We here at invert-x love point and click adventures, but I don’t think we’ve ever sat down and qualified exactly why. At face value, to anyone who hasn’t experienced them before, they could be judged initially as a rather boring concept: lots of reading, and interactivity consisting primarily of clicking a location and waiting for the avatar to move? Snooze. While the point and click (or text-based) adventure began simply as the best means of producing an interactive experience within the limited hardware they were created on, they have not progressed a great deal from their origins, unlike other game types (such as the first-person shooter, or RPGs).
Provided an adventure game tells a great story, it will be captivating forever.
However, it is this point that best highlights the strength of the adventure game genre: lasting appeal. It’s the core concept of an adventure game that holds an audience, not any progression in technology; provided an adventure game tells a great story, it will be captivating forever, like any great work of literary fiction.
We love to write (well, I do, at least), and it’s this love that resonates with the adventure game. Games like Grim Fandango, The Secret of Monkey Island, and the Phoenix Wright series are memorable for their superb character development, tight plot, and the richness of the world they entail. Adventure games have the advantage of being slower paced than most other games, giving them a chance to fully craft their tale. It’s also an absolute necessity: a shooter that does not, perhaps, offer a relatively high quality story can be memorable for other aspects of its tenure, but an adventure game with an equally lacking story is a forgettable (and somewhat painful) experience. Granted, clever puzzle designs can sometimes mitigate this, but even this is a stretch given that most games will tie the puzzles directly into the plot.
I will admit that these games are not without their problems, and with the current dearth of titles on the market, they are problems that have persisted. Providing solutions to the sometimes baffling puzzles can be an effort in futility, as you’re required to think along the same lines as the developer. Were adventure games more prominent in the roster of titles currently making the rounds, I feel as if this issue would have been satisfactorily solved by now. Still, there is hope, which brings me very nicely to Double Fine and what they’re about to do with their new adventure game. I can only hope that they will push the adventure game forward, rather than simply pander to existing tropes to satisfy a reminiscing audience.
I came late onto the point and click adventure scene, and have not had the chance to experience a huge variety of titles. Brought up on the technicolour worlds of Mario, and the visceral rush of the first-person shooter, it would seem likely that it’s a game type guaranteed to be ignored. Instead, they fill a particular desire in me to move beyond the pulpy thrills of games like DOOM and Serious Sam, to the world where the story, and the writers behind it, rule. As someone who writes fairly often for various endeavours, it’s a world that I can certainly enjoy and respect.
I don’t play a lot of classical adventure games – the "classics" being old SCUMM titles like Monkey Island, Sam and Max, Day of the Tentacle, and so on. Part of me is screaming out "You need to play these games!", since they play quite a large role in the history of computer games. The other half, however, is replying with "But I don’t like trial-and-error gameplay!"
I find this to be a pretty major issue with the SCUMM-based adventure games that made the genre so famous in the 90’s, such as the ones mentioned above. I just find the mechanic of "combine every item with every other item" to be tedious and boring. Of course, after you figure out how they combine, it usually makes total sense, but that context isn’t provided until after you’ve tried a stupid number of previous combinations.
I can’t be too critical about this as some of my favourite adventure games also have similar issues, though maybe not quite as bad as the ones already mentioned. The Ace Attorney games feature this problem a number of times across the series, during the courtroom cross-examination periods. However, it’s never as bad as some of the more wacky combinations that the old-school adventure games throw at you. Ace Attorney games split the gameplay into two sections, where one is pretty much a by-the-books point-and-click adventure game, and the other is the aforementioned courtroom sections that make the series unique.
While the Ace Attorney series are definitely a type of adventure game, they tend to cross over into the territory of a visual novel, because they are mostly text-driven. The other side of the coin would be the Myst series, where you have hardly any dialogue and (almost) no inventory to speak of. The Myst games are very much games of exploration and discovery, where puzzles are solved by manipulating objects in the world, rather than using objects from your inventory on them.
The first Myst game, rather famously, can actually be completed in just over a single minute if you know what you need to do to finish it. The "adventure" in Myst fits the old saying quite well: it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey you take to get there. Myst and its sequels are among the most amazing games I’ve played: they’re little more than a slideshow of images in terms of graphics, a simple point-and-click adventure when you look at the gameplay, but steeped in so much beauty and lore that it’s beyond comprehension. To this day the only game-series spinoff novels that I’ve read have been the Myst ones, and they are genuinely great books.
There’s a huge range of games that all fall under the "adventure" genre, but they all have something important in common: a strong focus on elements of exploration, storytelling, and character development. This can be done in the "classical" point-and-click game like Monkey Island, a visual novel like Phoenix Wright, an exploration game like Myst, and indeed many other kinds of games. It’s important to remember that one adventure game cannot define the genre. If you don’t like one particular type of adventure game, don’t discount the whole genre – start looking around and you’re sure to find a style that fits your needs.