2023 IGF nominees: mind dot dot dot blown

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Tagged: reviews, immortality, igf, tunic, norco

Finally, my IGF top favorites. At this point I have entirely departed the realm of objective, considered judgement. These are the games which made me cackle with glee -- in my head at least.

  • Immortality
  • Tunic

(Necessary footnote: I was on the narrative jury and had access to free review copies of these games. But in fact I bought them all before IGF judging started.)


The biggest, most "holy crap you can't do that" Sam Barlow game yet. What else do you need to know?

Yes, the pacing is weird (even compared to the pacing-is-accidental structure of Her Story and Telling Lies). Searching for film clips is janky and hard to do systematically. I don't know when or why the credits roll. None of that matters.

The thing about Sam Barlow is that he came up with this moment of experience -- the moment where that thing happens. Then he said, well, to make that work for the player, I'm going to have to film three consecutive movies. So he did.

See full review.


I wrote a short review of this for last year's IGF, but that was based on just the first act. Let me expand my comments from last year, which began:

A filthy, mucky, cyber-goth breakdown of the Louisiana slums. You're back in the town you swore you left forever. Your mother is dead, your brother is missing, the household robot is rebuilding [a jacked-up] motorcycle chassis out back. Your stuffed monkey keeps beating you at staring contests.

The visuals are decent pixel art -- not bad, not the best I've seen. [...] But the writing carries it over the top in the best way. This is a deeply screwed-over world, twenty minutes into the future of our screwed-up reality. Gig jobs, bitcoin, giant oil companies eating the world. Every line jabs you with a pinprick detail.

This is ostensibly a point-and-click adventure. In fact it's a mashup of genres leaving neon tire-tracks on each other: exploration puzzle, database mind-map, quicktime combat. The narrative is seamlessly distributed across these modes as you uncover cults, political machinations, and what happened to your family.

There were elements I wished had been better developed. (The plot point of your mother selecting memories for posterity could have tied into your mind-map in interesting ways.) But it's still a kick in the gut and a shout in the face. It's funny, it's grim, it's furious. Play it.


Wait, I never wrote anything about Tunic? The can't-believe-how-deep-this-fox-hole-goes game of 2022?

You're a cute nonverbal fox with a sword, set loose upon a Zelda-ish world of adventure. Find secrets! Kill little blob monsters with a stick! Kill giant Souls-style behemoths with a stick! No, wait, let's go back to the secrets thing.

There are two important things to know about Tunic from the start:

  • You can turn off the combat.
  • It is still an award-worthy game, a game of the year game, with the combat off.

There are several combat difficulty settings, in fact. But on the first major boss, I went straight for the maximal "you are invulnerable" mode and stayed there for the rest of the game. (For some bosses, you still have to do a bit of pattern-dancing to land a blow. But you have infinity tries to get it right.)

The point is the secrets. And the puzzles. And the secret puzzles. And the actual secrets, the hidden stuff. The Zelda-Souls-like is just a framework, a fictional game whose manual you uncover as you play. Or possibly as you play again -- someone's marked up the manual with all sorts of notes to themself. Might have been you.

When I finished the game -- all the way, good ending, the works -- there were still some bonus things left to find. I said "Eh, not for me" and peeked at spoilers. Um. There was some stuff that I had never even noticed.

I'm not saying you need to find all this stuff to enjoy Tunic. But if you enjoy finding stuff in games, you will not run low.