The first games I ever played were adventure games, long before shooters, RPGs, RTSs or other three letter abbreviations held my interest. As a PC gamer adventure games were a staple, one that never quite saw the same penetration on consoles. Adventure games are all about story, about exploring your environment and trying to solve puzzles. And most are also about humor. The best games in the genre are the ones where you’re clicking to hear every hilarious answer to a question, or seeing what something smells like. By the mid 90s the adventure genre was declining in popularity, with the advent of more sophisticated shooters and tactical games, but has been experiencing a kind of Renaissance in the last few years. For today’s edition of “A Game Forever Voyaging”, I thought it would be fun to share five classic and five neo-classic adventure games (one that just came out this week!).
1) The Secret Of Monkey Island – Grab a mug full of grog (or one from the machine), there’s evil pirates to fight (or join). With countless sequels and remakes this is probably one of the best known LucasArts properties that isn’t Star Wars. LucasArts adventure games are friendly, you’ll never get stuck where you have to restore from a save, and you’ll never die. You just might wander around aimlessly for a while, but there are plenty of clever quips and environments to keep you interested along the way. Monkey Island follows the journey of Guybrush Threepwood as he seeks to become a pirate, and then rescue his future love from the clutches of the dread (and dead) pirate LeChuck. Being a pirate is more about attitude than competence (you duel with insults just as well as swords), you’ll get souvenir t-shirts to commemorate some of your early quests, and you’ll get shot out a cannon with less than ideal headgear (and this is just the first chapter).
2) Space Quest Series (Space Quest V) – The Sierra series of “Quest” games are decidedly less friendly than LucasArts but no less entertaining.
The Space Quest Series follows the adventures of janitor turned space jockey Roger Wilco as he attempts to save the universe from the evil Sludge Vohaul, or just keep the decks clean. All of the Space Quest games heavily parody the sci fi genre, from 2001 to Star Wars to Alien and Star Trek. My personal favorite of the series is Space Quest V, second of the VGA variety of the games and the last before switching to a more cartoonish look (as Sierra did with Leisure Suit Larry and King’s Quest as well). Space Quest V is straight out of Star Trek, down to your chief engineer being insulted when is ship is called a garbage scow (except it is).
3) Nord And Bert Couldn’t Make Head Nor Tail Of It – It’s virtually impossible to choose the best Infocom title, so I thought I’d choose one of the weirdest. Nord and Bert isn’t an adventure game in the classic sense. You travel around to various areas and have to solve puzzles to gain a password that will give you access to the final area. Solving puzzles in each area requires a clever use of wordplay, whether its turning a Brat Child into a Brat sausage, or using spoonerisms thray plough, you’ll be racking your brain for hours to think of a clever way to escape.
4) Star Trek: Judgment Rites – The Second in Interplay’s episodic Star Trek series, this is one of the last games to feature the full original cast in their classic roles from the Original series. Arranged in eight separate but interconnected episodes, Judgment Rites takes you to strange new worlds, or traps you in dangerous nebulas, with classic Star Trek sets, banter and puzzles. Between this game and it’s predecessor (25th Anniversary) it’s like getting 15 new episodes of the show. A personal episode favorite of mine is the third segment of the game which sees the return of Trelane (The Squire Of Gothos) as a world war I flying ace.
5) Tass Times In Tone Town – One of Interplay’s earliest if not finest explorations into the adventure game genre was this weird contribution from the 80s. You find yourself in the cabin of your “Gramps”, an inventor who has mysteriously disappeared and soon find your self in Tone Town, trying to find your “Gramps” and escape while dodging the evil machinations of the raccoon snake Snarl. I played the old EGA (or maybe even CGA) version if this games with no colors but pink, blue, white and black, which is the perfect way to absorb this classic of 80s New Wave culture. Have your computer speakers turned up for the jazzy beats! It’s really Tass!
