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Try to imagine Star Wars without the music of John Williams. Or consider Bioshock without the evocative sound effects and voiceover. It's just not the same thing. A quality audio experience can catapult a good piece of entertainment into greatness. Several previous winners of the prize have gone on to more public success after the award, including Everyday Shooter, Fret Nice, and PixelJunk Eden. This year, the Excellence in Audio award will be judged be a diverse group of industry professionals. Daniel Baranowsky helped craft the audio for 2010 audio finalist Super Meat Boy. Vincent Diamante was the composer behind Flower. Jordan Fehr was the sound designer for such diverse projects as Super Meat Boy and Donkey Kong Country Returns. Dylan Fetterer will judge the same category he won back in 2008 with Audiosurf. David Lloyd and Larry Oji will jointly represent game music remix site OverClocked Remix. Matt Piersall is the founder of GL33K. Emily Ridgway directed music and audio on great games like BioShock and Brutal Legend. William Stallwood and Dain Saint created the unusual and intriguing Auditorium. Also joining the judge's staff are independent composers Rich Vreeland and Josh Whelchel.
A WORD FROM THE IGF JUDGES: "The Excellence in Audio jury also selected Frictional's Amnesia for making use of discrete elements to conjure its mood and horror, saying its audio was 'essential to the believability and enjoyment of the game' and created 'a palpable fear that rivals the best survival horror gaming experiences I can remember.' Said one jurist: 'The whole effect could have been ruined and seemed either too boring/minimalistic or too campy/overdone. Instead, it strikes a perfect balance, and shows just how crucial audio can be, specifically with regards to terror and suspense.'"The creative use of narration in SuperGiant's Bastion earned it 'top points for execution,' with one jurist saying that aspect, 'combined with earthy music, leads to a very interesting Legend-Of-Mana-by-way-of-Southern-Yarn experience that is essential to the game - I would not have continued playing it for as long as I did if not for the soothing rumble of the Narrator.'"Gaijin's Bit.Trip BEAT was praised for enhancing what otherwise might seem to be a 'modern variation on Pong' via its synchronized and 'enthralling' soundscape, one called 'absolutely integral to the experience.' 'This is the game we musician-gamers always thought would be doable when we first saw Pong,' added one jurist. The soundscape in Oxeye's Cobalt was also praised for 'giving it the amount of life it has,' with '"immersing sound effect work that absolutely sells the atmosphere,' and a soundtrack that 'stays away from melodic motifs to let the overall ambiance take center stage.'"Finally, Vblank's NES-styled Retro City Rampage was praised as a game 'chock full of audio personality,' with 'every bit, clink, and bang lovingly rendered in gorgeous square and sine waves' that crucially added to its faux-'authenticity.' 'I love that the music and the SFX were all done with tracker sheets,' added one jurist. 'It is admirable that they went to the extra trouble for authentic audio, when there are so many easier ways to make 'passable' approximations.'"
AMNESIA: THE DARK DESCENTOther Nominations: Technical Excellence, Seumas McNally Grand PrizeDeveloper: Frictional GamesPlatform: Windows, Mac, LinuxRelease Date: Available NowPrice: $19.99
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is good. So good, in fact, it was nominated in three unique categories. Read our original IGF preview here, or check out this humorous video of a gamer playing Amnesia below. Those with sensitive ears may want to stay away, as more than a little adult language comes into the mix.
[Next up: Explore the strange and broken world of Bastion]
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.