(Point-and-Click) Adventure Time!
Point-and-click adventure games have a long and storied history in the canon of computer gaming, featuring classics such as LucasArts' Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, to Sierra On-Line's various Quest games. It's not a dead genre though, as the Internet is wild with indie publishers releasing short and sweet adventures, loving riffs on genre classics, as well as downright weird, experimental titles that take genre conventions and turn them on their heads. If you're looking for a quirky, whimsical, or downright mysterious game that doesn't rely on your twitch reflexes, why not have a go at these point-and-click games for the weekend?
First up isn't so much a game, as an engine that lets you play loads of point-and-click classics. Originally conceived as a virtual machine that lets modern gamers play LucasArts adventure games, ScummVM has come along in leaps and bounds. Not only can you relive classics like The Secret of Monkey Island and Loom, but dozens of other adventure games like Simon the Sorcerer, Broken Sword and The Legend of Kyrandia from defunct companies like Sierra On-Line, Trilobyte and Westwood Studios. If you want to spend a weekend on the best of point and click classics, ScummVM is pretty much the only thing better than an old 386.
Verdict: A tried and true way to bring back that 20th century magic, ScummVM makes dusting off those old game boxes worthwhile.
Flight of the Amazon Queen
A light hearted adventure in the mold of movies like Romancing the Stone, this one casts you as Joe King, a freelance pilot. When King’s plane, The Amazon Queen, crashes lands in the jungle he must protect his latest client, a famous Hollywood star named Faye Russel, from savage jungle women, mad scientists and lederhosen! Cheesy and cheeky, Flight of the Amazon Queenis an adventure that’s good-natured fun.
Verdict: With a story that goes on autopilot, this silly adventure is an unpretentious delight.
Beneath A Steel Sky
One of a fewScummVM-compatible classics made available to the public domain, Beneath a Steel Sky is a post-apocalyptic/cyberpunk thriller that takes its cues from the pessimism of British graphic novels. You play as Foster, a wasteland outsider who has gone on the run in a vast city where the wealthy corrupt live sheltered from pollution while the have nots toil for them. The dire tone of the game is offset by the light sarcasm of Foster’s only companion, the robot Joey.
Verdict: An engaging and intelligent story that blends shades of Orwellian paranoia with British wryness.
The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition
Quite possibly the most celebrated, talked about and influential adventure game of all time, The Secret of Monkey Islandis constantly name checked in just about every conversation about classic gaming. Centered around the unfortunately named Guybrush Threepwood, a wannabe pirate who looks more like a flooring inspector, Monkey Islandblends humor and charm to entertain even when players are stuck. A remastered edition featuring enhanced visuals, full voice acting was released a couple of years ago for just about every modern platform including iOS, with the option to switch to classic mode for grumpy grognards.
Verdict: This adventure hit all the right notes twenty years ago and it’s even better now with a new coat of paint.
The Sarien.net website hosts a series of HTML5 conversions of the groundbreaking Quest series of graphical adventure games from Sierra On-Line. It hosts HTML5 versions of King's Quest (1983), Police Quest, Space Quest, and The Black Cauldron, a spinoff from the Disney animated film of the same name. Combining a graphical presentation with a text parser, players navigate through the game worlds in order to achieve quests, such as searching for magical treasures to save the land of Daventry in King's Quest, or to track down the criminal known as The Death Angel in Police Quest.
Verdict: Text parsers are a fairly archaic interface, but the games themselves are actually pretty good and offer an important look at the dawn of the adventure game genre.
King's Quest 3
AGD Interactive has been busy making modern remakes of classics from the Sierra On-Line catalog such as the various Quest games. The King’s Quest series is part of the founding canon of adventure games, set in a pastiche world of medieval fantasy. The third game, To Heir is Human, breaks ground in the series: it takes place far away from the safety of King Graham’s domain, Daventry, incorporates spellcasting and concludes on a plot twist so unforeseen that players didn’t discover it until long after release. Earlier chapters in the series, King's Quest and King's Quest 2 are also freely available.
Verdict: Classic adventure gamingand a dramatic story make this an experience to remember.
Quest for Glory 2
The Quest for Glory series is memorable for its unique blend of adventure game puzzle work and RPG combat. AGD Interactive also released a remake of the second game, Trial By Fire, whisks the Hero of Spielburg away to the desert city of Shapeir and defeat the many arcane dangers that threaten it. Like the rest of the series, Trial by Fire is filled with quirky humor and colorful characters.
