Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Adventure has Ever Been With Us…

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 9, 2011

Okay, more of an open-mic kinda thing here, but I thought I’d ask some questions today, if ya’ll don’t mind.

#1 – Do you play modern adventure games (graphic adventure games or Interactive Fiction) today? For example,  the Blackwell series, Gemini Rue, the Sherlock Holmes series, Scratches, Blue Lacuna, Telltale Games’ titles (Monkey Island, Back to the Future, Sam & Max, etc.)?

#2 – Did you play (and enjoy) adventure games  in the past, during their PC hayday (pretty much up until the late 90’s)?

If you do play the newer adventure games, what attracts you to them? Why do you enjoy them?

If you used to play them but now do not, why not? Have you tried and they failed to excite you anymore? Was it the games that changed, or was it you?

If you have never played them (or tried playing but never liked them), why not?

As for myself, I *do* play some modern adventure games, although they don’t thrill me as much as they used to.  I think I *want* to like them a lot more than I do. I have enjoyed some of the Telltale games tremendously, but I play for the humor and story more than the puzzles.  And the puzzles in Telltale’s games are pretty easy. Maybe I just like solving easy puzzles.  I like the mild dopamine buzz or whatever that comes with problem-solving, but I’m too lazy to put much effort into it. 🙂  I dunno.

I don’t know that I’ve personally changed all that much – there are several adventure games from the 90’s that I never got too far in, too. Most of the ones I completed and loved the heck out of were always the ones with the strong (and usually humorous) story but not particularly difficult (IMO)… the Monkey Island games, Loom (that one was *too* easy, we finished it in about one night),  Grim Fandango, Neuromancer (unless you consider it an RPG – it was kind of a hybrid), Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood, Eric the Unready, the Tex Murphy games, etc. There are outliers, like Phantasmagoria (I didn’t consider the story in that one to be very compelling), Zork, and a couple other text adventures I’m not sure I remember the names of.

So I guess for me… I’m a sucker for a good story and easy, maybe. I’m one of the lowest-common-denominator-types, I guess.

Filed Under: Adventure Games - Comments: 18 Comments to Read

  • Mark said,

    I play adventure games occasionally, mostly Telltale’s. Not many. Too young to have experienced them in the golden age, but I’ve gone back and revisited the highlights. Telltale does good work, but for my money, the most interesting adventure games of the 21st century have been the Ace Attorney series.

  • Magiks said,

    I tried a monkey island game, but didn’t like it. It felt entirely too… slow? you have to watch as your character walks as slow as possible from place to place and it was very annoying. Never got past the first couple levels.

    I kinda miss Myst, and while I really enjoyed it, I got stuck at one point and never came back. When I tried to replay it from GOG I just powered through the puzzles because I remembered them and it wasn’t nearly as fun.

  • MJG said,

    1. Yes. Off the top of my head, I’ve played the modern Monkey Island and Sam & Max titles, Gemini Rue, Culpa Innata, and probably a dozen random Adventure Game Studio titles.

    2. Yes, though I’d say my personal peak was the early 90s for the most part. Monkey Island and King’s Quest were among my favorite games at the time, and I also recall playing titles like Loom and Maniac Mansion.

    I’m in the same boat as you with the modern games: all I really want is an easy play with an enjoyable game world. I’m not looking to challenge my mind or anything like that. I’m rarely excited to sit down and play an adventure game, but I do appreciate the change of pace they can give you. I mean, you can only play so many action games and RPGs in a row before you need to break things up a little.

  • Groboclown said,

    I’ve played text adventures for a long, long time. In the late 90s I used Inform to write a few (and a few z-machine emulators). I still play some on occasion. Heck, even one of my last year Java 4k games was a Zork demake.

    I also have played quite a few of the graphical adventure games. Like, Masquerade (for the Apple //e), Zork Grand Inquisitor (that was a stinker), Leisure Suit Larry (and the original pure text version), and, oh goodness, most of the Lucas Arts adventure games. Recently, with ScummVM, it has become much easier to go back and play those.

