Experienced Points: The Rise, Fall and Rise of Adventure Games

By Shamus
on Aug 20, 2010
Filed under:
Column

The internet is plastered with ads for Kane & Lynch 2, sequel to the original ugly self-important chore from Eidos in 2007. If the sequel is anything like the first, you’ll pilot a completely unlikable jerk from one murder spree to the next in order to thwart some bad guys so bland I can’t think of a metaphor boring enough to… meh. The combat had all the fun and energy of churning milk in January. I quit when the story got to Havana. I have no idea how it ended. But in the alternate ending I wrote for myself on the wall using a black sharpie tightly clenched in one fist, Lynch died, Kane’s men died, the cops they gunned down recovered and then launched an enormously successful anti-crime program for youth, the secret conspiracy guys continued to do nothing interesting forever and ever, and Kane’s stupid ass went back to prison. If this is not how the game ended, please don’t tell me. I’m happy with the one I wrote.

What? Oh. Sorry. Anyway. Kane and Lynch 2 is everywhere and yet nobody talks about the wonderful things Telltale games is making for us. This is my own small attempt to rectify this injustice.

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From the Archives:

  1. jdaubenb says:

    Ahh.. Adventure games, my old love. <3
    As Sierra Games were banned at my household I have mainly good memories of Monkey Island (1, 2. 3 and 4 not so much), Day of the Tentacle and all the other Lucas Arts classics.
    I loved the first resurgence of the genre (first and foremost The Longest Journey, but games like Syberia count) after Lucas Arts officially abandoned their franchises.
    And now I am around for a third rebirth at the hands of Telltale and I am getting *seriously* genre fatigued by now. Don't get me wrong the first season of Sam and Max was nothing short of brilliance (though, I will admit that the last episodes was less then stellar) and while the second season was off to a rough start, everything got better.
    But by now… Its not like the people at Telltale are running out of ideas, but their games start to feel very formulaic to me.

    I am pretty sure, that I will still dig out my old copy of Sam and Max Hit the Road 5 or 10 years from now, but I don't think the new games will have the same longevity.

    The Telltale Seasons start to feel more and more like a real TV Series, if that makes any sense.

    EDIT. I feel the need to clarify: Buy Telltale Games’ stuff. Its mostly good and cheap to boot. You probably won’t find any better funny adventure games on the market today. At least I haven’t.

    • =Dan says:

      My wife loves adventure games and will play anything that is close to it in type (Heavy Rain), however I don’t feel that the genre has been able to escape the twisted logic that killed it off. For example in The Longest Journey there is a sequence where you combine a duckie shaped flotation device, a wrench, a bandaid, a rubber glove, and some other item (I can’t be bothered to look) to fish a large key off the third rail of a subway station. The only way to come up with that solution is to randomly click on the various items in your inventory in an attempt to combine them or read an online walkthrough. There is no common sense applied to any of it.
      If someone were to write a compelling narrative that incorporated a bit of Mcgyver I know a lot of people who would play it. Unfortunately adventure game developers still don’t realize that in real life there is more than one way to solve a problem. If you need to open the wooden door of an abandoned house in the woods, for example, in an adventure game I would probably have to find a match, pick up some crumpled newspaper, locate a convenient beehive, light the paper under the beehive to smoke the bees into complacency, steal honeycomb from the hive, locate a bear and smear a trail of honey from a bear cave to the door so that the bear knocks down the door.
      In real life I could do it one of the following ways: 1) Use a key that is under the door mat, 2)pick the lock, 3) break the door down, 4) break the small window next to the door and reach in, or 5) the best method of entry, go around back and crawl through a window.
      Until the convoluted logic is done away with, AND I don’t feel like I am playing an episode of a Saturday Morning Cartoon, I don’t see adventure games entering a Renaissance.

      • swimon says:

        If it’s just the absurd logic that bothers you then you should check out Zack and Wiki for the wii. The writing isn’t any good really and it has some unnecessary waggling but the puzzles are really clever often with multiple solutions (even if some solutions are a bit cumbersome). Unfortunately it does sort of break apart towards the end and stops being clever in a pretty stupid attempt to artificially up the difficulty but if you just don’t play the last 2 levels it’s great and actually stays away from that special brand of adventure stupid.

      • Meredith says:

        I have to agree with =Dan here. I want to like adventure games. They should be exactly my sort of thing — puzzles, slow pace, exploration, humour’s always good — but I just can’t stand the nonsense puzzles and random item combining. If there’s no logic to it, or only one correct way to do something that should have many solutions, it just gets irritating.

