2013 IGF Finalists: Excellence in Narrative

Kentucky Route Zero

In no other brand of fiction is the principle of subjective reality more used than magical realism. And Kentucky Route Zero captures the strange, almost ethereal nature of the genre incredibly well, both in visuals and in writing. That writing is why it is nominated for narrative, and quite possibly why it’s the best adventure game I’ve played in years. Keep your eyes on this one!

Kentucky Route Zero follows a deliveryman as he makes his way towards a house in the hills for, you guessed it, a delivery. After flipping a circuit breaker at a gas station, however, things start getting very strange, very quickly. Strange computer messages, a perpetually burning tree, and a house filled with old memories are just the start of your troubles. Or fun, if you prefer to think of it that way.

There’s a sense of nostalgia that permeates everything Kentucky Route Zero touches upon, and it’s not because the person playing the game has been there. These are collective memories; stories more from the American culture than from any particular time or place. As such, the game feels both familiar and alien, exploring common themes and places and stories we see in fiction and non-fiction alike. You can pick up the first act of Kentucky Route Zero from the developer’s website.

Thirty Flights Of Loving

All of the games in the finalists for narrative this year are a little bit strange, but none quite so bizarre as Thirty Flights of Loving. “Sequel” to freeware classic Gravity Bone, Thirty Flights of Loving is a surrealist masterpiece that will constantly confuse you in the 15 minutes or so it takes to play it to completion. In case you doubt if that is a good thing, let me reassure you: it is a very good thing. This is a game unlike any you have ever played, and is worth every penny.

Thirty Flights of Loving follows a group of thieves as they attempt to carry out a heist in South America. While there are some subtle nods to Blendo’s previous titles (mostly Gravity Bone and the excellent Atom Zombie Smasher), Thirty Flights of Loving stands mostly on its own. But it’s difficult to make heads or tails of what is happening, relegating the plot to something you piece together from a non-linear, illogical narrative. And you’ll be piecing the plot together for quite some time.

Therein lies the appeal, after all. Thirty Flights of Loving isn’t a game about people or places, like most of the titles in this finalist category. Rather, it is about the things we associate with memories. Colors, experiences, emotions. And, at the center of it all, Blendo’s trademark sense of surreal humor and pacing keeps things fresh, even on multiple playthroughs. If you want to experience Thirty Flights of Loving, you can get it from Steam.

Prepare your programmer hats and fine tooth combs; tomorrow we cover the finalists in Technical Excellence!

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