Adventure Games
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Adventure Game Reviews

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge Special Edition

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge Special Edition

Having just played the special edition of the first game I decided to carry on with the sequel. First the enhancements - LucasArts have improved the bad navigation of the first version with an okay menu system. The graphics, while all re-drawn, are still only about an 8/10. In some ways they've lost the sharpness and vibrancy of the original.

I actually played the original version way back when, not that I can remember much of it. The game itself does have lots of interesting locations and three islands to visit. Coming in a couple hours longer, there's also a lot more back-and-forth between islands, which isn't so fun. The puzzles are also much less clear about what to do next. But the charm comes through again in the sequel with a cute story. I don't find it sleep inducing like most modern adventure games. Shame about the ending - could this be the poorest ending in video game history?

Tales of Monkey Island

Tales of Monkey Island

After forcing my way through Telltale Games' Sam & Max episodes, I didn't expect they'd do a good job with Monkey Island. But it just goes to show a different subject matter, and they can create something great. Having just played the first two Monkey Islands, the fifth official game has many superior features over the first two - but most notably the story and writing. It's a long game, taking between 10-15 hours over five episodes, but the story is very well done and far, far more detailed than the games that came before it. The comedy was also at a much higher level as well. The LucasArts games weren't really laugh-out-loud funny, but Telltale has more humorous writers. It was actually worth listening to most dialogue, whereas in Sam & Max there was just far too much dribble.

The game uses Telltale's 3D approach, but this time you can use the movement keys, although they are extremely clumsy and one weakness of Tales. But the 3D look isn't necessarily better; the enhanced 2.5D visuals of the early games look just as good.

The other weaknesses are a lacklustre couple of episodes in the middle of the game. While episode 1  and 2 are great, episode 3 takes place almost entirely within a Manatee stomach, while episode 4 returns you to the same island as episode 2, only at night (like that's supposed to make it new) to do a couple hours of boring quests to prove your innocence. Episode 5 gets better but still has way too much back-and-forth. The entire game would have been better if episode 4 was ditched completely, with only the important storyline parts kept and merged into episode 3, which in-turn would have spent far less time in the Manatee stomach.

Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island

Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island

The second game coming from Autumn Moon following the charming A Vampyre Story in 2008. This time the founders (Mike Kirchoff and Bill Tiller) are back to their roots, Bill being an artist on the third Monkey Island game. There are many similarities, even homages, to Monkey Island. This game is short (4-5 hours for me) but does have a detailed storyline as you play three different characters throughout. You even play a lot of the game as a ghost, so no one else can see you. The design is good, with some nicely drawn environments, but it does feel low quality at times. The cutscenes in particular are very blurry. So it's lacking that AAA punch, especially compared to Tales of Monkey Island, but not bad for a small indie team.

Runaway 3: A Twist of Fate

Runaway 3: A Twist of Fate

Pendulo Studios really knows how to create a nice looking game. Beautifully drawn 2D scenes with the character in 3D cel-shading, artistically this could be the best looking adventure game of 2009. I really look forward to playing more of their titles in this style. Unfortunately the story was a bit disappointing. I never got to play the first two Runaway games - I tried but they wouldn't run properly. So I completely skipped over most of the plot, and it would have been useful to know what was going on prior to start Runaway 3. They perhaps should have done a recap of the storyline, because I started up a bit clueless on who the characters were. Later in the game you do get that recap, and I must admit the first two games seem to have had a far more epic story than this one. Runaway 2 looks like it featured plenty of exotic locations, military plots, aliens and secret alien devices. Runaway 3 is just a simple Nancy Drew murdery-mystery. You get to help Brian escape the mental hospital, help Gina find clues to prove his innocence at the cemetary and then the victims house, and then foil the criminals in a city building. Very plain locations, although they're are beautifully drawn. It almost feels like it's only the final chapter of a bigger game. Yet this is it. Hence the low score - great visuals, good characters and funny dialogue, but a slightly boring story.

Machinarium

Machinarium

Machinarium is a charming, short (3-5 hours) indie adventure game. The lack of budget is evident in the length and lack of story or dialogue. It's really just wonderfully 2D environments, which you'd expect after Samarost, and some creative puzzles. While the visuals are great, it's hard to really score it against full AAA titles so highly, because if you took those visuals away, there's not much left in Machinarium. What it does, it does well. But if you're looking for some story, then Machinarium is best left avoided.