    • Clint Olson says:

      For what it’s worth, the latest season of Sam and Max is done by an entirely different writing team, and in my opinion it has taken a giant leap backwards. For instance, in all of the Sam & Max games, you have a gun. In the first two seasons, if you tried shooting at random inanimate objects, the game would let you, and play a sound of a bullet pinging off whatever surface you shot at. With the most recent season, I never found something you could legitimately shoot at, and any attempt to shoot at something they didn’t want you to resulted in Sam telling you he didn’t want to shoot. Much less satisfying, and much more annoying.

  2. Zukhramm says:

    I played one of the Sam & Max games, the episode that was free on Steam. While the game might have been fun, (I don’t remember actually) I did not like the style. Talking detective dog, mad rabbit, strange things everywere. I like my games to take place in something a little more resembeling reality.

    The Puzzle Agent game seems more like something I’d like, but then the puzzles don’t really seem like something fun.

  3. Ian says:

    I’m with you on the Kane and Lynch thing. My cousin and I have a fairly high tolerance for pain when it comes to video games, but the first game was just so insufferable that we couldn’t drudge our way through it.

    I still have yet to check out any of Telltale’s offerings, though. I’m really not sure why, either. From what I’ve seen of their games and their philosophies, a lot of their ideas look like they’d mesh well with me.

  4. Andy_Panthro says:

    Really not a fan of Telltale.

    I appreciate what they are doing, but it’s not for me.

    I think it’s a mixture of the interface and the 3D, it just doesn’t sit well. I finished Sam and Max season one, and a bit of the first Tales of Monkey Island episode, but I didn’t enjoy those enough to consider buying any of their other games.

    I much prefer the 2D Sierra, Lucasarts and Westwood (amongst others) adventure games, and those in the same vein.

    Thankfully, there are more of those than you could shake any number of sticks at.

  5. Tzekelkan says:

    I’m thinking of trying out the Monkey Island series so my girlfriend and I can play together (we loved the Broken Sword series, but those are the only puzzle games we played), but I know close to nothing about it. Could someone give me some advice on where to start, which games are good for a newcomer to the series etc?

    Also, are they fully voice-acted? It’s very important to us (non-native speakers and their girlfriends). Also, they’re point-and-click and not text-based, right? Thanks in advance and once again, a great and inspiring article, Shamus.

    • Nick Bell says:

      MI3, MI4, and Tales are all voiced in their original formats. While the originals do not, both of the two recent remakes for MI1 and MI2 have full voice.

      That said, I would start with the original, then work your way through the series. The second is probably the best, but it’ll be more enjoyable if you’ve played the first one, since a lot of the jokes will make more sense.

      • Blackbird71 says:

        The second MI the best? Seriously? This is the one blasted by MI fans for the terrible, slapped-together ending.

        Personally, the third (Curse of MI) was my favorite, for writing, voice acting, gameplay, and animation style.

    • Kanodin says:

      Be happy to help. First off, they are point and click adventure games not text based, and only the original versions of the first two were not voice acted. Counting the episodic series released by Telltale there have been 5 games released in the series. They are in chronological order:
      1: Secret of Monkey Island
      2: Monkey Island 2 Lechuck’s revenge
      3: Curse of Monkey Island
      4: Escape from Monkey Island
      5: (Telltale episodes) Tales of Monkey island

      It would be very difficult if not impossible to get a hold of the original four at this point. Fortunately 1 and 2 have been remade with better graphics and voice actors and can be bought online.

      Tales of Monkey Island was released much later than the rest and as such was intended to be accessible to people who had not played the originals. If you do not want to buy the digital remakes of 1 and 2 you could start here and all you would miss are references to the old games.

      The story of each game, in broad outlines, revolves around three characters. LeChuck, the undead pirate antagonist who usually causes the conflict. Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate, the protagonist who opposes Lechuck and has to go on grandiose adventures to stop him. And Elaine Marley, a friend of Guybrush, and by the Tales series his wife, who is loved by Lechuck. Knowing all that you could go into any of the games with relative ease.

      If you want links to where to buy the remakes of 1 and 2 or the Tales series feel free to ask.

      • BlackBloc says:

        Most of the humor comes from the fact that Guybrush is not exactly mighty. And for most of the beginning of the first MI game, he’s about as much of a pirate as your average hip hop fan is a gangster.

      • Tzekelkan says:

        Thank you, that was very informative! I’ll get them through Steam or something when we’re in the mood for some adventuring or when they have an awesome sale. I think they have a few of the games at a good price anyway.

  6. Vladius says:

    What’s with all of the haters?

    Excellent article. As good as it is to complain about the bad things, it’s great to push up the genuine pioneers once in a while.