1) Sam And Max Seasons – The Telltale Games revival of the classic LucasArts original is faithful to it’s source material, while benefiting from a new episodic way of distribution. Follow Sam (a 6 foot dog private detective with a nose for justice) and Max (a weird rabbity thingy) as you battle aliens, soda jerks, and Abe Lincoln (all while grooving to a great jazz soundtrack)! This is definitely and stop and smell the roses game for all of the hilarious dialog and weird worlds. Available for the PC, Wii, iPad and more, you should really play this game if none of the others. Some of the episodes are free including “Abe Lincoln Must Die” the 4th episode of Season 1.
2. The Blackwell Bundle – From Wadjet Games comes the adventures of a would-be writer and journalist who discovers after burying her aunt, that her family legacy is a ghost named Joey. The two if you work together to help other ghosts pass on and solve mysteries in the real world. The music is a key feature in these throwback games, as well as clever and self-deprecating characters. The first few adventures are short but well worth your time. The second game is a flashback to your aunt, giving an even deeper sense of the family legacy, and eventual descent into madness that is your relationship with Joey. What’re you waiting for “Bright Eyes”.
3. Syberia 1+2 – This two part story from Benoit Sokol takes you to a weird city of auto-mata to the deepest reaches of Syberia in search of an eccentric inventor and woolly mammoths. Though a little older now, this title is still a staple of the genre, with lush environments, strange contraptions and a deep mystery that will keep you coming back for more.
4. Resonance – The most recent offering from Wadjet Games takes you on a journey through the eyes of four people, whose lives intersect to investigate the strange death of a scientist and the experiment could mean the end of us all. This game came out Tuesday and has been one I’ve been waiting for with eager anticipation. The first few minutes of intro show you the disaster that is to come, and then throws you 60 hours into the past, into the lives of these 4 people, whose fates are intwined. Gameplay is a little unique. You have short term and long term memory which is necessary in talking to characters about certain subjects, and for making connections in your head. And the four character’s paths are rich and entertaining. What started as an attempt to emulate and revive the Adventure genre with “The Blackwell Legacy” has matured into a full-fledged adventure.
5. Fahrenheit – Most of the titles in this post have been for all ages, but Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy) is decidedly not. A mature thriller in which you watch helplessly as you are possessed by an unknown force to commit murder, then are left to pick up the pieces and find what happens. In this game you play both as the murderer, and the police chasing him, having to get close to truth without meeting up too quickly. The music and opening scenes are chilling. In order to complete some actions of the game you have to complete certain motions (sort of like playing bop-it) which can be frustrating at times, but the story telling more than makes up for any deficiency. Not for the faint of heart, but a tale worth experiencing nonetheless.
Any games you think I missed, or old titles you’d like to see? Leave ’em in the comments!
6 responses to “AGFV: Calling All Adventurers”
Ah, adventure games!
I agree with you. Growing up with a PC rather than a console made me fall in love with the genre, despite its shortcomings. Kind of like when you grow up with a dog breed, that will become your favorite breed and nothing can ever change your mind of it.
It’s a pity though that nowadays, I just don’t have the time for adventure games. There are so many products out there and not enough time to play that I find I normally pick up and complete a run-of-the-mill third person action adventure game in 5-7 hourse, because I know I won’t get stuck.
And that’s the sad bit. The fun part of old school adventure games was getting stuck, talking with your friends about it, then excitedly running home when someone in the group found the answer to one of the puzzles.
I just don’t have the time nowadays for that kind of commitment. But I tell you what: When I retire, then I’m going to install and play through all the games waiting for me 🙂
In answer to your request though, moving a bit away from the humourous games (Though yes, Monkey Island and SQ5 are my two fav comedy games, though I would substitute MI2 for MI1). In the good ol’ adventure setting, King’s Quest 6 is the only adventure game in the entire series I would urge adventure gamers to play. It’s plain fantasy stuff, but it is extremely good and very well paced.
The two indie games I mentioned (The Blackwell Legacy and Resonance) are pretty short and moderately challenging so they might fit in better with a busier lifestyle. For as much as I like to play games I maybe have 1 or 2 days a month to really devote to them. Haven’t played MI2 or KQ6 (own both just haven’t gotten around to them). I’m interested to see how the remake of MI shapes up against the original as well as the Telltale series, but have to wait for some more shekels to come in before I buy them. I am happy to own original copies of the first two games though which I emulate in Scumm. Gotta love VGA 😉
Thanks Dugular for stopping by!