Some of the puzzles aren't so good either, some are just painful to get through. Forcing you to play Galaga for several minutes is not fun, followed shortly after by a crude shooting maze.

Secret Of Monkey Island Special Edition

Secret Of Monkey Island Special Edition

It's great to revisit an old adventure classic with a remastered appearance. The gameplay, scenes and puzzles are all exactly the same. But the graphics have be redrawn, voices added and sound effects. While the graphics are very impressive in some parts of the game, there are some scenes that look downright unfinished. Monkey Island in particular, the last part of the game, looked very average and a few scenes looked like they were still in the drafting stage, so I do wish LucasArts put a bit more effort into some of the scenes. But many of the scenes look good, particular on Melee Island, which makes up most of the game.

The control scheme is also really bad for a modern puzzler, forcing you to revisit the control menu several times trying to remember the mulitude of keys to press.

But overall The Secret of Monkey Island is still a great adventure game, sometimes silly but always fun, and it's aged well.

Mata Hari

Mata Hari

Mata Hari is the first title from a new developer, Cranberry Productions. It does feel fairly budget, being 5-7 hours long, with standard 2.5D rendered scenes. The locations are well familiar to adventure gamers - Monaco, Berlin, Paris, Madrid. By halfway through the game you've seen them all, and unfortunately becomes a real chore as you're mostly going through the mandatory travelling requirements of getting in the taxi and buying a train ticket... too many times to count.

It's mixes a few of the usual mini-games into a puzzle experience that isn't too challenging. But some things feel pretty half assed, such as Mata Hari needing to learn a new dance move where most of the time she just does the same re-hashed laughable animation.

The plot is more interesting, based on dancer, courtsan and spy around WWI. But some creative license had to be used around her actual missions and characters.

Emerald City Confidential

Emerald City Confidential

It's hard to compare indie games like Emerald City Confidential to full triple A games because they obviously lack the budget to do anything cutting edge. But what the lack from having a 100 strong development team, they can make up for in other areas. ECC does have pretty budget looking graphics with its hand drawn scenes. But the imagination behind it makes it superior to most adventure games with their standard European city based murder mystery plots or island-adventures and the rest of the re-hashed plots we see over again in adventure games.

ECC takes us to a noir inspired dystopian Oz, complete with all the regular Wizard of Oz characters re-imagined and a good vs bad plot. Why can't more games show this much creativity? It's like a modern version of a classic fairy tale setting, with amusing characters, especially the main character.

You've just got to look past the dated visuals and at the art itself, which is very creative. The only problems are sometimes it feels like all you're doing is clicking through long conversations instead of puzzle solving (which isn't too difficult). It's a good length too - only 4-5 hours. Any adventure game over 10 hours is too long in my opinion. Also sometimes it does feel like it's made for kids rather than adults.

It's a shame it looks like the developer, Dave Gilbert, hasn't stuck to fairy tale settings for future games.

A Vampyre Story

A Vampyre Story

Much like Jack Keane another family friendly cute adventure game, this time with a horror/vampire twist. But instead of playing the old fashioned detective (Van Helsing) vs Dracula, this time you actually are the vampire. Great locations and 2D art, great story and adorable characters and voice acting. But not without flaws - the conversations can drag and the locations end up being revisited a bit too much, especially the damn castle as you spend most of your time tranversing the rooms.
Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual

Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual

You can never expect much with City Interactive titles, their shooters are some of the worst releases of the 2000s. The Scorpio Ritual isn't really that bad. Some of the environments are quite nice, though never spectacular. The game only lasts 3-4 hours which was long enough.
So Blonde

So Blonde

Believe it or not I was actually looking forward to playing So Blonde more than most adventure titles in 2008. Playing as an adorable and gorgeous blonde, with a slightly ditzy yet happy-go-lucky attitude. She's stranded on a forgotten island where the inhabitants are stuck and time has stopped, with an overbearing ruler controlling them. So it's up to Sunny Blonde (yes, that's really her name) to save them all. Nice 2.5D visuals and art style in somewhat of a throwback to the Monkey Island series. The graphics aren't fantastic, but art is what the game as about I guess. Okay puzzles, good story. So Blonde's only major flaw is having to go back-and-forth over the same areas more times than you can count, especially with some poor hotspots at times and the characters reluctance to respond to double-clicks to make her run. A bit more humour would have been nice. But overall it's decent.

Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals

Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals

Short length, only 4-5 hours and has some strange, completely illogical puzzles. Some puzzles are time-based so you need to be fast. Okay story, at least the premise of it based on a trilogy of books, but didn't really feed into the game enough. Some really nice environments set in a dystopian sci-fi Paris, but ended up mostly being in small interior rooms so again, could be have been better.
Outcry

Outcry

What the hell did I just play? This short (3 hours) adventure game is in the vein of Zork or Myst. Strange otherworldly environments that you can only get in an adventure title! Unfortunately the story is completely obscure, while the graphics and movement throughout the world are very budget. Some of the scenes are actually quite poor quality and difficult to actually see.
Jack Keane

Jack Keane

A very cute game in the vein of the Monkey Island adventures. Decent length and story, nice 3D graphics but they were slightly childish and basic sometimes. The final level looked great though. Main negative is some of the voice acting could have been much better, and for a Monkey Island clone it was a bit void of humour.
 
However apart from Telltale Games and their Sam & Max franchise, adventure games with humour or character have been rare in the 2000s, so it's good to see 2008 games like Jack Keane and A Vampyre Story breath new life into a stagnant style of adventure game.
The Lost Crown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure

The Lost Crown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure

Gave it a shot but after almost 5 hours of playing, and not even 1/3rds through the game, I came to a point where I was stuck. Obviously some tiny, trivial little thing I hadn't completed at the church so I couldn't leave, despite reading over two fucking walkthroughs. The Lost Crown is a very slow game, no skipping over conversation so it's for the patient adventurer. Considering it's the work of a single man, Jonathan Boakes, it's really quite impressive. The sound effects and music are all great. The graphics are much improved since his last game Dark Fall in 2004. This time he's advanced to 2.5D instead of flat images. The Lost Crown made up of mostly real life images with photo manipulation and the odd bit of CGI such as crates and details. In mostly black and white, it still looked a bit old, but had a unique aesthetic and artistic quality. This helped create a very good atmosphere for the game, taking place in a cold, isolated UK town with ghosts everywhere. Shame about the actual characters, especially the main one who moonwalks across most surfaces and looks very unrealistic. However, the scares and good atmosphere weren't enough to make me stay beyond five hours when I've got four more 2008 adventure games lined up. Lost Crown just moves along too slowly, especially sitting through ten minutes of pointless conversation. Especially knowing the story is unresolved in the end and the terrible voice-acting of the main character, with an irritating pompous accent, five hours was enough.

Dracula: Origin

Dracula: Origin

Another lengthy adventure game with a decent story and cutscenes. Some of the scenes partially 3D rendered, are nicely detailed and great to look at. However three Dracula-based adventure games in a single year? Complete overkill of Vampires for me. Perhaps some of the studios were cashing in on Twilight mania.
Overclocked: A History of Violence

Overclocked: A History of Violence

Overclocked is more a cinematic adventure than puzzle solving adventure. Sometimes you feel like you're just watching a movie and doing the most basic of puzzles to get to the next cinematic. The story involves a Psychiatrist as he attempts to unravel what happened to five teenagers after they're found amnesiac and weilding weapons in NYC. It's a well told story and certainly Overclocked's main feature, although I must admit it was pretty clear how it was going to all unravel before even the halfway point of the game. The story of the teens is told in scraps of memories of under hypnosis, played in reverse, as you play as each character. It had to be done reverse otherwise you'd know the full story right from the beginning. It also gets very tiring having to playback recordings over and over again to get the patients to remember things.

The game has a good sense of atmosphere, with music just chilling enough throughout. Having the graphics aren't spectacular, and you'll have seen most of the areas of the game fairly early on. Also it would be nice to skip sentences without skipping the entire dialogue tree. But overall, this one's about story, which it suceeds nicely at.