    I thought that Legend had a really interesting mix in their text adventure games, by having that hint of graphics to them. You mentioned Eric The Unready (a fantastic game), but they had other good ones like the Homeworld series.

  • Felix Pleșoianu said,

    I used to play interactive fiction a lot, starting in 2004 or so, but I slowed down in recent years. That’s modern IF; the only classic title I’ve played seriously was The Hobbit.

    When it comes to graphical adventures, I’ve played some of the classics with a friend (Zack McKraken springs to mind — did I spell that right?) and more recently Myst. Didn’t get very far, as I’m terrible with puzzles, but loved it nevertheless.

    Then what do I play these games for, you might ask. Well, mostly for the exploration part. If it has a story as well, so much the better. Luckily, plenty of IF focuses on these sides.

    Come to think of it, do CYOA books count? What about Planescape: Torment?

  • Lachlan Kingsford said,

    1. I don’t play many – though this may change. I’m up to episode 4 of Back to the Future and am loving it – but, like you said, it has more to do with the humour and story. After all – More Back to the Future! I also played the demo of one of the Sam and Maxes. They are unfortunately still haunted by camera and control issues.

    2. I played Grim Fandango probably around 2004 and it is my absolute favourite game of all time. I was probably going through my gaming stages a little late for adventure games – born in 1988 so was really about 7 or under during the peak of the genre. I remember playing Monkey Island though… And playing (and losing) Hugo’s house of horror

  • zacaj said,

    I always get excited by them, but I cant stand the puzzles in anything besides Gemini Rue and Chzos Mythos

  • MalcolmM said,

    1. I play lots of modern adventures, most recently Secret Files 2 (pretty good) and Lost Horizon (great game).

    2. I’ve been playing adventure games since back in the days of Scott Adams text adventures, and of course Infocom text adventures.

    Some modern adventure games excite me like the old classics. Lost Horizon has a great story, the puzzles were a bit easy but at least they aren’t frustrating. Ceville, which I played about a year ago, is a great cartoon adventure almost the equal of some LucasArts classics.

    Overall though I would say that I don’t enjoy adventure games as much as I use to. Mostly this is because I find they are stuck in a rut. Inventory puzzles and searching for small items still dominate.

    I would like to see more first person adventure games, where your move your character around to solve the puzzles. There were a couple of great games in the 90’s, Relentless (Twinsen’s adventure) and Twinsen’s Odyssey – they had interesting and varied locations, a great and humorous story, and some puzzle solving. If I remember correctly, the puzzle solving wasn’t just use item x at location y, you actually manipulated your environment with Twinsen.

    The Nintendo videogame series Zelda has similar puzzles, but the series is stuck in a rut, the puzzles are good but they are repeated game after game.

  • MalcolmM said,

    Oops, I just realized that the Twinsen games aren’t first person, they are top down 3D games. Although maybe there was a first person mode, but I don’t think so.

    Zelda, at least on the Gamecube/Wii is first person. But I actually perferred the earlier top down Zeldas, such as Zelda on the SNES.

  • Groboclown said,

    @MalcomM – The Little Big Adventure games (Relentless and Twinsen’s Odyssey) were 3rd person isometric 3D games, and probably my favorite games ever. There wasn’t a first person perspective. However, I agree that they had some varied puzzle gameplay that was unique.

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    1. I’ve played a few “modern” ones (Monkey Island special editions, Telltale’s Sam & Max season 1, Telltale’s Monkey Island episode 1). The MI special editions were great, but I really like the originals so that’s probably why I like the remakes. The telltale stuff on the other hand I don’t enjoy. I quite like the writing, but I don’t like the interface and I don’t think the puzzles are any good.

    Gemini Rue and the Blackwell games are on my to-play list though.

    2. I have hazy recollections of my earliest computer use with my Dad, where he showed me Monster Math and Adventures in Math on his new IBM PC. Not sure how much those counted as games, but my interest grew and I was allowed to play Alley Cat and King’s Quest.

