Best of Casual Gameplay 2004
For the Best of 2004's Top 10 list, I used a combination of votes received from the voting page and of the favorite games that have been saved using the Favorites feature. Unlike the other awards and honorable mentions listed at the bottom of the page, the Top 10 represents the voice of the people. My sincere thanks go out to each and every one of you who visits and participates by using the features here.
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Samorost: a point-and-click adventure game in which the player controls the main character on a quest to save his planet. Without words, the simple yet engaging story unfolds to the delight of the unsuspecting player in scenes that are beautiful works of art and interactivity. Samorost features an array of unusual characters and environments, and presents them all in a tight little package that captures the thrill of discovery and the essence of fun. If you have played this game—and it is likely you have—then you understand why it is the Best of 2004. Click.
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Tontie: an action arcade game in which the player strikes numeric keys corresponding to events on the screen. Accessible to anyone with a numeric keypad, the elegant simplicity of design affords this game an almost universal appeal. Immersive and challenging gameplay is achieved through the introduction of increasingly more complex rules of engagement between the animated characters on screen and the corresponding keys used to combat them. A system of monetary award and power-ups for purchase provides the gameplay with added depth while extending the replay value of the game. Tontie is exceptional game design, the second game in the Top 5 for its author, and certainly one of the very best games we played in 2004. Click.
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Ultimate Flash Sonic: an action adventure that accurately recreates Sega's classic Sonic experience in Flash. This version of Sonic was not endorsed by Sega nor granted permission to use the name or likeness of the Sonic characters, and that speaks volumes of what the author was able to accomplish on his own. A full-featured Flash game that rivals commercial offerings, paired with the popularity of the Sonic franchise rockets this entry well up into the best of 2004. Click.
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Chasm: a point-and-click adventure in which the player sets off on a journey to save the town of Chasmton after an unfortunate event dries up the water supply. The game features AAA quality animation and design, elaborate and challenging puzzles, and a complementing soundtrack, all in a small, bite-sized package for the Web. In light of its top-notch production values, Chasm shines as one of the best of 2004. Click.
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Grow: a puzzle game solved by adding pieces, one at a time, in a correct combinatorial sequence. What elevates this game above others is its unique design of puzzle pieces that interact with each other, and the fascinating animations that result from their combination. Grow is wonder, curiosity and enchantment packaged and disguised as a Flash game that is deceptively simple to pick up and play. Unique, original and fun, this game belongs amongst the best of 2004. Click.
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A Murder of Scarecrows: an action arcade game in which the player must protect three scarecrows from the ravenous ravens that attack them. While A Murder of Scarecrows shares similar gameplay with the classic game of Missile Command, it also redefines it. Excellence in game design is demonstrated by the consistency with which all of the game's elements express its theme, revealed in a poem during the game's commencement. From the artistic simplicity of its graphical style to the eerie animations and atmospheric sound effects, A Murder of Scarecrows will draw you into its world. Without a doubt, one of the best of 2004. Click.
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BMX Backflips: an extreme sports action game in which the player performs stunts for points to complete missions under a time limit. What sets this game apart from others like it is the fluidity of motion, physics, and control the author achieves in the game's Flash implementation. The result is an experience that is both captivating and fun, and earns BMX Backflips a spot among the best and most popular Web games of 2004. Click.
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DHTML Lemmings: an action strategy game, though Lemmings might be considered in a class of its own. What makes this version of the classic game remarkable is that it was developed entirely using DHTML. That means it will run in a browser without requiring any plug-ins. Trouble is, DHTML Lemmings was developed without the consent of the current IP rights holder, and therefore the legality of this version is questionable. Still, if you are lucky enough to find the DHTML version on the Web somewhere, you will be rewarded with a remarkable rendition of the game. It is the DHTML that makes this game one of the best of 2004. Click.
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Alien Hominid: a 2D side-scrolling shooter with an old-school flair. The game features intense over-the-top action that borders on insane, a unique and responsive control scheme, and lots of hand-drawn animations that are hilarious and fun. Originally released in 2002, Alien Hominid was later converted into a console game and released for PS2 and Gamecube, and still remains one of the best Flash shooters available in 2004. Click.
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Viridian Room: a point-and-click adventure game in which the goal is simply to escape the room. Hidden items in the room present the challenge of piecing the puzzle together. What makes this game successful, thus raising it above others in its class, is the soulful narrative that unfolds as the player progresses through the game. Engaging gameplay balanced with immersive narrative equals one of the best and most popular games found on the Web in 2004. Click.
