Adventure games, particularly of the point-and-click variety, have always been my second favorite genre, just after computer role-playing games. Unfortunately, the genre's popularity declined sharply after the collapse of LucasArts' adventure game division and, of course, Sierra On-Line's adventures. About the closest you can get nowadays to this "golden age" experience is the episodic games from Telltale Games. But what about folks looking for that classic point-and-click experience? I've been fortunate to review games for Adventure Classic Gaming, a site that specializes in new adventure games with the classic feel. The majority of the games I've reviewed are imports, usually German, and games from independent studios.
I thought it would be fun to talk about three or four of the best ones I've played recently and let you know where to get them. I'll also link each one to my full review of the title on Adventure Classic Gaming.
Chains of Satinav: Fun times in the TDE universe.The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav.
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment.
This is definitely one of the best modern adventure games I've played in the past few years. You might think it's a role-playing game given the connection to The Dark Eye, but it's not--it's just a standard P&C adventure game reminiscent of the Simon the Sorcerer series, but darker and less humorous. What's great about the game is the setting in the Dark Eye universe; it's similar to, but different enough from standard AD&D settings that this stuff feels fresh again. I particularly like what they've done with fairies here. The only real negative points about this game are the whiny lead character and the terrible character animation, which resembles nothing more than flat paper puppets. On a positive note, the background paintings are gorgeous.
The Sea Will Claim Everything: Brilliant.The Sea Will Claim Everything.
Developer: Jonas Kyratzes.
I've played some of Jonas's other games, but this one really stands out. I don't see how anyone who enjoys classic adventure games wouldn't find something to like about it. You've got great writing--some funny, some deep, some poetic--and tons of bizarre and curious things to explore. The difficulty is right, too, with just the right degree of challenge. Of course, this is a very small team production operating on a shoestring budget, but if you can get past that superficial stuff (and most classic game fans have no problems doing so), you're going to love this. I should note that the perspective is first-person. The music is also fantastic and worth the price of admission all by itself. You might remember that I interviewed Jonas awhile back on Matt Chat. He does the bulk of the game design while his wife does the artwork. I particularly enjoyed the witty way he handled the interface, making it a sort of puzzle unto itself.
Tomb of the Lost Queen: Nancy Drew is back!Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen.
Developer: Her Interactive.
Another brilliant game from the amazing, "we're just in it for the money" team of Her Interactive. Really, guys, if you're not playing these games, you should hand in your adventure game fan card right now. Sure, it's Nancy Drew, sure it's ostensibly designed for girls, but who gives a damn? Her Int. has gotten this stuff down to a science, with great puzzles, characters, stories, and always a lot of charm and inside jokes. This one is set in Ancient Egypt, which is, of course, an ideal setting for an adventure game. It's just difficult enough to make you think without veering off into frustration territory. Great stuff. If you haven't played these games before, note that they use a first-person interface similar to Myst (but with an inventory system and a few other niceties). This is a huge series, but you don't need to play any of the earlier games to enjoy this one. In fact, I think this would be a great entry point for anyone new to it. As always, it's more fun if you can play alongside somebody else.
JULIA: Intriguing design from the Czech Republic.J.U.L.I.A.
Read Review. This game from the Czech Republic boasts one of the best science fiction stories in recent memory, involving an AI named JULIA and a young woman named Rachel. As with another of my favorite adventures, Darkstar, the character has awoken from stasis aboard an abandoned vessel, and must find out what happened to the crew. It's not a huge FMV experience like Darkstar; rather, it plays more like a casual game. It does have some awesome music and lots of abstract logic puzzles for people who go in for that sort of thing. The in-game graphics aren't nearly as slick as the cut scenes. If the whole game could've been as great as the cut scenes...
I'm currently playing a game called Deponia, which--unless it drops sharply in quality before the end--is looking like a solid contender for a full 5/5.