  7. Raygereio says:

    Speaking of little, underdog’ish developers making games in an underappreciated genre:
    Shamus; have you heard of Star Ruler? It’s supposed to be a procedurally generated 4X game, that will be released soon.
    http://starruler.blind-mind.com/

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    While I approve the nudge towards telltale games,I still think that you shouldve mentioned lucasarts and monkey island special editions.While I usually disprove of remakes and call them cheap cash ins,lucasarts deserves credit because theyve made a remake in the most perfect sense:Update the graphics and sound,but keep the rest intact.Not just does that allow older fans to enjoy their favourite games in a shinier box,but it also allows younger gamers to experience for themselves the games these old geezers are rambling about.

    Really,lucasarts is a brilliant company that knows how to milk a franchise without angering the fans,and that deserves applause.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      The Silver Lining should probably get a mention too, it was quite a story in KQ circles. And it’s free.

      edit:

      Feel I should also mention AGD Interactive (King’s Quest 1+2, Quest for Glory 2 remakes), Himalaya Studios (Various games), Infamous Adventures (King’s Quest 3 remake, a new KQ game and Space Quest 2 remake) and all the others that are producing remakes and new games.

      There’s also two new fan-made Indiana Jones games in production (7 cities of gold and the fountain of youth).

    • DrMcCoy says:

      He also should have mentioned ScummVM. ;)

  9. Jon Ericson says:

    I followed the adventure genre since they were called, more appropriately, text adventures. Puzzles are particularly tricky as they become typing exercises if too easy:

    “You are in a narrow corridor with a locked door to the east. There is a key on the floor.”

    > get key

    “You have the key.”

    > unlock door

    “The door is now unlocked.”

    > open door

    etc.

    But making puzzles harder only makes the problem worse, since you start trying completely random things in order to guess what the designer had in mind. A quality hint system becomes vital at that point and the Telltale games do a fairly good job of providing appropriate hints. (But the games seem a touch easy to me.) An even better hint system is the one used by Hamlet – The Text Adventure, which lets you slowly reveal hints until they basically spell out the steps. It sure doesn’t hurt that the hints are as well-written and funny as the main game.

    I find the Telltale games are extremely polished and little interface issues tend to be fixed in later games. But I hope they continue to bring new properties to the genre rather than reviving Lucasarts classics. Strong Bad was better than the Sam and Max games and the Monkey Island demo turned me off to the full game since it seemed a pale imitation of the original.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Best hint system I ever saw was in Space Quest IV.

      You actually could go and buy the hint book!

      Of course, the hints were mostly useless… apart from one

    • silver says:

      Infocom’s interpreter got really good at this kind of thing in its later stages.

      > enter door
      [using the key to unlock the door]
      “You enter the house…

      sadly, this was never the norm and Infocom isn’t even well known for their later games, just their earliest ones with the least intelligence.

    • eri says:

      The first Monkey Island episode mostly sucks, the second one is better but still a bit mediocre. The third gets a major change in setting and narrative development, something that Monkey Island always handled well but Telltale originally get down due to their limited budget and focus on short, sustained bursts of plot exposition rather than continued development. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how the rest of the series goes, but I don’t blame you for not buying – ultimately Telltale’s work is still imitation, but at least it’s much-improved imitation.

  10. Jarenth says:

    The fact that you name Sonic as a ‘current gaming fixture’ is hilarious to me.

    I agree with the statement that Telltale are making decent quality games, though. I’ve only played Sam and Max (like that a lot) and Monkey Island (meh) myself, so I can’t speak for everything… but they seem to have a decent handle on this ‘episodic adventure game’ thing.

    EDIT: Also, while I’m talking: On page 2 you refer to Kayne and Lynch, where I suppose you meant Kane and Lynch.

    • Shamus says:

      Didn’t Team Sonic just come out with a game this year?

      • BlackBloc says:

        Maybe. I don’t really know because Sonic hasn’t been relevant since the Sega CD days.

        • eri says:

          Sonic is relevant in the sense that the games continue to sell. The series has an extremely strong fanbase despite its consistently low quality in the last decade, and it’s even experienced a bit of a rebirth due to the focus on 2D gameplay over full 3D. Most importantly, though, Sonic is fuelled by nostalgic gamers and parents buying games for their children; name recognition alone drives the series these days, but that name recognition is worth at least a few million copies sold per game.

          • Jarenth says:

            Yeah, but that’s more or less what I mean: Sonic is a creature from the nineties, whose popular games came out in the nineties, and whose current games only get boughyt by people from the nineties. Sonic still exists, to be sure, but to call him a fixture of modern gaming is stretching it a bit for me. Though I guess that depends on what exactly your definition of a ‘fixture of gaming’ would be.

