The ultimate non-gamers’ game

Video game awards tend to feature the triple A titles that get a mainstream crowd foaming at the mouth and beating their chest in excitement. Television channels like Spike TV have hyped up the medium and what’s expected from the ceremonies to be a glamorous affair mostly filled with traditional gamers and the odd B list celebrity who “remembers playing that Mario thing” with a relative. But this year saw the start of something very interesting by the people who organise Nottingham’s annual GameCity festival. The aptly named GameCity Prize 2011 gathered not the hardcore but the extremely casual and even non-gamers to award what they felt was the best game of the year.

The group included actors, comedians and politicians and were given the Summer to play through seven unique titles that GameCity hoped would start conversations about where video games are today and what they mean to the players. As you would expect, the nominees are all cult classics in their own rights and included: Child of Eden, ilomilo, Limbo, Minecraft, Pokemon Black, Portal 2 and Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery EP. A formidable list if ever I saw one and to me, there are two titles that stand out because of what they’ve done for the industry. They are Portal 2 and Minecraft. Now, for full disclosure, I haven’t played Minecraft but am fully aware of its impact and the unfaltering love of its players. Personally, I wouldn’t call it a video game in the traditional sense and instead would say it’s more if a fantasy toy box, a modern day Lego if you will. And while I would have preferred to see Portal 2 crowned king, it was Minecraft that picked up the award.

So does the fact that Minecraft isn’t as much of a game as the others (there are very strong arguments for and against and to play devil’s advocate, I’m going against it) mean that the awards are a bit of a farce? No. The fact that GameCity got a group on non-gamers talking and playing games is already a huge leap in the right direction and all the games in the list are the perfect examples of what makes the industry great. Minecraft may not be a ‘game’ in my eyes compared to, say, Limbo, doesn’t mean that’s not to say its influences will be felt in more traditional games in the future. And like it or not, the folks that nominated it the best game of the past year are the kinds of people publishers are desperately trying to figure out how to attract. From Minecraft you can jump to Angry Birds and from there onto the slightly dubious world of Facebook gaming. All three areas are huge and have companies like EA altering long term strategies for. They’ve even favoured such areas over the 3DS in the past.

Back to the point, the awards are an interesting if not altered view of video games and one that should arguably be taken a little more seriously than the aforementioned glitzy shindigs normally promoted. What would be even better is if there were two parts, one with non-gamers and one with a mix of hardcore enthusiasts. Two winners would be announced and how close they were to each other would be an even more interesting conversation.

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Review: ilomilo (XBLA)

UPDATE: This review has been updated with purchase information to coincide with ilomilo‘s launch today.

Now then, what can be said about ilomilo? Breaking it down to its purest form, the game is a puzzle-platformer of sorts with fantastic graphics. Expanding on such simplicities, ilomilo is a divine creation filled with the kind of quirky madness and creativity that is sorely missing on the Xbox 360 of late. I won’t hide my shameless admiration for this game nor will I cover the few flaws if does contain but in this review, I’ll do my best to explain just why I think ilomilo is a wonderful triumph.

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Play ilomilo early, or now to be precise

I’ve gushed over the gorgeous art-style of ilomilo before and verbally waved my fist in anger at the risk of it only being Windows Phone 7 exclusive but now it appears I, along with all of you lovely people, can try the game via XBLA and even buy it for 800 MS Points (£6.85/$10/€9.60). Before it’s officially released. Woot! But how, you may ask as I did when reading The Sixth Axis story. Navigate yourselves to ilomilo‘s official site and follow the on screen instructions to nab a download code for the game. Marvelous!

ilomilo confirmed for XBLA with additional meat boy action

A recent blog update on the ilomilo site (via Joystiq) revealed that Meat Boy from XBLA anger-fest Super Meat Boy will be making a non-playable cameo in the game as will a few other characters that for now will remain nameless.

A DLC pack was also announced called Autumn Tale which features the fifth and sixth chapters of the adorable platformer for 400 MS Points (£3.43/$5). Both maybe decent news stories on their own but the best announcement from developers Southend has to be the reassurance that ilomilo is definitely still headed for XBLA after it was said to be an AT&T exclusive on Windows Phone 7. What isn’t so concrete is its Xbox 360 release date that, if I were a gambling man, would put money on being after its had some time being exclusive to AT&T.

ilomilo goes AT&T exclusive

Despite having a slightly odd name, Windows Phone 7 has been given a release date of October 21st and among all the interesting linkages with Xbox Live accounts, the phone will play host to a number of games. One such title is ilomilo, a quirky platformer first seen back in April. Then is was said to be headed for Xbox Live Arcade but the unveiling of Windows Phone 7 brought with it the announcement that ilomilo will be exclusively available to owners of Microsoft’s mobile with an AT&T account. It’s unclear as to how that will translate for here in the UK since AT&T is an American service but what’s more concerning is whether or not ilomilo is still coming to XBLA. The fact that it was playable earlier this year would suggest that it will do but the exclusivity for AT&T could delay ilomilo’s Xbox 360 debut. If that is the case, it’ll be a crying shame. Not just because tariff exclusives, like many retail exclusives, aren’t in the consumer’s best interest but limiting the audience of such a highly previewed game is lunacy. I’m sure that the marketing moguls of Microsoft would disagree but as a gaming enthusiast, I think it would be foolish.

{Thanks Joystiq}

ilomilo. Cute, quirky and coming soon

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Out of the blue for most gamers comes a puzzle game that quite simply looks gorgeous. A word which may be banded about quite often but it perfectly describes ilomilo, a new word-turning puzzle game recently announced for Xbox Live Arcade. Developers Southend Interactive have released a trailer (via GamerBytes) showing an art style and graphical prowess which is, well, gorgeous! So far, ilomilo is only said to be coming to XBLA but a PS3 or PC release is always a possibility. Check out Southend Interactive’s blog for further info on this delightful looking game.