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Joe Cooper

Phoenix Wright is an interesting one and I had a discussion a while back about it; someone suggested it was bad because "you can lose" (I guess this is some fad these days) but the reason you can lose in it is to avoid the problem you noted that players will try to think in terms of permutations.

By the game design being able to "smack" the player and doom him to reading a bunch of text again (clearly nobody wants to do that any more than re-play a level of Doom), the player is strongly encouraged not to brute force a solution, focuses on the wording and understanding of the text and is thus engaged.

This simple (and maybe out-of-fashion) feature is what makes the game work even though it's basically like a reading comprehension test on an SAT.

This and the fantastic writing is why me and the missus were able to play through three of them - she played them twice - and enjoy them thoroughly. I've since recommended the series to other people who also enjoyed them, and only played the game in the first place because it was recommended to me by a friend.

"Like the SATs but with lawyers in cravats" sounds like a terrible elevator pitch but it worked, and I otherwise do not play or enjoy traditional adventure games at all.


Why not just kill the bad adventure games? Specifically, the ones that insta-kill you because you were just one pixel off the path, or require constructing a moustache from syrup + cat hair?

If I recall, there's established rules to make adventure games enjoyable. The first rule is not to leave players clueless on what to do next. The second rule is to guide the player based on the type of failure (e.g. replace "nothing happens" with "The power doesn't seem to be on".)

The third rule is to present the detail properly. It's trivial to present too much and too little detail, and just as easy to make an important detail more obscured than it should be. (i.e. if you can pickup an item, it probably shouldn't be buried in a room description or under two layers of "EXAMINE DESK")


A title that's sure to strike a sore nerve with the faithful!

For me, these types of games were peaking around my formative years and set me on the notion of 'I want to be a game designer.'

When I replay some of the classics I loved as a kid, some hold up and some don't; Space Quest series is nearly unplayable (as a game) while Monkey Island 2 and Day of the Tentacle retain their replayability now, based not only on a nostalgia factor. Today, just like 15+ years ago, the key motivator in these games (the good ones) was a desire to unfold the narrative.

I agree that the core mechanic of inventory and riddle based puzzle solving has not stood up- but the key features of these games- character development, story, humor, and especially exploration- live on in some games but are sorely lacking in others.

For me, Portal 2 was the first game in years to revive that gleeful feeling of playing Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle for the first time- it didn't take the 'mechanic' of the classic adventure, but did take the pacing and exploration.


That's a perfect example of what I mean by their legacy. Thanks!


First of all, why are you saying adventure games died? Does it mean you can't buy them anymore and no new ones are made?

Secondly, why would you say about any game genre that it deserved to die? Are you some kind of genre fanatic?

Ernest Adams

But of course they didn't die. New ones come out every month, so the entire premise of the essay is flawed.

Account Deleted

my english is not that good so sorry for that.
"A small minority of players genuinely love the challenge of riddles but the vast majority don’t"

so you didnt understand the game.... is all about trying one in the other in order to see what happens. we adventure gamers love that. we love the second pipe on the hand of the fishermen.



You're entire article is flawed, starting with saying that adventure games died.

1. Adventure games didn't died. As others said before, new ones are released every month. A new generation of gamers is rediscovering the genre in platforms like iPhone or iPad.

2. They were not bad games. You could have said that you don't like them, but saying they are bad is simply not true. Even people who are only now discovering adventure games are enjoying them because they are good. And no, it's not because of a marketing story.

Harold Pichol

Spot on analysis.

I played them as a teenager and they always felt like interactive comics; not really games. Like you demonstrated, as games they were pretty awful -I love how people are like "no, that's not true!" but can't really say how- and I remember telling myself that every time I would get stuck, I would use a walkthrough. It’s not fun to turn around over and over with puzzles that don’t make any fucking sense at all. Fool me once.

About the storysensing and “visual promise”, I tend to define that as the theme, a bit like the theme of a music album. Let me get an example: the stories -plots- of Monkey Island or Grim Fandango suck. They are lame and an excuse to solve weird puzzles. Where these games shine and are absolutely amazing still to this day, is with their outstandingly original and perfectly done themes. The pirate world ala The Simpsons, genius! Travel agents of the Department of Death? I’m sold. Even if I’m just watching a movie :) Themes cover the synopsis, the aesthetics, the writing. It’s a whole. It’s more about settings than dictating what you have to do and what the game is about. To me the plot doesn't really matter. A bit like Cohen movies which use simple plots but play continuously around themes, adding stuff you would not think, making them so special.

Today games have a lot of adventure stuff incorporated in them but IMHO themes suck so hard! Space marines vs orcs vs “war reality” or “action movies I loved”, where is the original stuff that is not aiming kids? Almost inexistent. We have better games but much more awful, bland, overused themes. Zelda on Wii is a fantastic game but the heroic fantasy setting makes me cringe. I’m not excited at all to move on in the game despite great gameplay. Both to me, are important and need to match.

In this sense, sometimes I’d rather play a Day of the Tentacle than a Dead Space… Or I wish ID Tech5 would be used in a game with a fun, touching setting instead of a boring Mad Max/Fall Out setting. Whatever the game mechanics involved, it would be so refreshing.

Also, it reminds me of Roberta Williams talking about the change in demographics that occurred with more “average” people accessing games. What do you think about that? Do you think that people playing adventure games on PCs during the 90s were different from the people playing say, Heavy Rain today?

Ian Sanderson

#1 rule of the internet - don't feed the trolls. Oh well, here's dinner.

Q: "Who really wanted to run around solving puzzles to open doors with herring bones when they could be exploring dungeons, shooting cacodemons, racing cars or any of the other more lively pleasures that 3D gaming embraced?"

A: My 75yo mother. All gamers do not fit the white, English speaking, male, 20-30yos stereotypical profile, which probably doesn't event make up 50% of the market. Some gamers simply do not want "lively pleasures". The single most successful computer game in the history of the field (hours played / units shipped) is Free Cell.

As a suggestion for a better (and more constructive) topic - perhaps examine why/how the sucessful adventure games transcended the fundamental difficulties you see with the genre. Special attention to The Longest Journey or Zork - don't remember a lot of pretty pictures in Zork - it worked though.


Adventure games haven't died at all ...you are pointing to the point and click adventure games, alot of them are still made (zylom, big fish etc) .

But the thing that you tell about all of them being the same is just becuz you don't get the picture of point and click adventure games, , story is most important in these games and the possibility of the player to influence the story also, that you need to be smarter then an 2 day old monkey for riddles and puzzles is just to make the game more interesting, most p&c adventure games keep the time it took you to solve the gameq,and what's more rewarding then beating the game faster then last time,

Also the elements from p&c games are still in all other game genre's except in sports, so declaring p&c death is a lame declaration

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