  11. swimon says:

    Telltale is interesting. It’s the only company I know that try to occupy that “middle of the market” place. They’re not indie but they don’t make AAA titles either. I think this is a big reason for why they were able to revive the adventure genre. Making smaller games meant they could take more risks, like making an adventure game after the genre was dead, and it also meant that they could afford to be funded by a niche fanbase.

    Of course it also helps that they’re very talented and knew what they were doing. I just wish that this funding strategy could be employed to more genres like RPGs or stealth-em-ups or action adventure games.

    • eri says:

      I don’t want to get hopes up, but Obsidian have expressed interest in making some middle-budget RPGs, possibly isometric. Making expensive games is a very hard proposition, but making what is viewed as a niche title on a few million dollars, focusing mostly on content, art and writing rather than flashy CG (looking at you, BioWare), is a very sound strategy and won’t sink any investors. Obsidian have the ability to make it happen. Along with developers like Double Fine and Hothead, I think the potential is there, but the people who write the cheques are unconvinced for some reason, and would rather throw their money into extremely expensive games that can’t make their money back even if they sell three million copies.

      • Swimon says:

        Oh the Obsidian thing is news to me. I don’t really know how to feel about it though I mean I like that someone is doing it but I really don’t like Obsidian. The problem is that if they fail investors will probably become even more scared of trying to go middle market. Maybe this is the sort of thing Obsidian can pull off though, I mean it usually seems like they’re trying above their capabilities. Maybe a game that is less technically difficult to make will suit them (still not convinced that they can write an engaging story though).

        • Klay F. says:

          If you aren’t convinced about Obsidian’s story-telling ability, just go play the first three-quarters of KOTOR 2. I know that game gets a lot of flak for being completely unfinished and buggy, but that was more LucasArts’ fault. Besides the story only actually falls apart at the very end. The Peragus mining facility at the start of the game is (in my own humble opinion anyway) still one of the most atmospheric and engaging (and even a bit spooky, more so than the recent Silent Hill games anyway) areas I’ve ever encountered in a videogame.

          Still, one thing Obsidian needs to stop doing is going after bigger companies’ sloppy seconds. First they had to follow two of the best games Bioware ever made, now they are following Bethesda’s Fallout 3 which, while not nearly as good as Bioware’s games, still sold like proverbial hotcakes.

          I am of the opinion the one of the best moves they could possibly make is to get away from the triple A game market, it has not been kind to them.

  12. Sekundaari says:

    I just assumed that point’n’click adventures were easy enough to make that there was little point in trying to sell adventure games, unless with exceptionally good writing, after online flash games became common. For examples, this blog has far more gems of the genre than I’ll ever need. Buried in lots of mediocre ones and other point’n’click games, of course, but still…

  13. Fat Tony says:

    To be quite honest i kinda like Kane & Lycnh as well as the Many TellTale games iv’e downloaded from the Xbox marketplace

  14. Irridium says:

    I never understood why Kane and Lynch got a sequel. From what I heard the only interesting thing was the multiplayer component. Otherwise the only reason it was really known was because of the Gamespot incident.

    Anyway, more on topic. I like Telltale. I’ve enjoyed all of their games (granted I’ve only played Sam and Max and Monkey Island, but I like what I played) and if any of their other games are as funny as them, then they’re good in my book.

    Its nice to know there’s at least one company that has episodic games down, where other companies just slog on. *cough* obligatory Valve and/or Episode 3 comment *cough*

    • eri says:

      Because it’s a reasonable competitor to a game like Gears of War, to be honest. Gears has a lot of fans and they won’t have their game for a while yet… some executive looked at the release schedule and saw an opening for a gritty, cover-based third-person shooter.

      The thing is, Kane & Lynch has a lot of potential. IO Interactive do excellent work with the Hitman series, and I think that playing a game through the eyes of someone utterly detestable is enjoyable in a perverse sort of way. From what I can tell, both games were damaged by being rushed out the door (the sequel is apparently less than four hours long), and by IO just not having the raw technical talent to live up to other developers in a genre with very stiff competition. They’re much better when they’re up to something different, because then the bugs don’t quite matter so much.

  15. Legal Tender says:

    Oh brother, this reminded me of one of my all time faves:

    Grim Fandango!

  16. Friend of Dragons says:

    Sigh, with this article, along with its mention in the last Spoiler Warning, you’ve renewed my desire to play Myst again…

    Hmmm… I think I recently saw it on Steam, too…

    • Klay F. says:

      Myst is fine, just don’t mention Riven. I spent so many countless hours of my life on that idiotic marble puzzle, that its almost traumatic.

