.

Lemon Award:
Where to begin...?  There's the brain-dead AI, floating guns, objects bouncing around the environment of their own volition.  Plus reviving a fallen ally causes them to spawn anew out of their lifeless corpse.  The sound effects are bugged too.  Worst of all though is the premise, which doesn't make sense on a geo-political level anymore than it does in terms of basic human behavior.

Testosterone Award: 
Before the rise of proper clothing, but after the invention of full body waxing there was a time of hard-bodied savages, who liked to stick sharply pointed objects into each other.  Many vital fluids were spilt and glaring faces made.  Unto this came Rahaan and Sheyna, chosen by a bare-skinned goddess to decapitate, disembowel and eviscerate their way to victorious revenge.  Now let me tell you about the days of gore-splattered nudists...

Underdog Award:
A ghost story about four teens on an abandoned island might not sound like anything special, but Oxenfree manages to elevate the premise into something truly memorable thanks to a strong cast of characters.  The writer did an excellent job of crafting individuals who are simultaneously relatable and annoying in the most plausible ways.

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