It was actually hard to name a “Game of the Motherfucking Year” for 2016, but I’ve decided to go with Nelly Cootalot – The Fowl Fleet for two simple reasons:
- It was a good game.
- It made me laugh.
By “good game,” I mean it had well-designed puzzles, had a good story, and completing it felt like a worthwhile accomplishment.
By “it made me laugh,” I mean it honestly made me laugh. You know when you write LOL online but didn’t actually LOL? Most of the time when we say something made us laugh, it didn’t actually make us physically laugh; it just triggered that part of your brain that goes, “That was funny,” and we recognize it as funny.
Nelly Cootalot made me laugh. Like, out loud. Loud enough to wake my wife, who was sleeping when I was playing it.
I already wrote what I think about the game in my “review,” so I hardly need to go into too much detail. To briefly summarize, Nelly Cootalot succeeds where so many comedy games fail — namely in the humor department. It feels effortlessly funny; the dialogue is brilliantly written and brilliantly acted.
Any shortcomings of the game, of which there are a few of the minor nitpicky variety, are more than made up for by the fact that you genuinely have a good time playing it. I can hardly think of any better criteria for judging a game to be good than that.
So, why was it so hard to name a game of the year, then?
Last year, I threw a bunch of praise at Fran Bow and called it my “game of the motherfucking year.” I wasn’t intending to start a tradition; I really just wanted to make IGN readers aware that there were adventure games coming out from other developers than Telltale.
Now, as we are closing in on 2017, I feel like it’s a worthy tradition to continue. I’ve been playing games more and more in the past year since I started doing YouTube, and more and more adventure games keep coming out. I figured finding one to name each year wouldn’t be a problem.
Turns out 2016 has kind of been a bit of a slow year for adventure games. Sure, more have been coming out, but it seems standards have dropped a little since last year.
Last year, we were spoiled for choice. Dropsy and Life Is Strange were some of the best and freshest ideas to come out of what some people insist are a stagnant genre, proving that adventure games can be as vibrant and fresh storytelling vehicles as ever. Even the more “classically tinged” offerings, like Technobabylon, were downright superb.
It’s not like 2016 has been a terrible year, but it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. Highlights of the year have included Her Majesty’s SPIFFING, which is great albeit a bit short; Sally Face, which showed great promise despite being a truncated episodic affair; and Shardlight, which provides a fascinating if unevenly paced story.
On the low end of the scale were Kathy Rain, which was a gorgeous mess of story- and design problems; Kelvin and the Infamous Machine, which had great voice acting on top of a contrived plot full of contrived design problems; and The Bunker, which didn’t have design problems so much as it hardly qualified as a game.
Of course, I can’t speak for every single game that’s come out in 2016 because I haven’t played them all. Maybe once I get around to playing The Little Acre or finishing Shardlight, I’ll regret my decision.
But I feel good about awarding this year’s “Game of the Motherfucking Year” award to Nelly Cootalot, because it’s the game I had the most fun playing this year. Your mileage may of course vary, because this is a committee-of-one affair and it’s just, like, my opinion, man.
I have to say, though, on the whole, I’m feeling good about where the adventure game genre is heading. This “second wave” resurgence of graphic adventure games is only getting stronger and more prevalent, and everyone is allowed a couple of missteps here and there.
While 2016 may have been a slightly disappointing year, it’s certainly not for lack of trying — and I’m perfectly willing to accept that it’s because everyone was just bummed out at the start of the year when it became inescapably apparent that we’d never see The Nomad Soul 2 because David Bowie went and fucking died on us.