      • Jastermereel says:

        Riven was excellent except for one or two snags like that. I’m convinced the marble puzzle was broken because I understood the mechanic and the end solution didn’t make sense. That, and something was wrong with some of the sounds in the game; some class of sound file wouldn’t play regularly, which made one puzzle a real mystery until my dad and I looked online. “Oooh! Those buttons make sounds that correspond to something else that also makes sounds?”

        Still, I haven’t touched it in years and years but still remember the number system and the subtle puzzle for figuring it out for the first time.

  17. Nalano says:

    Do you often find yourself publicly judging games you haven’t played?

    I ask not because I want to be peevish and smug but because I don’t really wanna find reason to dislike the blog of a writer I normally find interesting.

    That said, I liked the original Kane and Lynch, if not for the gameplay (the problem of which are well documented), than for the exercise in not playing the usual anti-hero so in vogue nowadays. Anybody who’s suffered through Starcraft 2’s terrible excuse for a storyline should know the feeling.

    K&L reminds me of the problem most filmographers talk about war movies or mob movies: Their point is “this is hell and these people are bad” but it glamorizes their acts so much that the result ends up being the opposite: Mobsters like Goodfellas; soldiers watch Apocalypse Now to get pumped up.

    So K&L just goes the whole hog: These men’s lives are miserable. They don’t win. There’s maybe an ounce of redeemable character, but it’s too little, too late. They’re not role models. You don’t want to be them. But like a Tarantino film, you watch them anyway.

    K&L2 solves a great deal of the “great idea, sucks to play” gameplay of the first, and I’m glad at least IO Interactive is attempting to develop a unique artistic and writing style. SOMETHING YOU DON’T SEE VERY OFTEN IN GAMES NOWADAYS, consequently.

    Speaking of writing, I see way too many “ain’t it nice TellTale Games are carrying the torch for adventure games” articles. Far more, at least in my mind, than the actual writing of the games warrant. The original Sam & Maxes made me giggle uncontrollably. The current crop are waaay too telegraphed and, with the latter-day Monkey Island, feel more like Dane Cook than the people he copies off of.

    TellTale ain’t LucasArts.

    • eri says:

      I do have to agree with this. Telltale’s biggest problem is that they take a long time to get into a groove with each of their adventure games, and while the quality of the gameplay is usually pretty good, the writing itself just feels flat. Part of this is budget constraints (there’s a reason Sam & Max Season One revolved almost entirely around the same places and characters over and over), but part of it is just because it takes time to adopt the style of a series.

      I do think you should give them another shot, though. Tales of Monkey Island doesn’t quite have the wit of the original series, but it does improve a lot in its second half. Sam & Max Season One isn’t so great, but the second season is pretty good, and the third one finally gets the utter insanity of the series dead right. Telltale are a developer who really listen to their fans, so when you buy a game, you’re also making an investment into something that you can expect to improve and mature over time.

      • jdaubenb says:

        Telltale’s problem is, that they treat every first episode as an entirely new reboot.
        Every season starts with a what is basically a tutorial episode, explaining the controls, character’s, etc.. This in turn means that there is very little of interest for longtime Telltale-drones and the first episode’s story has usually very little bearing on the rest of the story.
        I think they did quite well with the first Sam and Max Episode of the current Season, since those game actually introduced new content and ways to solve the puzzles: Max’s psychic powers.
        Another “problem” is that they have recently startet targeting the iPad-demographic which in turn spelled the reboot of reboots with occasional nods to continuity.

        To be honest, I feel that handhelds & the iPad are the only logical platforms for point and click adventures these days. Looking at the relative success of the Ace Attorney games and Hotel Dusk on the DS and Telltales attempt to branch out towards the app market, treating these games as light reading with a bit of puzzle solving for the commute to work might just be the smartest thing for publisher’s to do.
        You know, that or remaking the games in “HD” and selling them to us again. If the Monkey Island I & II remakes wouldn’t increase the chance of seeing a Grim Fandango remake ever so slightly I would be much more cynical about those.

      • Nalano says:

        I have all three seasons of TellTale’s Sam & Max. My favorites, at this point – if they can be called that – are 105 and 203.

        The third season feels less “wacky” and more “ain’t this wacky (wink, wink)?”, like hipsters somehow hijacked the series and made everything a recursive inside joke. At this point it feels like Full Throttle is more “wacky,” to speak nothing of Sam & Max Hit the Road.