    By comparison to the other games, King’s Quest was a revelation. The level of interaction was amazing, and it felt like you had a huge place to explore, and important quests to solve!

    I became quite an avid fan of Sierra’s adventure games, and have always preferred them to any others. Even recently I’ve gone back and played Space Quest I (completed it last weekend, next up SQ2 before the Infamous Adventures remake is finished!). As for my favourite, well… it’s a dead heat between Space Quest IV and Quest for Glory IV.

    Lucasarts output has been highly regarded for quite some time, so I won’t speak too much about that, but there have been several other classic graphical adventure games out there that have really caught my eye. Firstly, I’d like to mention Westwood Studios, known for Dune II and C&C, they also made the Kyrandia series which are all rather good. Another series worth a mention would be Simon the Sorcerer, although I can only speak for the quality of the first two in the series.

    And on a final note, it’s worth remembering that Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw has a little side-line in adventure games, and up until recently I hadn’t even considered playing them, but since I’m trying to catch up on all the adventure games I’ve missed over the years I decided I’d start with his. Turns out, they’re actually quite good! There’s a series of four games that he’s made which have a central story linking them together that you learn more about with each game. I’d highly recommend them, and they won’t take long to complete (and they’re free!).

    Lots of others I could mention, but it’s also important to remember there were lots of bad games, with weak stories, poor humour, and annoying puzzles. I choose to replay the good and memorable ones from my past, but I’ve no problem with trying new ones to see if they match up. Adventure games are a genre that will never truly die off, since there always seem to be people around making them (and there’s certainly a lot of us around to play them!).

  • Silemess said,

    I occasionally get that craving to play an adventure game, but I rarely get the satisfaction back from it that I was hoping for. I was introduced to adventure games at a friend’s house. They were a large family and they played a wide variety of games.

    I remember being introduced to the King’s Quest and Space Quest by watching their older siblings play. But part of the joy in it was that it usually wasn’t just one person playing. Their theme for the games was that the family would break up into teams of 1 or 2 (occasionally more) people. They’d have roughly the same amount of time to play over the course of the week and you’d be racing the other teams to solve puzzles.

    That was where the fun was. If you got stuck or frustrated for too long, chances were one of the other teams had a solution. And if they didn’t, then you’d have a chance to get ahead of them if you found it. You wound up in this carefully negotiated place of good will. You’d help them out so that they’d help you out (or genuine good will too, gloating about success at a problem that stymied too many teams). Makes me want to organize another round of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis again.

    That enjoyment and fun is something I haven’t found since. I still enjoy puzzling through the games, Samrost was the last one I played. I just think there’s some little evolution for adventure games in the modern world that hasn’t been found yet.

  • McTeddy said,

    1. I own and enjoy the first few seasons of Sam and Max as well as the new monkey island. I do play lesser name ones here and there also… but not nearly to the extent of the TT games.

    That said… overall I don’t consider myself an adventure game player.

    2. I didn’t have much of a gaming PC in those days so I didn’t play them much. Even more so… I HATED the ones I did play.

    Sure, there was a few exceptions like Full Throttle… but I wasn’t a fan.

    3. Why I enjoy the modern but not the classic? I’m ashamed to admit this… but I enjoy them because of the fancy voice acting and animations. It makes it easier for me to enjoy the jokes and silly storylines.

    But the REAL killer with alot of old adventure games were the puzzles. “Put the shoe inside the cannon to scare the monkeys into throwing a banana which causes the guard to slip and drop the key into your hands…”

    I struggled in those games because many puzzles weren’t logical. I’d get stuck… I wouldn’t see the funny story anymore… and then I’d move on.

    I DO like adventure games in theory. I just often find that I don’t enjoy the way they are implemented.

  • Rubes said,

    Well, I guess I can’t not respond to this.

    I’m with Malcolm, I’ve played adventure games since the original Colossal Caves Adventure back in the late 70s, as well as Zork and the Scott Adams games. Loved those Scott Adams games. I also really liked the LucasArts games like Full Throttle, and Myst was fun back in the day.