The Longest Journey was a great example of the genre. Still consider it to be one of the best games I’ve ever played. A lot of the dialogue and graphics still hold up 12 years later and the humor is great. It’s worth a mention that I’ve always felt that it’s one of the best examples of a female player character I’ve ever seen in any game.
Alongside Sam and Max up there it’s worth mentioning the new Monkey Island series made by the same company. More so in light of dugular’s comment – the episodes themselves only take 4-8 hours to play though and are quite save friendly making them nice games when you are pressed for time. They have a hint function if you get frustratingly stuck, but also it’s available on Steam so you have access to the steam overlay allowing you to message friends and collaborate on how to get past puzzles.
Thought about covering The Longest Journey but only had space for so many. Some of the puzzles in that game are hilarious once you figure them out (dance monkey dance). I haven’t played the new Monkey Island games but want to. Almost everything that comes out of Telltale is gold (love the Strong Bad game they put out a few years ago). Thanks for stopping by David!
Thanks for this post, Ben! I love it. These are all fantastic choices. 🙂
As far as your Neo-Classics go, I’m a huge fan of Fahrenheit, love everything by Wadjet Eye Games, and very much enjoyed Syberia and the new Sam & Max games (the original is tough!). All things Telltale are genius. 🙂
The Classics… Of course anything from Sierra or LucasFilm/LucasArts, all the Infocom games (Nord and Bert is pretty great), and Tass Times in Tonetown (which I only just won recently – I’d played it on my Amiga, but didn’t return to it for.. a long time). I own Judgment Rites, but haven’t played it. The only game in your list I haven’t tackled yet!
There are so many amazing adventure games out there. I’m glad you’re helping to bring people’s attention back to them.
So, any games you missed? Probably, but your choices are very diverse and nicely representative of a number of styles and themes.
I might have added some of the Legend Entertainment games:
All of those are pretty good (with the possible exceptions of Gateway II and Mission Critical, which have timed puzzles *ack*!).
Believe it or not, the Nancy Drew games are kind of awesome. 🙂
Also, there are a ton of good amateur AGS games that are free:
And some of the games created on the Wintermute engine are good, as well:
Alpha Polaris, Art of Murder, and The Lost Crown are commercial games built in Wintermute, and they’re all – you know – not groundbreaking, but decent and entertaining.
There’s a newer company called Daedalic Entertainment that has been focusing primarily on adventure games. Their games are fairly hit and miss, but the games that do hit are beautiful and a lot of fun.
Oh, and I almost forgot Amanita Design! They created the wonderful Machinarium and Botanicula, among others. Those two, particularly, are very much worth checking out. 🙂
I’ve no doubt you’re aware that loads of classic and recent adventure games are for sale for reasonable prices on GOG.com (DRM-free and compatible with modern systems). They have sales often.
Strangely, I wasn’t a huge fan of The Longest Journey (please don’t hate on me), but I loved Dreamfall.
I also wanted to mention Psychonauts. It’s a platformer that contains only minor adventure elements, but for some reason it feels very adventure-y. Probably in part because it’s a product of Tim Schafer (Grim Fandango, Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle).
Thanks again for your post. I really enjoyed it.
-Ash in Seattle
Thanks for your comment. It’s really encouraging to me when someone picks up one of these posts. AGFV’s never got a lot of blog traffic, but the people who find them seem to really like them. I’ve probably got an updated list of this in my head, including Grim Fandango which I actually own a physical copy of (same with DOTT and most of the other SCUMM games). I’ve played “A New Beginning” from Daedalic and enjoyed it, and have a number of the others in my queue of games to play (thanks to the Humble Bundle). Deponia’s definitely the one I want to try next. And yes GOG and I have a bit of a relationship (some 300 games or so). Damn their sales 🙂