Best of 2010 Awards: Indie

Indie: LIMBO

2010 was a fantastic year for independently developed games, with many of the category's front-runners providing some of year's most memorable experiences. The black and white, melancholic platformer LIMBO has been lazily described as "the Braid of 2010," but beyond the fact that both are puzzle-platformers, they're really different beasts. Whereas Braid engaged players with colorful worlds and an intellectually engaging and text-driven story, LIMBO engages the player on a more visceral level, burying its incredibly subtle (but creepy) meta-story underneath minute-to-minute action that is equal parts foreboding, pulse-pounding, and head-scratching.

LIMBO also greatly impressed us with its ability to engage players immediately with its use of depth, shadow, and soft-focus, and to hold that interest throughout the course of "The Boy's" journey. Never once does the game fall back on traditional expository methods like text or dialogue, but it still manages to tell a complete story. Anyone who possesses some very basic platformer-literacy can immediately dive in and enjoy the action, which succeeds in drawing in both core and casual gamers, alike. Though the game is a fairly short experience and only available through XBLA, LIMBO's wall-to-wall polish, brilliant aesthetics, and clever puzzles earn it our 2010 award for best indie.

Runner-up: Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Lately, most survival-horror games seem content to tread the well-worn path of "guns and monster-closets." Amnesia: The Dark Descent was especially refreshing (and pants-wetting) proof this year that the genre's biggest developers could learn a thing or two about how to properly scare gamers. Guided by notes left by his pre-amnesia self, the player must contend with physics-based puzzles and insanity inducing darkness, while uncovering a diabolical plot. By removing guns from the equation, Amnesia ensures that confrontations with the game's terrifying denizens are tense, "run for your life" encounters. Amnesia: The Dark Descent puts the "scary" back into survival-horror games, which is why it's our 2010 indie GOTY runner-up.

Nominees: Super Meat Boy, Angry Birds, VVVVVV, and Joe Danger

[Indie is part of Shacknews Best of 2010 Awards. For more information, including selection methodology, see this introduction.]

From The Chatty
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    December 29, 2010 9:28 AM

    I thought Limbo was boring. Super Meat Boy should have won!

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      December 29, 2010 9:30 AM

      i really regretted buying that game. most of the puzzles were just trial and error dying over and over again --- oh shit which of those 2 games did i just describe

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        December 29, 2010 10:02 AM

        Seeing as Super Meat Boy didn't have any puzzles what so ever...I would say you're describing Limbo. Super Meat Boy was based entirely on skill, hand eye coordination, and tight platforming. It should be extremely simple to figure out exactly what you're supposed to do in the game.

        I also don't think that just because a game has some aspect of trial and error puzzles in it, that it's somehow a bad game. It would have taken about 5 minutes of research online to find out that was a large portion of Limbo's gameplay.

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          December 29, 2010 10:31 AM

          i was describing limbo but there are definitely jump puzzles in super meatboy. every level was a puzzle in getting to the end. it's not easy to figure out what exactly to do. from what i've seen from multiple walkthroughs on youtube for the same levels, there are a number of paths to take some easier than others and often times you may want to take another character to get to the end differently. i'd call SMB a puzzle platformer.

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            December 29, 2010 10:39 AM

            Nothing that you said really demonstrates that the levels are puzzles. Multiple paths and bonus characters doesn't make the levels puzzles. In most first person shooters there are multiple paths to the objective, they aren't puzzles. The entire game can be completed with Meat Boy, the added characters are bonuses for unlocking them that make the game easier.

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              December 29, 2010 10:51 AM

              those first person shooters aren't usually encouraging you to complete levels in a time trial fashion. another part of the puzzle besides figuring out how to efficiently get from point A to point B (for A+ grades) is picking up the bandages and still making it to point B the hard way. i don't think it matters whether you can complete the game with only meat boy or not.

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              December 29, 2010 10:52 AM

              Not to mention it sounds like you haven't even played it.

              I think you'd be hard pressed to find a review that refers to it as a puzzle platformer.

              If you find it difficult to figure out HOW to get to the end of a level in Super Meat Boy, you probably can't make it past the first level of Braid, Winterbottom, or Limbo. You also probably can't tie your shoes.

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                December 29, 2010 11:53 AM

                and a decent discussion about a video game breaks down into personal attacks, go figure

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