January 10, 2013 9:00 AM | Konstantinos Dimopoulos / Gnome
Adventure games were never really dead; everybody knows that. Besides, the indie scene, even before the term indie was such a widely used word, was one of the main pillars of the genre and a wild incubator of new ideas, tools, sub-genres and practices. In our post Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter, Wadjet Eye Games and Telltale days then, during a most obvious genre renaissance, it's only natural that the indie adventure is blooming in all its forms and shapes.
Choosing the top 10 adventures of 2012 has thus been a most challenging task and we're sure to have skipped some rather brilliant offerings, but we are pretty confident the 10 games presented here are both excellent and representative of what indie adventures excel at:
10. Anna's Quest: Vol. 1 (Krams Design) [Windows, paid]
Anna's Quest was the most surprising adventure of the year, mainly because it's such an impressively accomplished and excellently designed game, while also being its developer's second only attempt at a point-and-clicker. Interestingly it also happens to be a wonderfully illustrated, perfectly voiced, charmingly animated, deep and refreshingly creepy fairy-tale with some really odd touches, that, despite its short length, feels absolutely rich.
9. Metal Dead (Walk Thru Walls Studios) [Windows, paid]
Following the apparently inevitable zombie apocalypse two metal-heads find themselves listening to heavy metal tunes while suicidally driving towards the epicenter of the infestation; the corporate HQ of MediGeniTech. When one of said metal-heads dies and his severed, zombified head turns into a brilliant hint system and plot device one of the most outrageous adventures of 2012 begins in earnest. Sporting graphics that felt properly hand-drawn, a wild sense of humour, tough puzzles and a glorious finale, Metal Dead simply cannot be missed. Oh, and it's all the proof you should need that zombies can still be both entertaining and novel.
8. Cypher (Cabrera Brothers) [Windows and Mac, paid]
CYPHER is a cyberpunk, commercial text-adventure game released with the ambitious goal of aesthetically revitalizing the genre and introducing it to new audiences. Quite shockingly and despite its flaws it actually succeeded; must have been those amazing visuals, that interesting story and the incredible selection of feelies... Set within NeoSushi, a city obviously inspired by '80s sci-fi manga, CYPHER has you struggling to stay alive while everyone seems to be after some sort of data stored in your head. Granted, it also has you struggling against its parser and less-than-stellar translation, but we can't help but feel that this was only the first step.
7. Primordia (Wadjet Eye Games / Wormwood Studios) [Windows, paid]
If it weren't such an excellent year for the indie adventure game, Primordia would have placed much higher on this very list. Then again, we all know that all the games here are all virtually equally excellent. Anyway. Primordia might need a while to properly find its pace and it might lack those superbly innovative puzzles many of us crave, but it's a stunningly beautiful pixel-art game set in a unique post-apocalyptic world that also lacks living humans. It does sport a smart robot-religion worshiping the long lost creators instead, but that's not what makes Primordia a sublime game. It's the dialog and the fact that it's an accomplished indie love-letter to Beneath A Steel Sky.
6. Edna & Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes (Daedalic) [Windows, paid]
Cartoon graphics, twisted and at times anarchic humour, blue rabbits, dark undertones and an assortment of fun and not particularly demanding puzzles and mini-games make Harvey's New Eyes an incredibly enjoyable game that, as an added bonus, won't intimidate genre newcomers. Besides, helping rebellious kids battle the oppressive regime of a Mother Superior run school is most satisfying on more than a few levels. And Harvey's Eyes definitely is one of those few sequels that manage to measure up to their illustrious predecessors.
5. The Journey Down: Chapter One (Skygoblin) [Windows, Mac, Linux and iOS]
Starting off as one of the most impressive freeware adventures we have ever seen, The Journey Down: Chapter 1 evolved into an absolutely stunning and impossibly polished offering, that most obviously remains an absolutely excellent adventure with a Rastafarian theme and humour that will actually make you laugh. Bwana and Kito, its two protagonists, are trying to make ends meet while solving puzzles and journeying through a plot of corruption and danger, whereas we are impatiently waiting for chapter 2 and marveling at the stylized art and quality voice-overs.
4. Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, Episode 1 (Phoenix Online Studios) [Windows and Mac, paid]
Employing the talents of the team responsible for re-imagining King's Quest in 3D and the help of legendary Gabriel Knight designer Jane Jensen, Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, Ep.1: The Hangman is a dark thriller with supernatural touches that all genre fans have to experience. The writing is top-notch, the production values impressive, most of the puzzles inspired and, most importantly, the plot is simply gripping. Helping Erica Reed, one of those rare strong female leads, use her subtle powers of post-cognition and detective skills to bring down a serial killer is properly exciting and will even give that old brain a work-out.
3. McPixel (Sos) [Windows, Mac and Linux, paid]
Sos Sosowski's comedic Windows and Mac adventure game McPixel was the very first title to be ever successfully published as part of the Steam Greenlight program and, I think, the very first game openly endorsed by Pirate Bay. Firsts aside, McPixel is an elegantly designed and utterly hilarious take on the point-and-clicker featuring over 100 single-screen, 20-second challenges in which players must prevent explosive disasters by using objects found in the surrounding area.
2. The Sea Will Claim Everything (Jonas Kyratzes) [Windows, paid]
It's the biggest game in the surreal and wonderful Lands of Dream, it sports one of the best soundtracks we've ever encountered, its unique hand-drawn visuals wouldn't feel out of place in a children's book, it tells a story that will make you proud of gaming (and possibly think), it features dozens of odd characters, it's huge, it's got impressive walls of text and it even features two of the smartest puzzles we've encountered, but these are not the reasons you should play The Sea Will Claim Everything. No. You should play this game because it can actually help you become a better person.
1. Resonance (Wadjet Eye Games / XII games) [Windows, paid]
Resonance, a game originally announced back in 2007, should already be considered a classic. It is an interactive story about science gone spectacularly wrong, a particle physicist's mysterious death that sparks a race to find his hidden vault and claim his terrifying new discovery, and evolving characters. Great plot, excellent sci-fi setting, brilliant writing, quality voice-overs and some of the best pixel-art graphics we've ever seen aren't all that Resonance has to offer though. It's a complex adventure that lets you control four unique characters and introduces a ground-breaking memory mechanic that really brings its characters and world to life.
[IndieGames continues its year in review, with lists including the Top 10 Indie Strategy Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Horror Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Shoot-'Em-Ups of 2012 and our Top 10 Indie Games of 2012 (+2!).]