Verdict: Full of laughs, heroic drama and crunchy RPG goodness, there just aren’t many games like this one.
Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within
The second instalment in the critically acclaimed adventure game series that blends Dan Brown-style historical mystery with supernatural suspense. Gabriel Knight is a trashy novelist turned supernatural detective investigating a slew of wolf killings in Munich while his research assistant Grace Nakimura digs into the unsolved mystery of a Bavarian monarch. Featuring full motion video cut scenes that bring the story to life, The Beast Within is the pinnacle achievement in interactive, movie-style adventure games.
Verdict: Compelling historical intrigue and gothic horror thrills make this one a storytelling achievement.
Guru is odd. It opens in empty space. An elderly gentleman who is undoubtedly attired like a swami--the eponymous guru, one could suppose--sits meditating in the middle of this expanse. Above him floats a triptych of lotuses. Click one and you're led to a hand-sketched vignette. Your objective is two-fold, 1) liberate the trapped animals, and 2) try not to short-circuit your brain in your attempts. The sparseness of Guru's presentation forces your mind to recalibrate itself and approach these puzzles laterally. It will be difficult to do so at first, but you have to think outside the box. Or, in this case, outside the bowl, the locked car, and the shut jar.
Verdict: A minimalist puzzle game that succeeds in achieving its design goals, Guru loads you up with easy charm before it heaps on the confusion. The solutions range from clever to obtuse but there's no denying they are delivered with style.
Cobbled together from real-world driftwood collages, mutely colored cartoons, and the lazy trumpets and basslines of the smooth jazz soundtrack, Samorost's design elements twist and braid together to create an extraordinarily memorable experience. The puzzles are a question of clicking things in the right order--they are silly but intuitive within the context of this strange world. You are a gnome spacefaring in your craft made from moss and gnarled knots of trees. Look to the left and there's a man smoking a hookah. To the right, a squirrel plugging its ears.
Verdict: There's no question that Samorost is a weird game but it doesn't revel in the profundity of its presentation. Samorost is short, sweet, and surreal, like a daydream on a hot, sleepy day.
Windosill is an exercise on experimentation. As another surreal point-and-click offering, Windosill is set in a persistently blue world where shapes have facial features and bowling balls orbit around each other. The game's deliberate abstraction evokes a feeling of comfortable disconnect--you are a stranger in this unfamiliar land and it's up to you to figure out how things work. Handle the game as you would a fantastic device. Turn it over. Palm it from hand to hand. Press buttons both hidden and visible. Then wait and watch the brilliance unfold.
Verdict: Relaxed, challenging, and genuinely surprising, Windosill will inflame your curiosity and encourage you to take atypical leaps in logic. Every click is a learning experience working towards solutions that are almost always interesting.
Lucid dreaming has always been an intriguing subject. The idea is that you take control of your own subconcious and freely explore landscapes carved out of your brain patterns. Deep Sleep takes this idea, distorting it into a ruin of impossible architecture and pooling darkness. The game infringes on the most personal of spaces--your sleep--and introduces a heady dose of nightmare fuel. Deep Sleep excels in keeping tension organic, employing pixels that carry suggestions of imagined horrors and an ambiance quivering with stress.
Verdict: Deep Sleep takes the niche escape-the-room genre and sacrifices it on a dread altar. From its wounds spring forth a legion of dark figures with seven mouths, all blaspheming, commanding you to play this game.
A slave in pre-Civil War USA falls in love with his master's daughter, but when their relationship is discovered they are hunted down and she is shot covering his escape. The slave makes a pact with a witch doctor to save her life in exchange for binding himself with a demonic spirit and reaping three evil souls. The Price has a dark story told through beautiful visuals and music, which hopefully makes up for the rather difficult gameplay – there are puzzles leading up to each evil soul that require either precise timing or luck, and defeating each evil soul is an intense mini-game that, if not pulled off, will lead to the bad, gory ending.
Verdict: A bit predictable in its story, and the topic might be uncomfortable for some, but this is definitely one of those moments where video games can tell stories in a unique way.
We've all been there. You get stuck in your dirty, rat-infested apartment with no way out except to solve fiendishly constructed puzzles in an attempt to catch your neighbor's attention and get help, right? Or is it just me? Anyway, Robamimi has made a light, amusing diversion that features mostly logical problems (along with a generous hint system). It's perfect for anyone looking for a quick amusement during their coffee break.