Sinking Island

Sinking Island

I never finished this one, only getting 1/3 of the way in. The game crashed on me and I couldn't pull myself to resume. While some of the environments were nice early on, the characters looked horrible and the entire game seemed awfully boring. What put me off was the idea of reading through reports and comparing evidence, sitting through long pointless conversations and never actually getting puzzles to solve or interesting dialogue and story.
Sam & Max Save the World

Sam & Max Save the World

2007 wasn't a great year for adventure games. Sam & Max Season 1 being the undisputed overall favourite among adventure fans proves that. It's a good game, but for sequels I'd love to see the graphics and levels expanded on a bit more. Less 'downloadable indie game', more triple-A. It does however, make a nice change from a decade so far void of any humour in it's adventure games. Let's be honest; Kate Walker is pretty sour. For everyone wanting an entertaining sitcom type story, full of amusing jokes (I won't say hilarious as I only laughed out loud a few times), then Sam & Max is perfect.

 

READ FULL REVIEW

Secret Files: Tunguska

Secret Files: Tunguska

Yet another adventure game with a young female protaganist, this time trying to save daddy after he's kidnapped. The plot involves a mysterious catastrophe in 1908 and experiments he was a part of. Just solid visuals for 2006, typical adventure style 2.5D point and click, although I was quite happy that the you could jump scene-to-scene instantly instead of having to painfully wait while the character walks. Two problems with Tunguska; poor voice acting and silly puzzles. They're mostly made up of putting inventory items together to create new objects, but it becomes an exercise in clicking anything and everything just to see what works. Also, why does every room have to have some sort of secret compartment? Overall, just an okay puzzle game but there wasn't much else in 2006.

Paradise

Paradise

Syberia I & II seem to be two of the most popular adventure games of the 2000's decade. I didn't quite buy into it, they were decent but certainly no triple-A titles. Then Paradise comes after, Benoit Sokal's next creation, and strangely it gets very mixed reaction. But to me, Paradise just felt like a continuation of Syberia. It's a different story. Kate Walker is replaced with Ann Smith. The robot and mammoths are replaced with a black Leopard (er... Panther shouldn't that be?). The strange mechanical lands of Russia and Syberia are replaced with strange mechanic lands of Africa (which doesn't really look Africa at all). Same graphics, same type of puzzles and gameplay. It's basically just another Syberia game but a completely different story, one which really isn't that great (but hey, nor was Syberia truth be told). In Paradise the progression is slightly better with consistently good artwork and not too much backtracking. Syberia wasn't always great. But it also has some flaws. Firstly, you cared a bit more about the story and characters of Syberia, although that tends to happen as it was more than twice as long. Second, the bugs. Benoit clearly just spent his time on all the backgrounds instead of ironing out bugs. The hotspots for movement are terrible, a few times things just didn't work as they were supposed to. I did manage to get all the way to the end, however.

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

Overall Dreamfall is a great example of what makes a classic adventure game. It may not have had a plethora of challenging puzzles, but it makes up for that with involving characters, a creative world and captivating story. The final part of the trilogy, which is slated for November 2014 release, will undoubtedly be my most anticipated game of 2014.

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Barrow Hill

Barrow Hill

Very creepy atmosphere, tick. Non-linear order to solving puzzles, tick. Interesting premise as you're trapped in a very small area trying to figure out why everyone has gone missing, with supernatural undertones, tick. But sadly the design and art of Barrow Hill is very much a budget creation. This is 2006, a time of 2.5D or 3D adventure games with animation. Barrow Hill presents it's gameplay as 2D images, with no animation in between, more or less just a series of flat photos all played from first person perspective, with awkward movement. A style used in adventure games in the 80s and early 90s. If you are going to use this style, then the images should be something truly fantastic. A series of narrow roads, a cafe, a motel and petrol station with a few brief excursions off trail into the woods or swamp isn't unique or breathtaking. It might be creepy and have a bit of atmosphere, but I can't agree with a 7/10 aggregate score on Metacritic for a game that could have been released 25 years ago, and would have been no worse. It is a very small team of developers, but this style of gameplay is too old fashioned today. Oh and the first bit of dialogue about 15 minutes into the game is possibly the worst dialogue and script I've ever seen in a video game. On a positive note, Barrow Hill is only about 3 hours long, which a is a good length to be honest.

Keepsake

Keepsake

Keepsake is a game for hardcore puzzle gamers, not the casual adventure enthusiast. While the overall gameplay is fairly simple, it's full of mini-games that are very difficult. I needed two walkthroughs, not just for the mini-games but to actually navigate the game. Split in two chapters, you play in Dragonvale Academy, a school of magic where all the school and teachers have disappeared. But the Academy suffers from the usual adventure game issues; spending far too much time simply walking back and forth in a confusing layout. The speech is also a chore to sit through, since skipping doesn't appear to work, making this a long and tedious 10-15 hour game. The visuals are nice though, especially in the second chapter in the floating Academy, and the story isn't too bad. Like I said above, hardcore puzzle gamers only.

