So I’ve focused a lot on adventure games so far, unsurprising considering it’s quite possibly my favourite video game genre. So, what with me thinking it’s about time I did some articles other than reviews and publicising my novel, I’ve decided to generate a list of top 5 adventure games as voted for by me.
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars
Revolution Software was pretty well established in the 90s what with the success of their previous games Lure of the Temptress and Beneath a Steel Sky. But probably one of their most famous works, in adventure games circles, is the creation of the Broken Sword series. Specifically here I am talking about the first game which is by far the best. It is set in Paris and centres around an American tourist by the name of George Stobbart who witnesses the bombing of a cafe. Together with the assistance of journalist Nico Collard, George is drawn into a world of intrigue, conspiracy, murder, and enough Templars to make Dan Brown blush.
The game has a great sense of danger as it draws you in, being one of the number of adventure games where you can actually die, but it keeps this light-hearted tone as well such as being chased by mad kebab salesmen, the rivalry between George and a museum curator, and just George’s funny and often sarcastic musings on the situation. There are other games in the series but it’s a downward slope in my opinion, though the fourth game does improve on the third. The first has amazing characterisation and a pretty fun art style coupled with interesting puzzles and a gripping storyline. The Director’s Cut has also been released with some extra content and a fifth game is on the way.
The Blackwell Series
Ok so this is a little cheaty one since this is technically four games but it’s impossible not to lump them together. There is a bit of an overarching narrative and to be honest I couldn’t imagine playing one and not playing the others. I’ve already done quite an extensive article on this one so I’ll keep my point brief. The Blackwell games are not only fun in terms of puzzles but there is a real sense of growth with the characters. They change and develop as the story goes along and it’s really hard not to immediately move on to the next game when one finishes.
It’s really great to go back to these games, especially with the commentary by Dave Gilbert, and it’s interesting to watch them develop. If I had to pick which game was my favourite out of them then I would probably just say “All of them” and change the subject. But if forced I think I would have to say the third one, Blackwell Convergence, this is where the overarching plot really starts and also where a lot of the gameplay mechanics really start coming together. Some of the set pieces are fantastic, who doesn’t love a metaphysical diner floating in space? This is not to sell the other games short as they are tons of fun and I couldn’t imagine someone liking adventure games and not liking these.
Oh my do I ever love Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series. The books are brilliant and the characters are classic. But what got me started with Discworld wasn’t any of the books but a point and click adventure game developed in 1995. When it was first released it was criticised for its difficult game mechanics but I never found it to be a problem. Maybe this is just me looking back with nostalgia but I don’t care, this was important stuff. I’m not going to fully explain the Discworld because that would take at least a whole article but to give a breif summary: The Discworld is flat and round and carried through space on the back of four giant elephants which stand on the shell of an enormous turtle. It’s a fantasy world but it’s a light-hearted one with very tongue in cheek comedy. In the game you play as Rincewind, a rather unexceptional wizard who gets roped in to deal with the issue of a dragon that has appeared and is terrorising the city of Ankh-Morpork.
The game itself is a spin on the plots of a few of the books so it’s not as though it’s really spoiled for anyone that’s read them. But what’s really great about this game is the casting and the voice acting. With British veterans such as Tony Robinson, Rob Brydon, and Jon Pertwee making up various members of the cast it’s very entertaining. The casting of Eric Idle as Rincewind, the cowardly wizard with more skill in running away than in magic, is absolutely perfect. I couldn’t imagine another Rincewind. There are two sequels, Discworld II being a direct one and a standalone game entitled Discworld Noir, they are also excellent games but to my mind the first game is the best.
The Chzo Mythos
Another bit of a cheaty one since this is a collection of games rather than one individual one. People frequenting gaming sites may already be familiar with the work of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw and his Zero Punctuation videos on The Escapist. But Yahtzee has also done a bit of game development in his time and between 2003 and 2007 released four games that came under the heading of the Chzo Mythos. These are, in chronological order, Five Days a Stranger, Seven Days a Skeptic, Trilby’s Notes, and Six Days a Sacrifice. There are a few different protagonists but the most prevalent is Trilby, a gentleman thief of great notoriety, whilst attempting to rob a supposedly abandoned house he become trapped inside with a malevolent spirit. To say much more would spoil it and, considering they’re free on Yahtzee’s website, the full plot is far too complicated to summarise here.
The games have a real sense of atmosphere and high stakes that does a fantastic job of drawing you into its universe. It is very clear that Yahtzee’s skill in design, development, and art increases dramatically as the games progress but it’s still fun to go back to the first game with its slightly clunky mechanics and art style, just so you can see how everything that happens later is linked. It’s a real homage to a complex, psychological horror in the style of Silent Hill with enough freaky, scary, and WTF moments to keep you entertained. Again if you were to force an answer out of me I would probably say that my favourite game is Trilby’s Notes. The great lore that’s in the game, the flashbacks throughout history, and the genuinely unsettling feeling you get while playing just makes it get under your skin. Pretty good for a game with no voice acting.
And Number 1
The Walking Dead
This game is pretty much the reason I started this blog. It was going to be my first piece but I realised that I had nothing bad to say about it, nothing at all. There aren’t as many complex object puzzles as there are in some of the other games in this list, it’s not even a point and click like the others. But The Walking Dead is one of those games that makes you seriously consider games as art. For those that don’t know The Walking Dead is an adventure game by Telltale Games where the player takes control of Lee Everett, a former University professor on his way to prison just as the great zombie outbreak occurs. After his introduction to the living dead Lee comes across a young girl called Clementine and together the two try to survive in an increasingly hostile world.
The game is famous for the fact that choices the player makes impact the story quite significantly in later chapters, even down to which characters live or die. It makes every decision tense as you try to work out what’s the best thing to do. But what makes the game so great is the relationship between Lee and Clementine. I’m not a big fan of children, I don’t really know how to talk to them, and I’m not a fan of video game children since they tend to be crowbarred in to try and drum up sympathy with how pathetic they are. You know what makes Clementine different? She’s a person, an actual child and not a plot device. She’s competent and, over the course of the game, you end up thinking like Lee. Forget everyone else’s problems, just do what’s best for her. You start judging your own actions by how Clementine will react.
All this builds and builds as the game goes on and it gets more intense. The game is great and showing the problems created by this post-society zombie infested world. Believe me there’s things a lot worse than the Walkers out there. It builds to an emotion wrought ending that made me have to sit down for about five minutes in order to digest it. No other game has affected my like that and all I can say is that I’m sorry the game had to end.
So there you have my top 5 adventure games but before we go, a quick honourary mention.
I couldn’t bring myself to put this on the list because, annoyingly, I haven’t been able to complete it yet. The copy I have been playing is not actually my own and the person it belonged to moved away to France before I could complete it.
Another WadjetEye game, Primordia is set in the distant future when humans have died out and only machines remain. These robots worship humans like a religion in their wasteland. One such robot, Horatio Nullbuilt Version 5, is living a hermits life when he is attacked by another robot and has his power core stolen. Horatio gives chase with Crispin, his only companion, and together they make their way to Metropol, the city of glass and light, where many robots live together. But things are not right in the city and it’s up to Horatio to find out why.
The game, so far, has been amazing. The puzzles are challenging, the universe unique, the art is astounding, and the voice acting (with Logan Cunningham of Bastion fame as Horatio) is incredible. I only wished I could have completed it.