My AdvJam2023 picks

AdvJam2023 is over, and while I’m happy for my first place and I mostly agree on the end ranking, I’d like to give my own shout out to the games that impressed me for one reason or the other… mostly because the ranking categories in the jam are too general and don’t reflect what I usually look for in an adventure game. So, for those who are interested, here’s my selection in no particular order.

Best overall:
Under the sea

In every jam there’s that one game that’s just too good to be true. This time, for me, it was Under the sea. I loved everything about it – the writing, the characters, art, puzzle design, ending, everything is just flawless. This could have easily been a commercial game. It was no surprise for me and all jam enthusiasts, as The Argonauts always deliver high quality games, but in my opinion this time they turned the dial up to 11.

Best protagonist:

I have a thing for unlikeable, vain, selfish protagonists. I loved Rufus from Deponia, I loved Ataru Moroboshi from Urusei Yatsura, and The Emperor’s New Groove is my favorite Disney classic. That’s why I instantly fell in love with the prince from Humbled – he’s so self-centered and idiotic that he even has to learn to pick up things – but yelling and kicking sure is fun. The character arc is also extremely well executed and some of the puzzles are very nice.

Best characters:
Saure Gurken: Audiospawn

Based on a real-world band where the author plays bass and sings, the four characters are just oozing with personality, mainly due to the fact that they’re voiced by their real-world counterparts. As it’s usual in Vance’s games, there’s a lot of insanity going on: it starts with a simple fetch quest for new guitar strings, and it quickly turns into… something else. Guaranteed laughter. I hope we’ll see more Saure Gurken adventures in the future. Oh, and the music (both background and ending theme) is great.

Best debut:
Magenta: IN SPACE

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”, they say. But we should also say “don’t judge an adventure game by its screenshots”. While the art might be unpolished, this small adventure was surprisingly well designed, and I had a great time playing this entry. The room where the protagonist’s hue switches to green as they approach a power source is a cute detail that shows all the passion and dedication the authors put in this. And given that this is their first game on itch, this is not a bad entry at all.

Best writing:

This entry has a very Lucasartsesque humor – which is exactly my kind of humor. The script’s dance between serious and lighthearted is well executed, the puzzles are fair and I’ve never been called out this hard by a videogame ending.

Other games you can’t miss

There are many other great games in the jam, and I can’t possibly recommend them all. So here’s a quick list of the ones that better suit my tastes.

A Royal Midnight Snack – if there’s one thing I love about shdon’s games is how his puzzles integrate well with the environment, you never feel like they’re arbitrary obstacles. And he has a talent for short, funny standalone plots. Bonus: it features a wherewolf using a slingshot!

Twisted Times in Twinsmouth – how ironic that Marco, the best plot writer around, made a game about him being out of ideas for a plot. His stories are never trivial nor predictable, and his self deprecating humor hits the right strings.

The Third Wish – after last year’s Stowaway, George Broussard shows once again his storytelling skills. As the plot takes off the game moves from puzzles to interactive fiction, but it’s a good choice for the flow.

The Alignment Paradox – “mostly decent” is an understatement. Dan takes a well deserved 3rd place in the jam with a very intriguing story, but for me the highlight is the interaction with Luna the dog, a mechanic you rarely see in adventure games.

Pixel’s Time Paradox – Yann’s pizza logo should be enough for me to include his games in my list. But this game has a lovely atmosphere, wonderful art, and while it’s a bit short and on the easy side, I was hooked and I’ll be awaiting the continuation.

And last but not least… Shards of God. Honza’s number one enemy is time. This would have been a serious contender for the top spot. The full game should be out in the next few days, and I’ll be excited when it’s out. His art, writing, puzzle design and plots never disappoint, and I’m sure this game will be no exception.

4 thoughts on “My AdvJam2023 picks”

  1. A very solid list. I agree that the categories could be better. It’s especially confusing to have an Overall category, as well as the Overall ranking. Also can’t wait for Shards of God!

    1. The problem with the Overall category is that it has the same name as the ranking, but as a category in itself it makes sense because sometimes a game is more than its parts. Maybe two games are great and deserve 5 stars in everything but you liked one way more than another – last year I tweaked my ratings to make the averages reflect my overall feelings, so I was happy to have an appropriate category this year. But still the name should change to “general” or something similar 😛

  2. Seeing “Under the Sea” on top of your list is as much a pleasure as it is a surprise. Thank you. I’m especially glad to see that my flashlight “puzzle” didn’t screw it up.

    I personally don’t play as much as other members of the Argonauts – your “Other games” list pretty much covers the games I tried this year. And I agree that they are all well done.

    As Esmeralda told you elsewhere, we don’t like the AdvJam rating categories either, even if we can’t complain about the outcome. Maybe we should petition for a change in 2024…

    1. My only issue with the flashlight puzzle is that there’s no indication that moving the mouse that way will have that result 😛 but I’m just nitpicking, really!

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