Although we all love video games in this corner of the blogging community, there are certain things about them which rub us up the wrong way. Even our favourite genres can contain elements we’re not fond of: formulaic boss battles, AI companions who get in the way or miserly save points for example.
Most Later Levels’ visitors will already be aware of just how much I adore point-and-clicks. In the 30 years I’ve been playing video games, they’re the type I return to most frequently and I’m always on the lookout for new releases. But this doesn’t mean I’m blind to their flaws – and I’m not just talking about pixel-hunting or long conversation trees here either. The following are some of the elements I could do without, regardless of my undying love for the adventure genre.
I’ll always remember playing Déjà Vu
and why I never finished this title. Take a right turn instead of a left when outside of the police station and you’ll receive the message: “Splat… It seems that you have just fallen into a deep construction pit. You should watch where you are going… next time!” Sudden deaths like this in adventure games are one of my biggest peeves because they interrupt the flow of the story and, unforgivably, can result in the player having to start again from the beginning if they haven’t got a save.
Look back at most classic adventure series and you’ll notice a trend: at some point during their lives, the developers took the terrible decision to go from 2D to 3D
and ruined them. Perhaps the one which fared worst was Simon the Sorcerer 3D
, and I remember hating the new visual style and tank controls so much that I didn’t even finish it at the time of release. There’s a reason why point-and-clicks are called point-and-clicks; using a controller to play is just wrong.
Action sequences in adventures are one thing that fans of the genre never want to see. There’s nothing worse than being ripped from your cosy world of colourful characters and interesting puzzles, then being shoved into a scene which requires you to invoke a different type of gameplay. The Longest Journey
series is one of my favourites but I couldn’t stand the fighting sequences in the second release Dreamfall
– they just feel so clunky and uncoordinated, and totally out of place with the rest of the game.
Hot on the heals of action sequences are another type of annoying break from the expected point-and-click gameplay: arcade minigames. That horrible section in The Feeble Files
, where you must complete several of them to win enough tokens so you can then play a stupid grabber game, was the reason I never finished it. In fact, so many others had a similar experience that developer Adventure Soft
had to release a save file that started just after this section.
Adventure games are usually narrative-heavy so they can be a chore to get through if you’re stuck with a protagonist you just can’t gel with. It’s even worse when there are two frustrating protagonists, and George and Nico from the Broken Sword
series are a duo who irritate me
. This is clearly an unhealthy relationship: she
‘innocently’ arranges for him and her ex-boyfriend to work together, and he
leaves Paris without telling her. What kind of people do that to each another?
Speaking of playing games with more than one protagonist: I know many gamers enjoy the added insight that switching between characters provides but I really dislike the mechanic, because I feel it breaks my immersion in the story. The Little Acre uses it to the point where it becomes excessive
for such a short game. I counted 19 switches just over 90 minutes of gameplay – it’s wrong to make players have to change protagonist to simply walk from one side of the screen to another.
Whenever I’m playing a point-and-click and come across a maze, I can’t help but roll my eyes. This type of puzzle smacks of poor design and lazy programming: just shove your players into a labyrinth and that will keep them occupied for an hour. The one I hated the most was that from The 7th Guest
, not because it was overly long or complicate but because it was just so boring
. All the corridors looked the same, nothing happened between their walls and the voice that greeted you at dead-ends was grating.
That last paragraph leads me on nicely to another type of dead-end in point-and-clicks. Putting your players in an unwinnable state because they didn’t pick up a certain item or complete a certain task earlier in the game, then giving them no indication of this for hours, is completely unforgivable. Take the cat-and-mouse puzzle from King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!
as an example. Fail to save the rodent during what looks like a random background event and you won’t be able to escape from a situation later in the title.
The worst thing about the releases from Daedalic Entertainment
could easily be protagonists you want to punch in the face so they shut up, but their use of moon-logic edges out in front. This is a type of logical deduction which could only have originated in the mind of an alien. Just look at The Whispered World
: having Cedric use a sock to catch a mouse, then use the creature to reach a pair of pantaloons
hanging from a rock then use these to tie around the muzzle of a beast doesn’t make any sense at all.
I don’t mind a bit of backtracking in point-and-clicks when it’s done well and is effectively incorporated into the storyline or a puzzle, but there are some releases where there there’s just far too much pointless walking. Keepsake is one of them
. At one point I found myself moving through 19 screens to return to an item that the protagonist didn’t want to pick up earlier in the game, even though it was obvious it would be needed later, to then run through these same screens again immediately to make my way back.
Despite their flaws, I can’t see myself ever not loving adventures. They have the ability to entwine the narrative within the gameplay so both drive each other forward and tell some of the best stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Some people may believe the genre has had it’s day but I don’t agree: it has evolved into new forms, incorporating elements from other types of video games and changing its appearance slightly to appeal to a whole new generation of gamers.
What’s your favourite genre, and what are some of the things you dislike about it?