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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Ode to the glory days...

When I were a lad, there were these brilliant things called ‘point n’ click’ adventure games, so called because you used a PC mouse to point at things, and then to click on them. You could click on things to look at them, to pick them up, to talk to them or to use them on other things. It was marvellous. Many of the best examples were British (Discworld - pictured - and Simon and the Sorcerer to name a couple), though most of the really good ones were being made by an ancient and forgotten American company known as “LucasArts”. Almost every game made by this innovative developer during the late 1980s up until the late 1990s was pure gold. But then sophisticated 3D graphics came along and rapidly every game was about a grizzled marine shooting the guts out of Nazis/aliens. It was a sad time.

LucasArts continued making adventure games with the new 3D graphics for a couple of years (making Grim Fandango and Escape from Monkey Island), before they realised that they would make more money whoring around the Star Wars license instead. They had always made a lot of highly rated Star Wars games, but for the last ten years they have been just about all LucasArts have made (and to a terrifyingly low standard). So adventure games died along with the reputation of their biggest advocate.

However, there are a few reasons to be cheerful, as in the last few years the genre has had something of a minor resurgence. A company of ex-LucasArts employees called Telltale Games has released new games in the old Sam & Max and Monkey Island franchises (as well as a number of new series), whilst the brilliant 1996 game Broken Sword has been re-released on everything from the Wii to the iPhone (pictured below) in recent times. The iPhone platform has also seen the re-release of Beneath a Steel Sky, an even older game also made by Broken Sword’s creator, Charles Cecil. Valve’s Steam service on PC has (in the last year) seen LucasArts cashing in on their former glory by re-releasing a bunch of the old classics including: Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis; The Dig; and Loom, as well as a remake of the original Monkey Island.

With the iPhone and small downloadable games (like those on XBLA or PSN) becoming increasingly popular, perhaps this once proud genre can find a new home and thrive once again. I certainly hope so. I leave you with some footage of a few of my favourites:

By far the best original point and click of the last half-decade, Capcom's largely unloved 2007 adventure Zack and Wiki: The Quest for Barbaros' Treasure, may not have the dialogue and story of most the classic adventure games of yesteryear, but it's every bit as good:

One of the most stylish and well-designed games ever made in any genre, 1998's Grim Fandango, published by LucasArts and created by the legendary Tim Schafer (Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island). I remember when my PC wasn't good enough for this:

My personal favourite Monkey Island game had nothing to do with the original creators (Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer). The third game in the series, The Curse of Monkey Island, introduced the voice cast now associated with the franchise (with Dominic Armato as Guybrush) as well as giving the game a major graphical facelift. The Curse of Monkey Island maybe my favourite point-and-click game simply because it feels like you're playing a detailed cartoon (whereas its 3D successor has aged less gracefully):

Check out the LucasArts Classic Adventure pack on Steam. It's £6.99 and includes four great adventure games (The Dig, Loom and two Indiana Jones adventures).


  1. The irony is that, although PCs have come a long way since our glory days, the Windows platform has only very limited support for the original versions of these classics. You'll remember the difficulty we had with the original LBA and I never managed to get Dungeon Keeper 2 to work stably under XP or Vista.

  2. Yes indeed. Good point well made. The fact is that most of my very favourite games are old PC titles: 'Tie Fighter', 'LBA' and some of these old point n'click gems... but I can't really play them very easily these days. Such a shame.