Best of 2011 (Top 5):
John's got problems of his own, but those will have to wait while he tackles his job as a new 11th grade English Literature teacher at a school conducting a very unusual experiment. In this smart visual novel, you'll watch the lives of your students unfold through personal and private conversations you're not meant to see, and have to decide how to help them when they come to you for advice. A surprisingly fun, funny, and touching story that deals with everything from sex and sexuality to self-confidence, love, and, of course, privacy.
It seems like most games created with RPG Maker do a great job at being ignored by most people. Well, Wither is a little bit different and deserves a second (first?) chance. Styled like a classic Game Boy green-on-black game and using a few sound effects and sprites ripped from very recognizable sources, Wither tells the tale of a boy crippled with grief over a recent death. Explore the small area and talk to the characters to get a sense of what happened, then do what any good video game character does when there's nothing left to do: take a nap. Here, nightmares occur, presenting you with new worlds to explore. All in all, Wither is fairly thin on gameplay but very thick on emotion. It's a game about sadness, guilt, and devotion, and its non-linear exploration-based gameplay makes it a delight to sample. The fact that it looks so retro is just a nice bonus!
Want to play just one game this weekend? Make it Hide. It's short. Atmospheric. Hauntingly creepy. And it's all about exploration. You're in a snowy field with alarms ringing in the background. Wander around the grainy 3D world and see what you can see. Eventually you'll come across one of five signposts, and when you do, things get even more interesting. Something with a flashlight is out to get you, and your only defense is to hide. Created by shouldice for a Super Friendship Club game-making pageant.
In what is bound to be called "the most unusual computer game this side of Weekend Download", The Cat and the Coup is a slow-paced adventure sort of game that tells the story of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. Only, you play his cat, solving puzzles by jumping around, knocking things over, and scratching. Yes, it's a very strange game, but it's surprisingly fun and a bit surreal. You also might just learn something from it, which never hurts, either!
Ok, so you're stuck in the trenches. That's not good, but you should be able to find a ladder and climb out, right? The twisty little passageways all look the same, save a few crates, an item to interact with or two, dead bodies on the ground, and roving dinosaurs. Wait, roving dinosaurs? Yeah, roving dinosaurs. This 3D survival horror game will scare you to your bones with its deep infusion of lizard-based terror. You don't really have anything to fight back with at first, all you can do is throw a shoe and hope the dino leaves you alone long enough to run away. But watch where you run to, as there are more dangers around the next corner.