        The one thing, to me, that kills randomness is a whopping dollop of “nah, I can’t do that” coupled with a fantastically esoteric solution. I’ve been noticing a lot of that lately.

    • Shamus says:

      “Do you often find yourself publicly judging games you haven’t played?”

      This is a perfectly sensible thing to do. You (hopefully) do it all the time as a consumer. I hated the first game. I hated the characters and the gameplay. The sequel has the same characters and gameplay.

      • Nalano says:

        Except the gameplay isn’t the same.

        But you don’t know that, because you haven’t played it. An amazing feat, considering the game is one of the few ones in this day and age to offer a free demo! (To speak of lost traditions.)

        Consequently, a consumer who publicly (since you forgot that term) lambastes a game s/he hasn’t played is a troll.

        • Shamus says:

          I think a troll would be someone who has the nerve to call ME a troll, on my own website, for using prior experience to form opinions. I’ve seen the trailer. It was Kane & Lynch laughing before they waded out into a sea of police cars and stared shooting people. I’ve heard the hype. NOBODY is taking about “brand new gameplay”, which is what it would take to salvage this wreck of non-entertainment.

          I’m sorry you’re keeping your self-esteem inside of your Kane & Kynch 2 Collector’s Edition tin, but I’m just calling them like I see them. There are more games out there than I could ever hope to play, and I think a good way of shortening the list is not playing sequels to games that were inexcusably horrible.

          • Nalano says:

            Did you just rebut a point by calling me a fanboy, right after conceding you had no direct experience?

            Yes, you did! Ha ha! And here I thought there would be reasoned debate.

            • Shamus says:

              Uh? You called me a troll. ON MY OWN SITE? And now all of a sudden you’re weeping about the loss of our scholarly debate.

              I think all hope for reasoned debate was out the window when you STARTED this nonsense. This apple didn’t fall far from the rotten tree, and I think it is perfectly reasonable to point this out.

              • Phoenicia says:

                Trolling is trolling, no matter what sort of fancy name you want to put on it — and you, sir, were indeed trolling first by calling out a game you haven’t played and have no interest in whatsoever.

                But, hey, articles aren’t written to be disagreed with, nor are comments meant for the expression of opinions, right?

                • Shamus says:

                  Trolling – as I have always understood it – is starting a discussion specifically to derail an existing discussion or to inflame and incite a response.

                  The way you’re using it means “expressing an opinion that makes me really angry”.

                  The idea that I should somehow PRETEND that I could find this entertaining:

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQ_4a-NTaOg&feature=fvst

                  …because K&L fanboys might get their feelings hurt is ludicrous to me. Senseless. Crazy. I have seen everything I need in order to form an opinion. They are making everything I HATED about the first game part of their marketing selling points for the second.

                  If you actually need to eat a spoonful of shit to figure out if you won’t like it, then fine. But I’m not going to chow down with you.

                • Phoenicia says:

                  “The way you’re using it means ‘expressing an opinion that makes me really angry’.”

                  Er, no. I don’t know where you got the idea that I give a damn about Kane & Lynch. I don’t. I think it’s unfair for you to publicly condemn a game you haven’t and refuse to play, and it undermines your main article’s credibility. Dislike it all you want, but you’re criticizing a game for aspects that you yourself have not experienced. I’m not going to run around lambasting Madden simply because I personally consider it beneath my notice.

                  “Trolling – as I have always understood it – is starting a discussion specifically to derail an existing discussion or to inflame and incite a response.”

                  Ah so? Then please explain to me how this intro has anything at all to do with your article – which, frankly, I must admit to enjoying before I saw you being an outright ass here. It seems rather a derailment from the topic at hand, rather than an article on its own merits (or lack thereof).

                  • Shamus says:

                    I can see this whole “I played the original” concept is escaping you here. That’s okay, I’m done squabbling over this.

                    I am unrepentant. Deal with it or find another blog. End of story.

                    • Elilupe says:

                      Lookin’ through the archives on this site, and woah this is the saltiest I’ve ever seen Shamus.

                      And for the record I also am on the side of people who enjoy K&L and it’s sequel. I think they attempted the same thing Spec Ops: The Line did, with varying and comparable degrees of success.

                      The problem Kane and Lynch had(besides its dated graphics and pretty terrible and similarly-dated shooting), was, in my opinion, that it was too subtle about its true intentions, funny as that may sound while talking about a pretty big budget shooter.

