We’ve looked at the big winners and met their creators, but there were a LOT of other games in this contest. Despite how many different awards we gave out this year (a feature on the genre and engine prizes is coming soon), there were many more that we liked but just didn’t make the winners list. To give them some love, all 8 of the judges picked a game that didn’t win any other awards. We wrote up a summary of what made it appealing and, in some cases, why it didn’t quite make it to the end. Make sure to check all these games out!
Judge 1 – Ruin Frontier 0
While there were plenty of games I loved in this years competition, one that stuck out to me from the very beginning was Ruin Frontier Zero, a dynamic, nonlinear RPG. The first thing that hit me was the overall setting. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for scifi settings, and playing as the AI fighting against humanity was a fun twist to that trope.
And then the second part hit, that is the other thing that I’m a sucker for: Robot/Mecha customization. My favorite genre in stories is probably mecha, which is something you don’t see a lot of in RPGs, and while this isn’t strictly mecha, the drones are close enough to have caught my attention. Building your squad, and naming the individual members, was a real joy. BYOG (Bring your own Gauss) the Interceptor felt fun and distinctly mine as a character.
That isn’t to say the game wasn’t without flaws. The difficulty was on the easy side, and the enemy encounters were perhaps a bit too fast to dodge, but the cohesive whole of it was a game with a heavy sense that your party was YOURS, rather than what the game gave you.
Judge 2 (me) – Salim
This already relevant game became disturbingly more immediate after the recent wave of terrorist attacks in France and other countries. Those of us living in the western world hear about groups like ISIS (called Da’ish in this game, a name they reportedly hate so let’s all start using it) only when they became a danger to people who look like us. But imagine having to live in the same village as them. The characters in Salim do and their daily life is rendered with absolutely gorgeous artwork resembling paper and cardboard.
The story plays out like a cute little adventure game where the title character explores his hometown and trades amusing video game jokes with his friends and family. Even the broken English dialogue adds another layer of authenticity, since we’re in a place where English isn’t the primary language. However, the tale is often interrupted by Da’ish, who are perfectly willing to shoot a child over minor offenses like eating during the fasting season. The developer doesn’t force us to watch this kid die, but we’re left knowing that this is the kind of thing that happens in the areas where these fanatics have taken hold.
Some people don’t like when games are blunt with their messages and I understand that. However, this is a crucial voice that often goes unheard. People love to complain that moderate Muslims never speak out against groups like Da’ish, so here’s your chance to hear what they have to say. This game is noble and beautiful and well worth a look. I’m awarding it my first ever Cade Mistral Passion Award.
Judge 3 – Once Upon a Beanstalk
This game will certainly… grow on you ;)
If you’re a fan of classic first person dungeon crawlers, Once Upon a Beanstalk is a unique take on the old formula. It plays like a rogue-like with floors that are procedurally generated. It does a good job throwing enough new stuff at you to keep the opening levels engaging.
The game relies heavily on RNG so your experience might greatly vary. For example, I got stuck with a crappy Cursed Sword early on. I did manage to improve the sword with Whetstone items but it did hamper my experience quite a bit since I wasn’t able to try out different weapons. With additional development time, I can see this game becoming a very addicting and harrowing experience.
Judge 4 – Half-Off Hero: The World Needs Savings
Half-Off Hero is a delightful game about an unwilling merchant hero whose goal is to save the world from impending doom. You play as a loving family man who simply wants to run his shop. However, fate has other plans for you as you are now forced to journey to save the world while making sure your family doesn’t desert you while you are away. As a merchant your primary goal is of course to obtain enough gold to feed your family and prevent yourself from the immense debt you may build up from all your loans, shop upgrades, and medical bills following your battles. A nice mix of selling items and battles gives you a break from the usual grind of continuous battles.
The battles found in Half-Off Hero are much harder than what they at first seem; after all, you’re a puny merchant who is used to selling weapons, not using them. Half-Off Hero can provide a nice challenge to those who are willing to study the weakness of their foes and stock up on magical items to battle them. Those who can effectively plan for battles will avoid a nasty trip to Mendi, your “loving” doctor.
Perhaps the biggest draw for this judge was the game’s fantastic art and creative story. The characters are represented by beautiful custom art as well as dialogue to help immerse the player in the role of the unlikely hero. Half-off Hero features various endings for the story as well as many mechanics that can affect your gameplay. There are about five endings for your playing pleasure, giving you all the more reason to attempt to save the world multiple times. I highly recommend Half-Off Hero: The World Needs Savings for those who don’t mind balancing the all the mechanics involved in the life of a merchant hero and are interested in fairly well-polished IGMC game.
Judge 5 – Gambol
I have to admit – I’m not very good at wall jumping games. Most games that have that aspect in them usually end in me frustratingly swearing at the screen, demanding to be allowed to pass and finally calling one of my brothers to get me past the damn thing. Not so for this game.
Gambol is all-around a pretty great game. Not only are the graphics and animations cute, there’s also a lot of great design ideas used through-out – whether it be the maps shown as part of the background at the start of each stage, or the simplicity of the walls themselves. It’s biggest draw, though, was it’s ease of use. This isn’t a game that I called upon the force of brother to get through because not only were the controls responsive and easily understandable, the cause/effect when jumping and falling were so well done and perfectly timed to allow a newbie like me to catch myself when I fell.
Gambol is very well done, mechanically, as well as graphically, and I personally think it was one of my favourite games to come from the contest. Great job, VP – you made a wall-jump game that even I could play and, more importantly, enjoy. And it’s pretty damn cute, too!
Judge 6 – There’s Beauty in the Bleeding
The overall aesthetic of the game is simply stunning. Lovingly crafted environments dot the game throughout, with a few pieces shining above the rest. The general look and feel of the game is one of clean simplicity, which contrasts very well with the chopped up and inherently opaque narrative that is told over the course of the game.
While the exploration aspects, as well as the narrative are masterfully done, the game as a whole feels disjointed and doesn’t always appear to know what it wants to be. The inclusion of standard RPG combat in an otherwise non-standard game leads the player to wish they’d have come up with something else. Reminiscent of Sword and Sworcery, this game is overflowing with tone, mood, and feelings.
Judge 7 – Escalia
Escalia reminded me of Fire Emblem, specifically from the GBA era, and that is a really good thing. I wonder if the developer(s) used those games as their initial source of inspiration. The art style, as far as RPGMaker goes, came together really nicely. The intro text was well-paced and the story foreshadowed depth and lore to be discovered later on.
My one big hang up (and it’s a big one!) is to be thrown into an open town so early on. I feel like this game needed more linear first hour of play, to usher the player through the narrative and get them to a good level of “buy in.” I hope this sees the light of day as a completed game some day!
Judge 8 – Silver Creek Falls: Chapter One
Silver Creek Falls was very enjoyable. There was something about the mystery that kept me engaged and made me very curious to see what happened next. The voice acting used during cutscenes was a pleasant surprise.
The lack of combat helped to show that an RPG Maker game could be made that doesn’t rely on the engine’s popular combat integration. Along with the inherent mystery, the characters are well written and designed in a way that keeps the player interested in their tale.