When I was growing up, my family more or less always had a computer. We began with the Commodore 64, which segued into a series of Mac LC computers and low end PCs. While you can't quite talk about graphics cards and powerful hardware in 1990 the way we tend to now, most of the machines we played on were competent. Regardless, being an NES/SNES kid from day 1, computer games were always something of an anomaly. In short, I didn't get a chance to play many. The big exception was the many Lucasarts games that emerged in the late 80's/early 90's. We used to find value packs of these at Sams' Clubs and Wal-Mart stores, and over time I played all the classics: Indiana Jones, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, the Monkey Island series, etc. While some of these frustrated me all the way from start to finish- there was no Internet- I loved them for their simple interface and story elements.
I'm now 25, and like most of the video games press, I look back on these titles with more unreasonable nostalgia than classic rock fans who refuse to listen to anything not originally released on vinyl. The point is- and Jeff has been probably the best at pointing this out -we all have rose-colored glasses when thinking about old games. When we see re-makes, we tend to gush over them without thinking about the merits of the game taken as a stand-alone product. Games like Bionic-Commando: Rearmed become must-buy titles for those of us who fondly recall the "bit wars." So I bought Rearmed, without even remembering the fact that I hated Bionic Commando as a kid. I could never get beyond the extreme difficulty of the controls, and the localization that made no sense to me. Long story short, I played Rearmed for long enough to look at the visuals, enjoy the soundtrack, beat the first stage, and realize that this game was never for me.
This brings me to The Secret of Monkey Island: SE, which, by all accounts, is a fantastic remake of one of the more classic point-and-click Lucasarts games. You can read the details in Ryan's review, which I agree with for the most part. And for anyone wondering why everyone in the industry (apart from Activision executives) is rooting for Tim Schafer and Brutal Legend, Monkey Island is a nice starting point. As for the game's presentation, the in-game ability to toggle between the classic and remake versions speaks volumes, in that it enables players to see how far visuals have come in the last 20 years.
However, while this re-make made all the great point-and-click memories come flooding back, I cannot help but think that this game retains a limited appeal. In other words, I have a hard time imagining that new audiences will discover what we all used to love about point-and-click adventure games. The more I thought about it, I cannot say that I would care for this game had I not grown up on the Lucasarts catalogue. The slow pace of action, ultra-precise "get inside the game designer's logic" style of puzzle solving, and modern gaming conventions make this entry seem inaccessible for most. Even I had forgotten the solutions to the original game, so I struggled to determine which commands used with certain objects would allow me to progress. I remember having a much larger threshold for frustration in games as a kid, which I lack now. The existence of the Internet also makes it hard not to jump to GameFAQs and find the answers.
Up until now, I've been on the bandwagon of "yes, we need to revive the point-and-click," or just adventure games in general. But although I love this re-make, I'm not sure that this sort of game has a future, nor am I certain that I'd want to play something altogether new in the genre. The facts show that I'm not alone here. One modern adventure game- Zack and Wiki: The Quest for Barbaros' Treasure (pardon the spelling) was loved by critics, yet failed to sell by any objective measure. On the other hand, Telltale seems to be doing well by applying the concept to franchises, and I wish them all the best with their efforts.
Looking back, I believe the genre should survive this way as a niche, PC-centric game style. However, I think its place in the mainstream is mostly gone, and this might be for the best. This is one time where I'd like to be wrong, but if the genre is going to survive, I think some kind of evolution will have to take place.