Samorost 2

Samorost 2

Samorost 2 is a cute, small, Flash-based game that can be played in-browser. It'll take less than an hour (50mins way my playtime) and is physically only 640x480, almost a 2D side-scroller, in some ways too small as some things were a bit hard to see. The quaint little alien world is nicely done, very similar to Machinarium. Some very basic puzzles, some featuring certain timing to complete. Fun for an hour, but can't really be compared to full adventure titles so my rating is less relevant than normal.

Nibiru: Age of Secrets

Nibiru: Age of Secrets

Unlock secrets of the lost mayan civilisation? Well I don't know what game I was playing, but fuck all was unlocked in this dull title. I actually had to take a nap 3/4s through because I just couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. With a strong coffee I resumed and finished the game. There was a story taking place but it was never properly explained. The main character was extremely dull, poor voice-acting and very little excitement. In fact he was a bit of an ass. Adventures titles should be great adventures, not going through the motions with the dullest main character in the world. The only good thing about Nibiru was some of the environments were quite nice looking, from the Nazi bunker, Paris, Prague, the Mexican Temples. Not exactly original; how many adventures games take place in everyday Europe? But still nice.

Still Life

Still Life

I'm normally not a fan of the CSI type detective/murder-mystery games, or even movies and TV series. Collecting evidence, taking photos, coraborating data and reading through pages of words, I can't think of anything more boring in a video game. While Still Life starts out this way as you collect photos and blood samples, it quickly changes to blossom into a standard point-and-click adventure game. Where Still Life differs from your standard Sherlock Holmes murder mystery is it's grittiness. Whether it's on the grainy Prague streets of 1930's as Gus works with the local prostitues to catch a serial killer, or with Victoria in modern day in constantly dark and somewhat morbid settings. The game has a good mood to it. To go with that a decent storyline between the settings, which had me eager to keep playing to see the conclusion - of which there wasn't one since it continues in Still Life 2. Certainly one of the best adventure games of the early decade.

Syberia II

Syberia II

Syberia II is basically a continuation of Syberia, not only in storyline but the graphics and puzzles are all very similar. The engine is exactly the same, so don't expect 2 years of improved graphics. Fortunately, I enjoyed Syberia II much more than the first, quite simply because the settings were far more interesting. It's starts off a little too similar to Syberia with a cold steampunk village where you have to go back and forth an absolutely stupid number of times, but then you get to more interesting landscapes particularly with a tribal village and eventually the island of Syberia. Atmosphere is highly important in adventure games, and this is what makes Syberia II much better than the first, although the puzzles and gameplay are of the same nature. There's probably less repetition as well, as I found myself quite bored in the first game at times. But not so in Syberia II. Both of these games could have been merged into a single title, however.

Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon

Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon

The main problem with Broken Sword 3 is the controls. They moved to arrows keys for real time movement rather than clicking the edge of the screen, much like normal first/third person games. Unfortunately the camera angles are all set, like a normal adventure game, which plays havoc trying to control the movement. I believe one of the Tomb Raider games tried the same thing. It was nice a try, but completely failed. Also the game hasn't aged well. Although it would have looked okay in 2003, 3D graphics have continued to enhance so going back and playing a 2003 game in 3D you get some very crude, boxey level designs. Also some of the puzzles can be very tiresome, especially moving crates around for the upteenth time. However it does have a good storyline. In the end I was sick of it 2/3rds through and was looking for to the finish, which couldn't come soon enough after 8 hours.

Syberia

Syberia

One of the more popular adventure games post 2000. However I felt it lacked the charm and character of a lot of adventure titles. Instead it felt very cold and empty. Perhaps this is the feeling they were hoping to achieve. But for me it was quite a boring game, with a lacklustre story which really goes nowhere. I'm sure it'll get better with the sequel though. A lot of slow walking around, dull and sometimes silly conversations, some of which overlap as different characters talk. The visuals and art are great though. Some really creative and inspiring environments, which I suppose is why this was a well-received game.