I’ve been playing adventure games since I was fairly young and various point and clicks have punctuated moments of my life. When I was a school kid I played a game on the BBC Micro called Granny’s Garden, this was my initial adventure game experience. It was the first time I’d ever seen an interactive narrative with visual elements, before then it was text based games that used parsers. Exploration and puzzle solving was an entirely different pace & style of gameplay from the platformers and arcade games I’d been used to.
Sierra’s King’s Quest and Space Quest games past me by but when LucasArts rocked up with The Secret of Monkey Island I was blown away. The art style had a uniqueness that suited the humour and gloriously self-referential puzzles. The sword fights in which you traded insults rather than blows was exquisite and after Maniac Mansion & Zak McKracken it cemented LucasArts trademark style and humour. After that LucasArts released an adaption of Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, another well written adventure with some great puzzles.
I played a few more adventures such as Lure of the Temptress and Simon the Sorcerer on my Atari ST but consoles took over and I didn’t play any for a damn long time. A couple of things happened that reignited my interest in the genre. Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher on the Mega CD captivated me, the Blade Runner esque cyberpunk aesthetic, interesting characters, crazy plot, voice acting & a more adult theme landed at exactly the right time for me as a teenager.
The last pure point and click I played during this period turned out to be not only one of my favourite adventure games, but one of my most adored games of all time. In 1997 I got my first PC (yeah I know lots of firsts, work with me people!) and with it I bought Westwood’s Blade Runner. A game that really altered my perception of what the medium could do, I adored the film so the concurrent story taking place in amazingly realised versions of some of the film’s locales was stunning.
The pre-rendered environments, realistic character animation, top notch voice acting and strong narrative showed me how a game could offer characters and dialogue with depth. It came on 4 CD’s and had a ludicrous number of endings, the atmosphere was astounding given the technological limits Westwood had to deal with. Then it all changed; adventure games had been in steady decline, the move to 3D somewhat instigated ironically by Myst led to third person action and FPS’s taking over the market.
So that was that. I went off to Uni where the N64 and PS1 ruled the roost. It wasn’t until years later when I really thought the genre had died commercially, that it suddenly re-emerged. Telltale’s Sam & Max and Wallace & Gromit peaked my interest, although Sam & Max’s puzzles were about as logical as running into parked cars. Wallace & Gromit wasn’t bad, Back to the Future was a bit better, Rockstar’s L.A. Noire was an interesting evolution, then came The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead was a genre redefining moment, a move away from old school puzzles to a dialogue heavy, character driven experience that focused on narrative and choices. It brought the fundamentals of an often frustrating genre (hovering the cursor over everything to find one tiny stupid thing or even stupider puzzle design) to a broader audience starved of adventure games. Meanwhile WadjetEye had been making the Blackwell series, amongst other things and AGS was being used by indies to create all kinds of cool point & clicks like Size Five’s Ben There, Dan That.
Tim Shafer’s Double Fine went to Kickstarter and gamers said hell yes, gaining extraordinary backing way beyond the initial target. So born was Broken Age and now the genre feels revitalised with new mechanics, choice and narrative complexity. The Wolf Among Us is another piece of Telltale genius and games like Dear Esther & Gone Home are really extensions and variations of the genre.
I’ve missed some games many consider to be classics such as Beneath a Steel Sky, Broken Sword, Loom, The Dig, Full Throttle & The Longest Journey. I didn’t play them at the time but I am playing them occasionally now, along with newer adventures like Kentucky Route Zero, Botanicula, Machinarium & Deponia. The genre’s future looks much brighter and more diverse than it ever did maybe six or seven years ago.
Chris Burton’s Adventure Creator for Unity shows how technology is helping devs make a new wave of adventure games, a fully integrated framework for developing beautiful adventures. Touch interfaces naturally work well with the point and click mechanic so even more players are being exposed to the genre. I’m 35 and although I have an eclectic game taste, adventures games are a calmer, more thoughtful way to game in a landscape of constant action. To adventure and beyond! I’m so sorry.