The point-and-click adventure... is there still a point?

Posted by SonicFire (821 posts) -

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.



#1 Posted by SonicFire (821 posts) -

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.



#2 Posted by MattyFTM (14423 posts) -

While you raise some good points, I think Point & Click adventures can have a place with a newer audience. It won't be for everyone, but if you enjoyed them as a child, why can't new, younger gamers (along with older ones who missed out on adventure games) appreciate them? They just need the right marketing. A lot of people aren't familiar with adventure games.

Playing monkey island a long while ago was pretty much my only experience with the adventure genre. Despite enjoying them a lot, I had greatly neglected the genre. I only got back into Adventure games thanks to Giant Bomb's officially official adventure game enthusiast, SuperMooseman, who's enthusiasm about Telltales games encouraged me to check them out. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't be enjoying the genre like I am now. There are lots of people, in a similar situation to me, having little or no experience with the genre who don't have a SuperMooseman getting them interested in adventure games. With the right marketing, they could become interested in the genre too.

Moderator
#3 Posted by SonicFire (821 posts) -

I would definitely like to see the appreciation for many of the old games come back, if only because they connect us to a lot of the gaming origins out there. I appreciate your views though. I've been telling people about the old games for years, but generally get blank stares when I mention games like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. 


I think marketing can do wonders for almost any game, but I don't see that marketing occurring. In another two weeks, it's likely that even the fantastic Monkey Island remake will be buried. 

I think there are ways that the genre can become relevant again, but it seems Telltale are the only ones pushing that forward. We'll see what the future brings, but this first Lucasarts effort might be a good barometer.
#4 Edited by jonnyboy (2920 posts) -

In an age before flashy graphics or even spoken dialog, game makers had to rely on clever, witty and well written game scripts. Adventure games, especially Lucasarts games and Sierra games (my favorite being space quest) were probably the best examples of these. I can quote many, many lines from these games today, and it irritates me to play a new game with poorly written student-level dialog spoken by non-game playing TV actors who sound like they did this for the cheque. Younger players deserve to experience the quality of games we had, for reference if nothing else.

#5 Posted by VilhelmNielsen (1740 posts) -

I'm from the new genration of Poiny-and-click adventure fans. I hadn't played a Monkey Island game until 2 or 3 years ago, so I'd definately say that there's a place for it now.

#6 Posted by vinsanity09 (211 posts) -

if it has Ace Attorney on the title, then yes there's still a point lol

#7 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6343 posts) -

For me, it isn't necessarily the gameplay that drives my nostalgia.  It's the well-written dialogue, humor, and stories that really make the games so much fun, even today.  I do enjoy a good point-and-click game for the gameplay, especially if there are puzzles that really work my skull in creative ways, but that was never really the main attraction.  I play games like Gabriel Knight, Leisure Suit Larry (the "old" Larry games), Monkey Island, Full Throttle, and the like because the creators seem to speak my language story-wise.  Telltale Games has done a fantastic job of bringing back the nostalgia in me by creating some finely written and genuinely entertaining games, so to me, the adventure genre is still definitely viable.  Give me a game like Dracula Origins or the Agatha Christie series any day over a generic grunt and shoot fest like Resistance 2 or Halo 3.  Although those games have great gameplay value and I love them to death, I'll take a halfway interesting story any day of the week.

Moderator
#8 Posted by SonicFire (821 posts) -
@Sparky_Buzzsaw:

Well said man

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