So I'll confess - I got bored of trawling through the 2009 Independent Games Festival finalists, and judging from my blog traffic reports I'm guessing you did too. Too many of the games just didn't have any public media to base a meaningful post around. I'd recommend to the IGF that they make the provision of a public-release trailer a condition of entry in future years, to help facilitate a meaningful discussion around the awards.
Anyway, for the sake of finishing things off, here are the finalists I didn't get around to doing a full post about:
A first-person brawler with a nice flavour to it, even if the sound effects are a bit Duke Nukem 3D. I love the look of the bone-sword, and also the speaking alien near the start of the trailer. Developers Ace Team have a very professional looking site, too. This looks like one of those games that you wouldn't know was an independent release unless someone told you.
A very cute concept is on display in Retro/Grade - it's a Gradius-style shoot-em-up, played in reverse. Time runs backwards, and you have to catch your incoming laser shots while dodging the enemy's lasers. Mistakes "damage the space-time continuum". I love the concept, although I think in practice it might end up being functionally identical to your regular sort of shoot-em-up. Also, there's not exactly a lot of variety on display in the demo above. The official site has another teaser video, if you want more.
This game, by Jason Rohrer, is available in full for free, which is awesome. There's a couple of catches though. One is that the game is, for some reason, only available at the moment through the online version of Esquire Magazine, so if you object to visiting digital men's magazines you're out of luck. (If not, though, you can grab it here.) Secondly, it requires two players, two networked computers, and a server. What's it about? I have no idea, other than that it explores "consciousness and isolation". Sounds fascinating.
I'm completely out of enthusiasm for describing these games, which is a shame because the last one is Cortex Command, which I have been hearing through the buzz is "frikkin' awesome". You should, apparently, check it out. I understand it to be a little like Worms, only with butt-kicking robots, or somesuch. You can download a pretty extensive demo through the official site, or alternatively shell out for the fully-featured final release. If you play it, tell me whether you liked it.
I'd finish up by saying that while there are some excellent games in the full set of IGF finalists, there are also a lot of games that are conspicuous by their absence. You Have To Burn The Rope, for instance, is cute, but it's the shallowest shore of an ocean of games from the last year that have been exploring similar themes, and it's disappointing to see it featured when titles like Shift 3, which have actual gameplay, are missing. The Maw, already enjoying a well-publicised retail release, hardly seems to need the leg up, while Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble has been struggling for just this kind of love from day one. The inclusion of Musaic Box is a joke in bad taste, especially when Dark Room Sex Game and I Wish I Were The Moon were completely ignored.
It's really not clear what agenda the IGF is trying to promote through its selections, and I think that weakens the value of the awards as a whole.
Coil developer Edmund McMillen, who was nice enough to stop by after I was less than kind to his game, has been saying something similar over on his development blog, although less politely, and I'll direct you to his comments.