                      Kane and Lynch(the second one more than the first) was the first Spec Ops: The Line, but no one understood it at the time! It was the first(to my knowledge) anti-shooter. Before Spec Ops, before Bioshock.
                      It’s the first anti-shooter. A game that knows that other big popular games like Call of Duty or Uncharted or almost any game in which the main hero kills other people are fronted by psychopaths. The only reason we the audience see them as heros is because the game makes them likeable. Gives them some humanity in friends or family. Makes them say witty one liners that make us like them.

                      But Kane and Lynch was different. It understood that these main characters that we root for and love are messed up people. How many people does Nathan Drake kill in a single day, just for some old bits of gold and a statue or two? Kane and Lynch are the grim reality of people who snuff out life so indiscriminately. They’re ugly, beaten, broken, psychos who speak in f-bombs and care only for themselves. The only bits of humanity they show is, like the above commentor said, too little, too late. They’ve ruined their lives and the lives of those around them and there’s no redemption for men like them.

                      As a wonderful post on actionbutton.net says about the game,
                      “The market says: I want, and most companies produce games tailored to these wants.

                      Dog Days says: fuck you, this is what you want, look at what you want, asshole.

                      I suppose it’s understandable that many people wouldn’t want to listen.”

                • Phoenicia says:

                  Bloody lack of an edit button… ignore all that bolding.

                • MogTM says:

                  I feel that the key phrase that is getting lost here is “If the sequel is anything like the first.” Shamus introduced his thoughts with this phrase; to me, this made it clear that his following comments were based on assumptions from the first game.

                  If he had claimed to be reviewing the game, this would have been problematic. Instead, he was stating that he felt that the squeal to a poor game was getting more attention than some strong adventure games.

                  The sequel might not be like the original. But again, Shamus acknowledged that in his *second* sentence.

  18. Jokerman89 says:

    On Kane & Lynch…i think i stopped playing at exactly the same spot as you did. With bad games ill play them through to the end if there easy…when i start to die i give up…not worth trying to beat it.

  19. Shamus, you do realize that modern interactive fiction does away with all the annoyances you mentioned?

    Seriously, why does everyone act as if text adventures ended with Infocom? Please, take a look at the Interactive Fiction Wiki. The world didn’t stand still for the past 20-something years.

  20. Factoid says:

    I’m extremely happy that the Monkey Island games are being remade on XBLA. The first one was probably the best remake I’ve ever seen. They added voice acting, upgraded to beautiful 2D graphics and also left the old game completely intact underneath to view at any time.

    They were originally very coy about whether the other games would get a facelift as well but now they’ve got Monkey 2 up as well.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Perhaps we’ll see Day of the Tentacle next? Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis? Loom?

      We can but hope.

      • pneuma08 says:

        The Indiana Jones games and Loom (as well as The Dig) were recently released via Steam, whereas the Monkey Island games haven’t and were remade instead – I can only hope that this points to the remakes of the other noteworthy Lucasarts games (Maniac Mansion, Sam & Max, Full Throttle(!)).

        I know I’d buy ’em.

        If I had to bet, I’d say that Sam & Max is up next because of the new games by Telltale (although maybe not if it gets legally thorny…but I digress).

  21. Nihil says:

    I didn’t see a mention of Frogwares anywhere in these comments, so I’ll point out their existence.

    I like a lot of what Telltale Games is doing, but for absolute quality modern-day adventures, Frogwares has them beat fair, square, and circle. The Sherlock Holmes series, in particular, features great puzzles, usually accessible, with most of the difficulty concentrated in the occasional decyphering job a la Myst; intelligent dialogues with lovingly posh British accents; and environments that are consistently atmospheric (from Victorian London docks to Louisiana swamps) and detailed (the British Museum, the Tower of London).

    I strongly recommend it to everyone. SH vs. Arsene Lupin is my favourite, but they’re all solid.

    • eri says:

      I tend to dismiss Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew etc. games because they tend to be on the “cheap and crappy” side. If those ones are an exception then I might take a closer look, though. Thanks for the tip!

    • Timelady says:

      I love the Sherlock Holmes series! Especially the way they handle the detecting. Plus it’s pretty neat to actually explore ol’ 221B Baker St. and surrounding areas. It’s just so hard sometimes to get my adventuring fix now that The Adventure Company’s basically moved to the DS (with a few wonderful surprises like Murder in the Abbey and Black Mirror).

  22. Nathan says:

    Alright, I admit that I am not too familiar with a lot of the stuff you are talking about (I never played Sam and Max, never played Monkey Island, etc), so I don’t know how well the genres compare, but…

    Why are you only referencing the western (PC?) adventure games? Why not mention many of the great Japanese adventure games that show up a lot on the DS (and tend to be quite popular).

