6. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
Publisher: Capybara Games
Release Date: March 24, 2011
One of the premiere iPad games (it made our top 10 iOS games list too!), and one that captured the attention of every gamer with an iOS device this year, Sword and Sworcery is unlike any other game you will play this year. Yes, it is a point-and-click game and does contain puzzles which must be solved to progress, but the ingenuity lies in presentation. The bits and pieces of story which unravel slowly and thoughtfully over time let the art and music of the game take center stage. You will spend a fair amount of time zoomed in just to revel in the fascinating structures, staged masterfully by Jim Guthrie’s soundtrack.
Sword and Sworcery gained much of its popularity through a very clever use of Twitter integration. Any text in the game can be shared on Twitter with the simple press of a button. The text is not only bizarre, but often hilarious. Superbrothers’ first game was an odd experiment, but it worked.
7. Gemini Rue
Developer: Joshua Nuernberger
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Release Date: Feburary 24, 2011
There has been a resurgence of fantastic point-and-click adventures over the past few years, such as Ben There, Dan That, Machinarium, and pretty much everything coming out of Telltale. The one thread running through all of these games is whimsy, and although there have certainly been more grounded adventure games released recently, not many have floated to the top of the barrel. Enter: Gemini Rue, a game swathed in mystery and intrigue with more than a hint of noir atmosphere to tie it all together.
One element missing from point-and-clicks as of late is consequence. Gemini Rue does not hold your hand or push you too far in the right direction. It is up to you to solve this sci-fi epic and figure out just how Azriel Odin and Delta-Six are related. Between all the twists and revelations, its hard not to stop and take a look around at the carefully crafted environment as well. This game just has a lot going for it. If you are in the mood for an adventure that takes itself a bit more seriously, and one than pays off in quite an incredible way, Gemini Rue might be just what you’re looking for.
Developer: Tribute Games
Publisher: Tribute Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: September 28, 2011
The Puzzle Quest of 2011, Wizorb mixed old-school RPG and Breakout to great effect, becoming one of the standout Xbox Live Indie Games this year. Cyrus the wizard is responsible for saving the Kingdom of Gorudo from a force of vile creatures, using nothing but a few spells and the power of Wizorb, which allows him to turn into a plank and smack everything in sight with a blue ball. It may not sound like the most impressive power for a wizard, but it sure does come in handy in the land of Gorudo.
The devs at Tribute Games used the restrictions and limitations of the XBLIG medium to make this game feel like it might have actually been uncovered in a long forgotten 16-bit console. The graphics and music scream 1994, and the mash-up gameplay works just as well as the aforementioned Puzzle Quest, switching between a 2D RPG town and a brick breaking arcade game without a hitch. Not only is this the best Breakout-clone in recent memory, the RPG elements should get you just invested enough to not stop playing until the world has been saved.
9. Trine 2
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: December 7, 2011
Trine was a worthy title in its own right, but its sequel has perfected the formula. This puzzle-platformer builds upon everything that made Trine so fantastic in the first place, giving players an awe-inspiringly gorgeous world in which to create clever solutions to the problems with which they are presented. The characters are clever, the combat is tight, and not enough can be said about how brilliantly bright and colorful this game is. Graphics are very rarely a selling point for indie titles (see: Minecraft), but the only game to compete with the art design of Trine 2 this year is Rayman Origins.
Trine 2 is just a joy to play. Each of the three main characters offer a completely different mode of play, keeping the game fresh. The wizard conjures boxes and manipulates platforms. The thief can take out enemies from afar with her bow and arrow, or use her grappling hook to climb to previously unreachable surfaces. The knight uses brute force, wielding a sword, shield and hammer to smash enemies and stone walls impeding the group’s progress. And all this fun can be had with friends, as the entire game can be played cooperatively online.
10. To the Moon
Developer: Freebird Games
Publisher: Freebird Games
Release Date: November 1, 2011
To the Moon might be the most emotionally gripping game of the year. This is the heart-wrenching story of Johnny, an old man on his death bed whose last wish is to visit the moon. The story is told through the journey of Drs. Eva Rosalina and Neil Watts through his memories. As the story unfolds and the doctors steadily make their way deeper into Johnny’s memories, they learn about his past, and how he ended up where he is today. Needless to say, you will very likely shed a few tears in this Memento/Up/Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-influenced game.
Not so much of a game as an interactive tale, To the Moon grabs you right from the start, almost entirely through the aural masterpiece that is the score. The music in this game frequently interrupted my ability to carry on with the story. I could not help but stop and listen. Kan Gao and Laura Shigihara, the composers of To the Moon, deserve awards of some nature. There might not be much in the way of gameplay, but To the Moon is an experience that should not be missed. In case you need any more convincing, you can play for an hour for free. I dare you not to buy it after that first hour.