Best of 2011!
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AlphalandWhere do all the bugs go? What happened between early testing of a game and final release? Jonas Kyratzes may make you wonder with this experimental platformer. Recruited to test an early build of Jonas's new game, you wind up falling through the cracks into a strange place you were never meant to see.

AntimatiereSomething awfully scientific goes awfully wrong, according to the opening sequence. Scientists, explosion... you get the idea. Then we are in the head of our hero, who upon speaking to the first two-dimensional character wiggling against a wall, learn that they are the only hope in a world thrown into dimensional disarray.

Beneath the WavesWhen the Sun and the Sea have a falling out, it's up to you to dive into the ocean and retrieve the Idols hidden beneath the waves, carrying them all to the mountaintops where they rightfully belong... or so you think. Gregory Weir's latest experimental platformer is short, dreamlike, and surreal, and worth a play despite suffering from some tedious avoidance/platforming sequences.

Bicicletas HoyBicicletas Hoy isn't the first interactive music video on the web, but it's definitely one of the most charming. Developed by Argentinian design team Videogamo, this pixelated piece of interactive art features the musical stylings of rock band Bicicletas and their infectious song Hoy. It's short and not much for challenging, but makes for an engaging two minute romp.

Bla BlaAlthough Bla Bla is presented on a technological medium, many of the pictures and figures are hand-drawn or made through stop-motion animation. The combined effect of modernity and tradition produces a unique aesthetic and a visible human touch to the gameplay.

ConvergenceThe riddle of the sphinx is invoked at the beginning of Convergence, the flixel-based platformer/life simulator/interactive art piece that serves as the first release from Streetlight Studios: "What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?"... No, the answer isn't "William the Performing Dog". It's that miserable pile of secrets itself: man. And you'll be be spending an interesting three days in a life herein. Wake up, fall out of bed, drag a comb across your head and check it out.

DiscoveryIn the beginning, there was the void, and unless you put your puzzling skills to work in this little experimental game, that's all there will ever be. Use a series of powers, unlocked as you play and experiment, to shape the world around you and turn it from an empty void into a space teeming with life and drama.

Divis MortisHospitals are full of all sorts of hazards, like paper robes that don't close all the way, doctors with cold hands, and... zombies? HM! Lynnea Dally's undead apocalypse begins with you waking from a rather impromptu bout of unconsciousness in the hospital radiation room, but you have more things than a rather impressive headache to worry about in this horror interactive fiction game.

Fisher DiverRecently, we've seen a bit of a mini-renaissance of quality casual releases set underwater, defying the conventional wisdom that games get terrible when they go down the drain. Fisher Diver, an action game by Eli Piilonen, keeps the quality but darkens the tone. On its surface, it's a retro-styled fishing game about a little ball that hopes to follow in it's father's profession. However, like the ocean, there are some unsettling things to be found below the surface.

FlawsFlaws, the interactive work of fiction from author Jon Ingold, is a difficult game to categorize as well as a different game to review. For starters, it isn't really a game in the traditional sense, more like a choose your own adventure produced for modern, Kindle-enabled devices. Then there's the nature of the story, where discussing even a few of the details can spoil whole bits of the experience. Suffice it to say, Flaws is an intriguing interactive fiction "game" about finding treasure and fame, the Andromeda galaxy, a mysterious diadem, and a possible assassination.

GreyHow far are you willing to go for someone who doesn't even seem to know you're there? In this short, atmospheric artsy platformer, scour a grim world looking for bits of colour to return to a loved one, even at the cost of losing yourself in the process. Originally featured in a Link Dump Friday article, Grey's simple, repetitive gameplay may not win everyone over, but for others the changing environment and wordless message may deliver an intensely personal experience.

Hero's AdventureOnce upon a time, there was a lonely little boy who lived deep in the woods with his parents... and that's about all we can tell you when it comes to Terry Cavanagh's very short but very odd retro RPG. It'll only take you about five minutes to play, but the heebie-jeebies may stay with you a bit longer than that.

JanuaryThe passing of a season always makes me nostalgic for it. Lord knows that I'm never too thrilled with skidding my Honda on the icy roads of winter, but now that the May-Flowers-bringing showers of April are upon us (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least), I find myself wishing for one last walk in a swirling frozen cloud of flurries. While Chione is quite unlikely to heed my prayers, I can take solace in January, an interactive art webtoy release from Rich Vreeland. It's an impressive debut release that manages to truly capture the beauty and melancholy of a walk of a blustery winter's evening.

MitozaSeeds can do a lot of things in casual gaming land. Yep, when you plant a seed, it seems that anything can happen. Never has that idea been better expressed then in Mitoza, a surreal point-and-click webtoy by Baboon. Once you start making choices for your little embryonic pod, there's no telling what the result will be.

OsadaIf there's anyone in the land of Casual Gaming that has experienced the work of Amanita Design, and hasn't, in some small way been charmed, I don't think I've met them. That said, while I can appreciate that the success of the Samorost-making company allows them to take their time in formulating each new project, I do start going through withdrawal symptoms round about the eighteen month mark. Fortunately, the nights of the shakes are over with the release of the distinctly surreal and surreal-ly distinct desert-themed Osada. It may be more of an interactive music video webtoy than a game proper, but frankly, I'd be fine watching Amanita Design animate a phone-book.

PirouettePirouette, a piece of interactive art by Hayden Scott-Baron and increpare, is an infuriating work. Gameplay, which consists of linearly walking and talking to people, leans away from the "interactive", which might lead to the perennial discussion as to whether it qualifies as a game at all. The plot, depicting someone confronting those they loved and those they hurt, is vague and, with its frank talk of sex and toxic relationships, deliberately provocative. And yet... there is beauty to be found here. Pirouette will divide opinion. However, whether your opinion is positive or negative, it will be strongly so, and that can't be a bad thing.

Second Person Shooter ZatoSecond Person Shooter Zato is a unique kind of action game that flips everything you know about shooters on its head before turning it inside-out and looking at it through a mirror. Well, that sounds like it would cancel the weirdness out, but it doesn't! In this game, you control a gun-toting hero who is being attacked by groups of enemies. However, instead of getting a first-person view of the action, you can only see yourself through the eyes of the enemy. Spin around, fire your weapons, and hope you can survive without looking at the world from behind your own gun!

The End Of UsCreated by Michael Molinari and Chelsea Howe for the San Francisco 2011 48 Hour Global Game Jam, The End Of Us is a surprisingly evocative game about two meteors meeting and playing amidst the strangeness and charm of deep space. As much a piece of wordlessly lyrical interactive art as an action game, The End Of Us matches its play to an engaging soundtrack and offers a short but satisfying experience.

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