Bytten Ernie Awards 2009
I probably say this every year, but this year's Ernies were a tough decision. It shows just how high the standards are for independent game production that I've struggled to narrow down the selection as much as I have. In many categories I've named runners up - purely because these second place games still deserve a mention.
Best Overall - Project Aftermath by Games Faction
Always a tough category to fill, this year was perhaps the hardest yet. A number of high quality games have featured over the last twelve months - many of those in other categories could be mentioned here too. Looking back, however, one game stood out in terms of sheer production values. Project Aftermath was an enormous download, but well worth the wait - graphical effects alone were highly impressive and backed up by a large and remarkably intuitive game engine. With every aspect of the game considered, polished and utterly professional, Project Aftermath deserves this accolade.
Other games did well in this category too. Special mention should go to Kivi's Underworld, one of the most recent of this year's offerings, which managed to fuse together "Casual" and "RPG" - no mean feat for any producer. Kivi is still on my desktop as I write this, being an immensely easy game to just leap into.
Most Ambitious - Casebook: Episode I - Kidnapped by Areo-Cinematic Games
This category was surprisingly easy to award. While many games were high quality offerings, Casebook is perhaps the most ambitious I've seen in quite some time. The basic game is a fairly straightforward "hidden object" one, though finding an actual profession that involves looking for hidden objects is a neat trick. Casebook is ambitious in two directions - the use of "areography" to render 3D rooms that you can walk around and examine is deeply impressive enough, and the use of actors to portray the various characters in the investigation's cut scenes was always risky (fortunately, with a few minor exceptions, the acting quality is actually quite good).
Episode 2 is due for review shortly, and I am looking forward to it immensely.