This year was a real challenge and right until the new year I was umming and arring over which game truly deserved this, the most prestigious of prestigious awards!
This year the title goes to non other than Life is Strange developed by DONTNOD and published by Square Enix.
So what is it that makes Life is Strange (LiS) the best game of the year?
Well LiS is a strange one. It is in no way the best in terms of game play. It's controls are rather clunky and often unforgiving.
As a puzzle game it uses a novelty mechanic of rewinding time to either help you get the right answers in a question-time scenario, or save a friend from plummeting to her death, or being shot, or run over by a train, or being caught while out past curfew, or while hiding, or... Well or everything.
What starts as a novelty quickly turns into the only mechanic really needed for puzzle solving. Pretty much if you ever need to solve a puzzle you can be sure that rewinding time is involved in there somewhere.
However despite these problems, LiS is still the game that I will happily give the title of Game of the Year too.
Well as someone else put it (I'm afraid I do not know who so can not credit), LiS brings back all the nostalgia of being a teenage American girl in 2013 which you never lived.
Yeah I know, I'm a man who has never lived in a costal town in the USA and in 2013 was in my late twenties.
But wait, for this is where/how LiS is clever. It pulls at certain issues and phantoms that everyone regardless of age will be able to relate to; memories of feeling powerless, betrayed and scared. Of those days under the bright blue sky where it was just you and your BFF where you felt invincible and that together you could take on the world and win.
This is why LiS is deserving of Game of the Year. People will tell you about the choices made available from other games, or the challenges, graphics or pushing of boundaries, but what they will not tell you is about immersion and experience, of feeling your heart lurch in your throat when you realise that something terrible has happened to your friend because of a choice that you made, or the anger and hatred that fills you as you stare helpless at someone who you previously trusted as they torture you emotionally and figuratively.
As my wife put it to me the other week, the other games in my list are games that I say people should play for one reason or another, largely because of fun, but LiS is a game that everyone should or must play.
To put it another way, a few years ago a friend of mine worked in a video rental store. Someone came to him holding a copy of American Pie in one hand and American Beauty in the other asking for advice on which to rent. The friend put his hand on American Pie and told the customer "One of these films is a good film that you will enjoy and laugh at. In years to come you will remember that film as being a good film". He then put his hand on American Beauty "the other film will change your life".
Sure that's a pretentious way of putting it, but Life is Strange is my video game version of his American Beauty. You play this game and things will never be the same again.
I played through chapters 1-4 throughout October and chapter 5 when it was released in December, and throughout those months, while there have been games that I have enjoyed immensely, none of them have touched me in the way that LiS did.
All the other games left me wanting in some ways. Life is Strange did not.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley