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The Indie Game Challenge: Why Limbo and Inertia Took Home The Top Prizes At DICE 2011

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Posted February 15, 2011 - By Rob Manuel


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Independent Games Challenge

The glasses of champagne are in the dishwasher, some confetti still lingers in the red carpet, and they’re still trying to mop up the blood from the floor. Whatever the case, The Indie Game Challenge has come to a triumphant conclusion with two games taking home most of the big prizes. Again, I highly encourage everyone with thumbs and the love of games to try to get their hands on these titles as soon as possible. While you won’t see some until later on this year, many of these great games can be yours with little to no cost. And without further ado, here the winners of this year’s Indie Game Challenge, and why they brought home the bacon.

The Indie Juggernaut

It will probably come as no surprise to most people that LIMBO took home the gold in the professional category. Not to say that each of the entries were not all equally deserving of the coveted spot, but LIMBO, since hitting XBLA, has been racking up the awards from places such as Indiecade and even scoring four from this site as well. Oddly enough, it was about a year ago at last year’s IGF that LIMBO lost out to Monaco for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. One could speculate any number of reasons for the switch, but at the end of the day, these are both amazing titles that any gamer should get their hands on.

But seriously, why did LIMBO win? There are countless reasons why this little puzzle platformer about a boy and his uneasy relationship with buzzsaws won the top prize. The striking use of shadow and light to convey the environment certainly contributed to the win. LIMBO just so happened to have picked up the art direction award that night. Focusing only on the bare essentials of sound – footsteps through the grass, the breaking of glass, the haunting moments when music was actually introduced - added to the eeriness and isolation of the world you were exploring. For me, however, it all boiled down to one aspect – storytelling.

Indie Game Challenge

Not many games get it. Cutscenes, dialogue, and text seem to be the new packaging for games. Often, story is regarded with little more than a way to move to a new location without having the player move there. It’s often the thing we complain about when we get a little at the beginning only to be rushed through at the end. LIMBO doesn’t treat its story this way. Their gameplay is the story.

From the moment you wake up in the forest till the time the credits roll, you are somewhere in the game. It’s the hanging bodies that set the mood of what’s to come. It’s the boys you see just out of reach, preparing traps and leaving you to die, that build the tension. As you move from one area to the next, you cannot help but feel as lost as your character. Everything you need for the story is there. You just need to put the pieces together. Other games have picked up on the idea that the gameplay should be meaningful. Games like Portal, Uncharted 2, and Bioshock allow the world and often your actions to dictate the story. But it’s LIMBO that lives and dies by this credo. With it being one of the biggest sellers on XBLA last year, I say that it was pretty successful with that story.

The Mouse That Roared

Though LIMBO was the big name that won, it wasn’t the biggest winner. One game took home the technical achievement award, one for gameplay, the audience favorite award, and the grand prize in non-professional. This is an astounding achievement for anyone, let alone a handful of students from The Guildhall at SMU. Inertia is the perfect example of a game that does so much with so little. With only a couple of elements and an amazing gravity mechanic, this puzzle platformer will have you entertained and challenged from beginning to end. It might have been the surprise of the night, but no one who’s ever gotten their hands on this game will deny that they deserved every one of these awards and more.

Indie Game Challenge

Go on and download Inertia from XBLIG right now. It’s only a buck. I can wait. Okay, you probably discovered that Team Hermes really stretches the concept in some beautifully creative directions. While you’ll use the ability to be weightless at first to clear gaps or reach higher platforms, the puzzles shift and force you to start using angled walls to shift your trajectory or to time your movement just right before hitting electrified walls. Though short, execution is spot on and enjoyable all the way through. This may just be the best buck you ever spend online.

One Last Observation

Besides both being great games, you can actually play LIMBO and Inertia right now without having to leave that little rut in the couch cushion. Indie games are closer than ever before to a wider audience with every system now looking into bringing you the best. Yes, it does take a bit of searching but as these downloadable titles grow in popularity, it will be easier for you to find. Keep checking in all the great indie game contests that happen around the year. Try out some demos to see what you like. And most importantly, keep checking in with us as we cover all the big events and roll out more of the best indie coverage that you can find. We’re kinda like that really cool friend that tells you all about the best games before anyone else. And we won’t even hit on your hot sister.

The Indie Game Challenge: Why Limbo and Inertia Took Home The Top Prizes At DICE 2011
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