Following the announcement of the finalists for all categories of the 2012 Independent Games Festival, we've sifted through the months of conversations our juries had this year on the merits of each game they considered, and have pulled choice quotes which we hope will help illuminate the thought process behind their respective finalist choices.
While some games were discussed at great length, others found themselves nominated essentially on silent, unanimous nods from the jurists -- either way, presented below is a collection of some of the more interesting comments about this year's nominated games from all of our various juries.
"A lot of what Antichamber does to mess with your head is explicitly subvert all the expectations you have when playing a first person game; it's cutting across the UDK grain and can't have been easy."
"[What] impresses me... is how the tech seems to be directly influencing the game design and art style rather than just being used to achieve a given goal."
"Very satisfying, and strategies emerge really organically as you play with it, much like Tetris, instead of being things you are told and then try to learn..."
"This is one of those games where once you've played a lot, and you truly 'get it', it gets really, really good."
At a Distance
"A successful experiment... truly experimental and beautifully haunting."
Atom Zombie Smasher
"This game has a nice progression and tactics on many scales that all work together. Playing the overworld kind of felt like playing a board game... I had to play this one all the way through and stop the zombie outbreak."
Beat Sneak Bandit
"In terms of gameplay, I never would have thought a game where there's a single, simple beat to tap along with could be so interesting... Does it 'flow' like most rhythm titles? Not really. Instead it asks the player to plan a sequence, tap along in their head in preparation, and then go for it -- like playing a 'break' in samba. It's a genuinely unique type of puzzle, with some great level designs."
"This one got more involuntary grins out of me than any other game."
"Botanicula has some of the most charming and surprising animation I've played the entire IGF. I can't imagine anyone playing this and not giggling with wonder at all the hidden things one stumbles upon during a play session."
"My favorite so far, and kinda by a long shot. It has a ton of personality and charm. The music is really well done and interesting. The implementation is great as well. The interactivity is fun and really adds to the world. The more i played of this one, the more i liked the audio."
"There's a lot of sensitivity to how the world design speaks to the player's emotions, and provokes curiosity."
"Dear Esther is top of my list. Mainly because I feel like it is taking a known genre and game engine and creating something from it that is a total artistic experience."
"There are a lot of games that would be less good as an overall package if their audio weren't as good as it is, but Dear Esther would not work at all if its audio wasn't as good as it is. To me, that warrants special attention."
English Country Tune
"One of the purest, most original, least-contrived puzzle games in years."
"Relatively simple... but its mechanics kept developing into more and more interesting places, and its surface simplicity belied how clever and demanding some of its puzzles could be. It felt like a came from a very pure, unique place. I was surprised by it constantly."
"A simple mechanic played out with really beautiful minimal art and sound, it's a good mix of an immediate, responsive control and a confining, broken control."
"Fez is so epic that i think we'll look back on it as both an homage to video game history, as well as one of the most compelling audiovisual experiences of our times. Such an amazing showcase of craft and talent and design perfection."
"A great multiplayer, multitouch iPad game -- with a great shag-carpet, audio-visual style."
"As a model for strategic e-sports, Frozen Synapse is amazing."
"[I'm] still in awe that a small indie developer managed to craft a 1v1 game of such depth. wonderful, asynchronous mind-games."
"The flow and experience of playing multiple asynchronous matches of multplayer X-COM just blows me away."
"This game is such an interesting abstraction of rock climbing - it actually manages to reduce the task to one mechanic, and yet maintain a real sense of the tension and frustration of the act."
"Once you're messing around with the wiring to turn off lights to make guards move, then smacking them in the face with doors, it starts to be a whole lot of fun and I laughed a lot."
"This game did a good job making you feel like a spy. The game did a good job of teaching you the basics by showing you one line of text as you'd mouse-hover over things."
Johann Sebastian Joust
"This game is genuinely innovative (even as it builds on centuries-old playground games) and beautifully elegant. It really does redefine for me what a game can be, while still being well-crafted and enjoyable."
"Lume is beautiful and fascinating and it's like playing a game in a children's book. Technically, there is some pretty interesting things happening here that you have to see for yourself."
"Lume is such a handsome feast... overall, very lush and touching. The rich contrast, lighting and depth of field made me feel cozy."
"Probably my favorite so far, and definitely the first time a game has reminded me of Max Ernst..."
"Visually and sonically, it strikes the perfect balance between familiar and unfamiliar, it achieves more with less. Proteus, on the other hand, dispenses little gems with sobriety, giving you a reason to explore and a meaning to your button pushing. It has subtlety which is an extremely rare quality in games, indie and not."
Pugs Luv Beats
"This one took me by surprise. It's super charming and the music integration into the gameplay is really creative here. I was enjoying the audio until I realized that the planet selection screen basically andallows you to play two monosynths and...at that point I was sold!"
"Impossible to lose, it's really all about how your internal, OCD-desire for efficiency, along with the intrinsic fun of the two activities of fishing and blasting. I happily played through (in the sense that I bought everything in the shop and played for a bit longer) in one sitting."
"With Spelunky, you are never learning a 'piece' of music... It's still a game about repetition and learning, but what you are learning is the overall composition, understanding the overall system and how it works, and becoming fluent in that. At first I disliked the way the ghost worked against the other elements of the game, encouraging recklessness in a game where recklessness was fatal. But eventually I came to love this tension, and appreciate it as the beating heart of the game. Spelunky looks like a game of execution, but it's really a game about information and decision-making. How good are you at looking at a situation and understanding what it means? You can't memorize, and you can't take time to carefully analyze, you must rely on your literacy of the system, and this is a kind of holistic knowledge that feels great in my brain, a wonderful new flavor for a single-player game, and a deeply promising direction for further exploration."
"I've not only never seen anything remotely like it, but I've never encountered anyone even imagining anything in this direction. And if I had imagined it, I probably would have said, 'Nah, that will never work.'"
"It's a game about storytelling, one of the few I know, a fortunate Vladimir Propp + Scott McCloud mash-up that takes full advantage of the combinatorial properties of software. It has a greater level of complexity than the simple branching narrative at the core of his previous work and it requires, in my opinion, a more sophisticated intellectual effort from the player."
To The Moon
"What Amnesia's sound design accomplished in emotional terror, this game's music accomplishes in sentimentality and longing, and... thus struck me as having the most memorable audio."
"Wonderputt literally does inspire a sense of wonder."
"There's no pretense of depth or meaning, it's just surprising and wonderful (and absurdly well-animated) for it's own sake."
"This one got me instantly, deeply immersed. Really feels exploratory in the way mechanic and story are combined, they're actually going for inspiring some suspension of disbelief in the player instead of just laying out the controls in a literal fashion."
"It's kinda like Another World meets Sim Earth, but with totally different controls and mechanics which are totally suited to the iPad."
"Good atmosphere and player feedback sounds... probably represents some of the most fully realized audio in any of the games in the competition."
"Subtle and very highly structured, but the pointing system is somewhat magical."