What would an awards ceremony be without the requisite special categories and lifetime achievement awards? These special awards were created for giving recognition and praise to the people who have contributed much to the industry as a whole, and yet whose work did not make it into the top awards for the evening. It is also a place for squeezing in entries that would not otherwise fit into the top 10, while preserving the integrity of it still being called a Top 10 list. =)
Without any further ado, here are the special recognition awards for the Best of 2004...
Best Multiplayer game
Conqueror: a multiplayer turn-based strategy game for up to 16 players, this game features classic and familiar gameplay as in the games of Risk and Civilization, yet provides additional depth and balance those other games lack. And don't be fooled by the turn-based description, every player takes their turn simultaneously within a turn timer, then the server carries out each move randomly, yet in the order submitted for each player. Play against AI or human, the game seamlessly switches between them as players enter and leave a game in progress. Featuring an intuitive interface, and rewarding gameplay, Conqueror is addictive, immersive, engaging multiplayer fun. Click.
Best Flash 3D Puzzle game
The Dark Room: a puzzle game that is actually pseudo-3D since Flash does not yet support true 3D graphics. And that makes this game all the more impressive. The Dark Room features brilliant and original puzzle design with immersive gameplay that is simply a joy to figure out. Games like this suck me in and never let go until I have figured it out completely. The game even saves your progress in case you get stumped and have to return to it later. More games like this one, please. Click.
Best Five-year-old game we were still playing in 2004
BLiX: an action puzzle game that offers classic gameplay in a timeless package. The game is very simple to pick up and play, and yet may require a lifetime to master all of its 300 unique levels. BLiX was first introduced last century and still remains a favorite today. Excellence in design, presentation, and gameplay earns BLiX this very special and coveted award. Click.
Outstanding achievement in artistic expression
Orisinal: this Best of 2004 list would not be complete without very special recognition of the beautiful artistry of Ferry Halim. Each of his Orisinal games provides a unique game playing experience of elegant simplicity, delicately wrapped in a package that stakes the claim that games are indeed art. Together he masterfully weaves sight, sound and touch into works of remarkable beauty. And while none of his games appear in this year's Top 10, his Orisinal site proves the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Click.
Outstanding selfless community contribution
Tonypa: and where would we be if it weren't for those who selflessly share their knowledge and generously give of themselves back to the community? Tonypa exemplifies this with his prolific game development talents and with his making available all of the source code to his games under a Creative Commons license. In addition to his wonderful games and source code, he has also written many Flash game development tutorials that are of the best available on the Web. Thank you, Tonypa, for all of your generous contributions. Click.
Klas Kroon: thanks are also in order to Klas Kroon, whose tile-based tutorials served as the basis for Tonypa's contributions in this area. Klas is also active in the Flash game development community, and deserves similar recognition for his contributions as well. His latest game Reflex has enjoyed over 2 million hits in December alone. Click.
Following are the games that did not quite make the Top 10 list this year, yet for one reason or another I feel they deserve more attention than they received...
PixelField: an action puzzle strategy game, this game shines from its intuitive gameplay, immersive physics, soothing soundtrack, and excellent replay value. The 3 red pixels that dangle and stretch as the base is moved around each level create a sensation in which you can almost feel the physics of the game. PixelField is one of my favorite Flash games ever, and one that I keep coming back to again and again. Click.
Saltacol: also an action puzzle strategy game, it became an instant favorite when I found it earlier this month. Saltacol features excellent level design and gameplay, and just finishing the game (or even a level) is such sweet success. Infinite lives allows you to keep trying, yet the level design ensures that you won't soon put this game down. Excellence in design, physics, graphics, and replay value. Flash games don't get much better than this. Click.
Bubbles: an action arcade game that excels in fun. This is one of those games that comes along every once in a while that you just know will be a classic the first time you play. And it's easy to see why: simple gameplay makes it accessible to anyone, awesome power-ups keep the pace frantic, and the arcade action keeps you coming back for more. Instant classic, major league fun. Click.
Warthog Launch: another action strategy game, and one with an explosive fun factor. And who doesn't like to blow things up once in a while? The best part is that Warthog Launch provides a gratifying stress-relieving experience allthewhile exercising the analytical portions of the brain. The sound effects alone make the experience worthwhile, and thus worthy of being included in this year's honorable mention. Click.
Mudcraft: a real-time strategy game created in Flash, and quite a remarkable accomplishment. And while this game offers familiar gameplay mechanics to anyone who has played any of the Blizzard *craft games, it offers a non-violent approach instead. And it works. Mudcraft features adorable mud people graphics and animation, voices, and a delightful soundtrack, packaged together with gameplay that is engaging and that will keep you busy for hours. Click.
Congratulations to all of this year's winners. And while I look forward to doing this again next year at this time, I also eagerly await another year full of fantastic games as 2004 had been. Bring on da games! =)