    The Ace Attorney/Phoenix Wright series of games for the DS (well, originally GBA and have since been ported to the Wii on WiiWare) are straight up adventure games, are quite good, and they have hit “global meme” level of recognizability and popularity. The latest entry in the series, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, is about as classic and solid of an adventure game as you can ask for.

    I haven’t played them, but the Professor Layton series of DS games is a fairly solid and well known set of puzzle/adventure games.

    Then there are the countless other gems like Hotel Dusk, Trace Memory, and even (supposedly) lackluster games like Time Hollow or Lux-Pain. The makers of the Ace Attorney series are making that cool new game called Ghost Trick. There are a lot of them out there these days.

    Honestly, the reason you don’t here as much about Telltale game’s stuff may well be because they have extremely stiff competition from rival adventure game developers (who also have quality games but have bigger advertising budgets).

    • Shamus says:

      You’re suggesting that Telltale isn’t getting more exposure because of a bunch of other games I’ve never heard of? (Aside from Layton.) That just means they aren’t getting any exposure either! :)

      Note that I don’t play portable games at all, so those titles don’t really enter my sphere of interest or knowledge.

      • Shamus says:

        In fact, this whole thread (and the one at the Escapist) has quite a few people upset because I left out something they believed to be crucial to the genre. Laying aside the fact that mentioning them ALL would have wrecked the article, I think it shows that I was right that there are good games being overlooked. But more importantly, it shows that gamers are HUNGRY for discussion on these games.

      • Nathan says:

        If you have not heard of or have not played the Phoenix Wright games, and consider yourself an adventure game fan, then I suggest you try them. They really are good. A series doesn’t get up to 4 million worldwide sales (Capcom’s 9th best selling series) in a niche genre without some amount of quality.

        Honestly, though, I’m surprised to learn that you didn’t even hear about the series…

        • Matt K says:

          I played Harry Birdman Attorney at Law which is apparently based on the Phoenix Wright series and that game was pretty good.

          Shamus, I recommend at least checking it out (it’s available for the Wii and PS2). Actually I believe Phoenix Wright is also available on the Wii, a Wiiware title.

  23. Agiel7 says:

    Even as a hardcore PC gamer since the days of TIE Fighter, Jane’s F-15, and Dune 2, I occasionally take issue with your takes on PC games of old. So, I came into this article half-expecting that you’d blame the decline of adventure games on the dumbing down of the gaming audience rather than the faults of the genre and its developers. That said, I was pleased that you correctly identified that it was the conservative approach the game design that led to its demise (such a tenuous grasp on causality).

    However, the Emperor of Mankind and the hardcore Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2 player (nevermind the fact that I usually play as Eldar) in me take offense that you use the term “Space Marine” too lightly. In the future, please make a distinction between “Space Marines” and the legions of copies of the “Colonial Marines” of the Alien movies.

  24. Stranger says:

    It may have been just me, but I recently replayed some of my old Sierra adventure games . . . there weren’t that many ludicrous solutions to puzzles in King’s Quest 6 from my memory. But the previous and succeeding games were rather for expecting unintuitive leaps of logic on how things went together.

    [See: KQ5, the Tambourine, the Yeti, the second-to-last puzzle.]

    Myst was interesting to play, Riven . . . I can’t get to run properly on my machine when I had the patience to sit down and play it. I have the PSX version but there’s a burn error in disc 3 which is rather severe. Most of the fun of Myst/Riven in my memory is poking around and trying to wrap your head around this alien culture and how things behaved . . . which seemed to work in a logical fashion. Internally; the best description is a title from a TvTropes article: “Magic A is Magic A”.

    Of course, I also enjoyed Space Quest 3 as one of the first adventure games I beat on my own. If you want to talk about ludicrous . . . that game loved to kill you at the drop of a hat. But then, it’s Space Quest, they did that in every game.

    My favorite “realistic” adventure game had to be Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time (from Broderbund). Its story was well-developed, the puzzles were well-done in my opinion, and they WOULD give you a hint system in the process of the game. It would disappear for the last act, but by then you were supposed to have all the information you needed.

  25. PhoenixUltima says:

    I despise adventure games, mostly because I’m shit at them. Even in the good ones you have to have the kind of lateral thinking that allows you to figure out things like, say, unscrewing the bolt keeping a giant fake fish mounted on a pole and then hopping inside its mouth so it falls into the river, floats downstream and gets caught by a fisherman, who then immediately tosses it up into the kitchen you need to get into. I don’t, so for me these games inevitably boil down to finding a walkthrough and following it pretty much from start to finish, which changes the game into just ticking off items on a laundry list written by Weird Al on peyote.

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