Verdict: There's a couple of massive red herrings that might cause some frustration, but relax and enjoy both the puzzles and the surprisingly good English translation.
Gods Will Be Watching
This browser-based survivalist nightmare has a simple premise: don’t die. As the leader of a field research team that must endure forty days of suffering by staving off hunger, panic and hypothermia, you’ll learn to give every point and click much thought. Will you spend precious ammo hunting for food or will you ask the psychiatrist to shore up everyone’s morale? You’ll 'lose' a lot in this minimalist, one screen simulation of survival in a hostile environment, but you’ll always feel like it was your fault. But maybe with one more try, you can get it right.
Verdict: Charming in its bleakness, this game blends adventure game experimentationwith the tactical ideals of turn-based strategy. Oregon Trail, by way of Mass Effect.
The Queen of Snakes
As the lone survivor of an unfortunate mission to explore the temple of The Queen of Snakes, you must navigate a lush, multi-floor jungle complex layered with puzzles. Your goal is to discover its secrets and, more importantly, find a way out. Enjoy the fantastic musical background which "evolves" as you open up the temple and outwit its traps. Gush over the mosaics and intricate art that resembles stained glass, try figure out the puzzles (which mostly require logic rather than luck), and avoid the point-and-click trope of "MacGyver ordinary objects into the exact gadget you need to escape."
Verdict: There's a certain macabre sense of humor throughout and it can be seen in the opening sequence as your party is whittled down to one, but it is, overall, a fun game.
You start out with a box full of candy, which you can eat or throw on the ground. You get more candy as time progresses. Eventually, a lollipop vendor shows up in search of candy and is willing to trade you candy for lollipops. As you get more candy, weird stuff happens. How weird? It involves witches, wizards, a dragon, a magical sword, and a complicated system of brewing potions.
Verdict: To describe the game more would spoil its purpose, as a large part of the charm is discovering what new, unexpected direction it will take next. We will say that it's suprisingly deep for a game with purposelysimple ASCII art.
The Book of Living Magic
A brief, whimsical joy -- especially ideal as a 'gateway game' for getting younger children into graphic adventures. Creators Mr. & Ms. Kyratzes (his writing, her illustrations) capture the playful, timeless sense of being an average kid in fantasy-land without ever talking down to the player. Admittedly, the point-and-click interface has its shortcomings -- for example, conversation topics give away crucial plot points before they've been introduced organically. But we're honestly willing to overlook such potentially fundamental design flaws, because they're outweighed by the detail-rich wonder of discovering the world-at-large. Even more impressive, most of the puzzles can be reasoned out quite sensibly, in spite of the patently surreal setting. Verdict: The enchanting, Gaiman-esque storytelling trumps the limits of the gameplay.Score: 4/5
Drawing on the aesthetics of horror and noir comics, this game puts players in the thick of a missing person case that eventually reveals a larger, more sinister plot to summon extra-dimensional horrors. The rich, atmospheric visual design and moody soundtrack complement the simple but tightly plotted narrative. Gameplay is straightforward and intuitive. Everything from movement, to examining objects, to character interaction is a matter of pointing, clicking, or dragging – no guesswork about which verbs to use. It’s well-suited to this kind of occult sleuthing – think of it as a stripped-down Gabriel Knight or Broken Sword title. The detailed, black-and-white graphics can lead to some frustrating pixel-hunting – especially when you’ve figured out what type of item you need to solve a puzzle, but you’re not quite sure where to locate it.
Verdict: Simple point-and-click gameplay makes this urban crime/horror adventure a worthy distraction.
You're a man cursed to transform into a werewolf during tonight's full moon and you must do everything you can to ensure you don't escape your ramshackle hut and go on a rampage. This games might take dark ages a little too literally - turn up the brightness on your screen to see some of the important items – but it captures the mood of desperation and determination of a man trying to stop a curse and in the process flips the normal convention of point-and-click games on its head. How well you secure your hut determines how devastating tonight's werewolf rampage will be – or how peaceful the night ends up – as well the the ultimate fate of our cursed protagonist.
Verdict: There's a couple of easily missed hints and items – such as the second page of the journal – but this original take on the genre is a quick diversion, with multiple endings.