    I still play them here and there, too, mostly the good modern IF games, and a few graphical games. I’ve also tried some of the more recent ones, but I generally find that I don’t have quite the same experience.

    Some of those include Dreamfall (well done, but never really got into it), The Abbey (well, had to check that one out, but it was plagued with bugs and the story was essentially ripped from Name of the Rose), and a few others. Some of the more recent ones I’ve liked include Dave Gilbert’s work (like The Shivah), Machinarium, and the Penumbra series.

    Hopefully someday soon we’ll see how people like first-person graphical adventures with text input…

  • Diogo de Andrade said,

    1) I play loads of graphical adventures, including “finding the objects” kind of game, which I play with my wife extensively
    2) Always played a lot of graphical adventures since I got my first computer with access to those, back in 1990, eating away at the catalogues of Sierra, Lucasarts, etc…

    You raise a couple of interesting points in your post, but they are not so conjoint as they seem, in my opinion:
    a) Are the puzzles in graphic adventures too easy? Have we become intellectually lazy that we prefer easier puzzles and hence this is what developers create? Or are they trying to cater for a wider audience?
    b) Is our enjoyment in graphical adventures wanned through the years? Does this mean the quality dropped off? Or that the puzzles are too easy?

    I have some thoughts on both of these… First of all, it’s difficult to say if the puzzles have become easier or not… We are more “experienced” with games nowadays, which makes it possible for us to draw from past experiences to navigate a game… Additionally, lots of us are also game developers (aspiring or not), which means we’re familiar with the internal mechanics of the games and discard some possibilities beforehand because of it…
    But even if we allow for the idea that the puzzles have become easier, we can also postulate that some of them were hard because of low graphical quality, demanding pixel-by-pixel scanning of the environment to find that elusive object, the absense of internet walkthroughts, and the overall illogical nature of some of them (which is frowned upon nowadays).
    So, my conclusion, is that the puzzles just seem easier because we’re not fighting the game system anymore and because we have more experience…
    This isn’t of course a general rule, because there are some games that are just easier by nature, to cater for a wider audience, and that’s just game design.

    About the second point, regarding our enjoyment. Again, I have several thoughts on this… one of them pertains to graphical style and such… For me, a good graphical adventure is like a book, should leave plenty to the imagination… Old adventures weren’t as visually and textual/speech descriptive as current ones, players didn’t get everything spelled out for them, and that made us fill the blanks, which in turn makes the world more believable for us (not necessarly for the person next to us). Another reason why I don’t think current graphical adventures are so engaging is the fact that I feel that most of them got cornered into a place where they don’t innovate as much as they should (from the standpoint of storyline development, settings and even puzzles)… A good example of this lack of development is the “find the objects” kind of game, which 95% of them revolve around some house/village that gets devoid of life and we’re an investigator that goes there to find why, which ends up being some crazy wizard (or more precisely a sorceress, for some reason).
    There’s other stereotipical adventures, but that’s just a handful…
    Opposite example might be a game like Machinarium, which has an amazing feel and I feel rivals the games from the golden age.

    My last argument is that most graphical adventures are “rush-jobs” in terms that they don’t have the budget to properly develop… A good graphical adventure should take about 6-12 months of pre-production, with just some game designers mucking around it, and then turn it to a development team… Problem is that nowadays, the companies that actually do graphical adventures need to churn games faster than that, or they have a team that needs work, so it becomes a factory of games, instead of a really creative endeveour. Note that are good games comming out of those factories, just not as good as the ones from the golden age…

    Just a final note on the Telltale games… although I admire the fact that they’ve brought an almost forgotten genre to the mainstream, their games are pretty weak compared to the ones that inspired them, but mostly the problems (for me) are the interfaces (the new Monkey Island was horrid in terms of character control) and the hand-holding (you always knew what you had to do, instead of leaving some space for exploring). The stories could have been more “original” aswell; there’s plenty of pirate stories to look about!

