Adventures: video games full of amazing stories, colourful characters and challenging puzzles (not to mention dialogue trees and pixel-hunting). The genre may have its flaws but it has also been one of the longest-running, giving birth to numerous classics from Zork to Grim Fandango and attracting a following of fans across the world.
For any regular Later Levels visitors, it’s obvious I’m one of them and love a good point-and-click. They’re the titles I’ve continuously returned to for almost 30 years now, ever since finding The Secret of Monkey Island as a young child and realising that fantastic worlds full of extraordinary tales could be told so well through pixels. Even for all their moon-logic and backtracking, there’s just something special and captivating that lies within the puzzles and at the heart of an adventure.
I read an article this morning that said adventure games may have had their day. Do you agree? newstatesman.com/culture/games/…—
Later Levels (@LaterLevels) January 08, 2019
Not everybody agrees with me on this however. Early last month I came across an article on the NewStatesman website entitled The rise and fall of the point-and-click adventure game, in which author Ed Jefferson gave a brief overview of the genre’s history. He rounded off the post by saying: “It’s hard to argue that the genre has much appeal beyond nostalgia at this point… Thanks for the memories, but it turns out that in 2018, maybe clicking on hats just isn’t enough anymore.”
Has the adventure really had its day? This statement surprised me greatly and it was a situation I’d never considered before. Sure, the genre had had it’s ups-and-downs over the years, going through a decline in the early 2000s when it couldn’t compete with louder releases before picking back up again in popularity thanks to crowdfunding platforms in 2012; but was it truly over? Jefferson’s divisive statement prompted me to ask the question on Twitter and see what others thought.
A few days later, an article was published on Rendermonkee’s Gaming Blog called The Rise, Fall and Rise of the Adventure Game. There was an audible sigh of relief when I read this and saw confirmation that there were others out there who still believed in the genre! As written by Rendermonkee themselves: “The adventure genre has undergone incredible hardship over a 20-year period, but I believe times have changed… The future of the adventure game is in very safe hands. Long live the adventure game.”
In a brief conversation with this blogger on Twitter last month, they said something which stuck with me: that the point-and-click isn’t dead. It has simply evolved into new forms, incorporating elements from other genres and changing its appearance depending on the angle of the light. In the same way those louder releases mentioned above have taken narrative design tips from adventures and improved their storytelling, my beloved genre has done the same in reverse and undergone a transformation.
There are so many new titles which have kept the heart of the adventure game while adding something new to it. Last year’s Unavowed retained everything we’d come to expect from a Wadjet Eye Games’ release but threw in some ingenious party mechanics. 2017’s Stories Untold recalled the feeling of playing an old-school text-adventure but gave it a twist to create a very unique experience. And The Red Strings Club – possibly my favourite release of 2018 – focused on moral questions asked through conversation and answered through mixing drinks.
There are some who will say that these aren’t strictly point-and-clicks – but wait, there are more examples. Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller from 2012 stays true to its genre’s roots but tells a gritty story which isn’t for children. 2016’s Kathy Rain is great for anyone who loves a Twin-Peaks-vibe and pixel artwork. If you’re looking for something lighter with more comedy, try Maize from the same year. And more recently, the upcoming Guard Duty pays tribute to the classics but gives us an adventure suitable for the modern day.
2019 is looking bright for the genre, and Rendermonkee’s post mentions several future titles which are now on my wishlist. Afterparty by Night School Studio, the developer of Oxenfree, is one of their four picks for the year; and Röki from Polygon Treehouse is showing plenty of promise for a debut title. Then there are the projects that made appearances at recent expos: 3 Minutes to Midnight by Scarecrow Studio and The Occupation by White Paper Games. How can you not get excited by all that adventure goodness?
It may be worth Jefferson playing these titles and finding out for himself what the genre has become. You see, pointing-and-clicking can be enough; but adventure games can also be so much more than that and haven’t yet reached their final form. To quote Rendermonkee once more: long live the adventure game.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.