  • Random said,

    1. I played Time Gentlemen, Please, and Ben There, Dan That!. I also have the Runaway disc somewhere, haven’t played it much though. On a different medium, i.e. the NDS, I have the Ace Attorney serie, Ghost Trick, Hotel Dusk, The Last Window, the Layton serie. The NDS is really made for this kind of game.

    2. Right off the top of my head, I used to play Legend of Kyrandia, Day of the Tentacle, Under a killing moon, Discworld 1 and 2, Sam and Max hit the road, Monkey island, Gabriel Knight,Dark Seed, the Indiana Jones, Simon the sorcerer…

    What I liked in those game was:
    – they were much nicer to look at than the 3D game of those days.
    – there was a story
    – being able to play at my own pace.
    On the other hand, I hated how easy it was to get stuck on a puzzle. I couldn’t finish Day of the tentacle until I had access to the internet.

    I don’t like the new 3D point and clic games, because imo they exchange the beautiful 2D drawings for average, plastic looking 3D models. That’s why I mostly play this kind of games on the NDS now: only 2D.

    Also, genre and availability were more limited back then, so point and click were the closest to my tastes.
    But since, new stuff emerged, and for me, JRPG like Persona and Disgaea hit the mark.

  • WhineAboutGames said,

    I’m hesitant about modern adventure games because many have developed in directions I’m not happy with – either they’re all puzzles with very little story, or they’re very easy and very short (sometimes both!). And, of course, there’s the 3d thing. Hate 3d.

    If I still had a subscription to BFG I would probably be playing some of their short cheap HOG/Adventure hybrids, but I dropped that for reasons mentioned elsewhere.

    If there were more games like 999 or my own Fatal Hearts – games that are largely story but with sections of good old-fashioned puzzling thrown in – I’d be happy with those.

    I’m still working my way through Ghost Trick on the DS, not because it’s that long or that hard but just because I’ve been busy and distracted. So far it falls into that nice category of something with enough story to it, fun visuals that make me feel like I’m exploring something, and puzzles that require a little thought but are limited enough in scope that experimentation is likely to point you in the right direction.

    I have the first two layton games but I ran out of steam halfway through the second, getting tired of all the random puzzles and retracing my steps through the same scenes to try and advance the plot.

  • skavenhorde said,

    I’m late to the party here, but yes I still play adventure games.

    #1 Mostly Telltale because of Monkey Island and Sam & Max. I also play remakes of Quest for Glory and King’s Quest. Though I like QFG a lot more than the KQ ones.

    #2 I loved all of Sierra’s classics like Space Quest, King’s Quest, Gabriel Knight and Quest for Glory. I replay them to this day because I forget a lot of the puzzles. Also enjoyed the old C64 games from Windham Classics. They made Treasure Island, Swiss Family Robinson, Below the Root, Alice in Wonderland and many more. I really enjoyed Cthulhu being thrown into an adventure game like Shadow of the Comet and Prisoner of Ice as well as a lot of Lucasart’s games. There are many more that I’ve played, but off the top.

    I enjoy them for the puzzles, humor and story. I hated it when they tricked you with an insane puzzle that makes absolutely no sense. However, I did enjoy a good puzzle that, at the time, maybe had me throwing up my hands in frustration, but after a good nights sleep I’d then come up with the solution. You don’t know how many times that has happened.

    Adventure games will have a tough time competing with the age of the internet. It’s just too commonplace and easy to look up the answer online. Back then you had to stick it out (or in Alone in the Dark’s case, wait for the solution to be mailed to you :))

    The good news is that the adventure market is opening up again, but unfortunatly for me the kinds of adventure games that are coming through don’t interest me. So I stick with what I know like Sam & Max and the others.

    The one piece of advice I’d give anyone playing an adventure game is that when you get stuck don’t go looking for the solution online. Stop playing and play another game for awhile. In a day, come back and see if you can solve it then. That’s what I’m doing with the new adventure games and it works for me 🙂 Though, I am sorely tempted at times to just take a peek at a walkthrough.