The Value Proposition of the Point and Click

July 22nd, 2010


I started playing the classic point and click adventure game, Lure of the Temptress, today and after an hour of play subsequently decided to end my session and probably never load the game up ever again. As I said in my Eternal Darkness post:

The inherent nature of the [old school adventure] genre (fetch questing and rubbing items against random pieces of the environment) relies on the solid construction of puzzles and contextual bits in between to make itself enjoyable.

The reason why the point and click adventure game died out is because the puzzles were so arcane and, as the stories in games from other genres improved, the context (the writing, graphics and characters) was insufficient enough to keep players interested in what is ultimately tedious gameplay. Fortunately this isn’t the case with most modern point and click adventure games such as the ever-continuing Monkey Island and Sam and Max series. Both of these franchises have remained contextually interesting, streamlining interface contrivances and being careful with the way puzzles are structured. The point and click adventure still a bit of an acquired taste—and of largely little interest to younger players—but one sustainable enough to keep itself commercially afloat, and that’s all that matters, really.

In thinking about the old-school adventure games that I’m currently willing to invest in, I’ve been running through this entire thought process of whether my interest in the contextual outweighs the possible staleness of the puzzles and clunkiness of the interface in the mechanical. Revisiting the old Monkey Island games (NOT in HD) is worthwhile, since they’re nostalgic. Beneath a Steal Sky is on my Windows partition, because of my interest in artist Dave Gibbons, the interpretation of a dystopian, overpopulated Australian society and because the interface is stupidly excellent and easy to use. The Resident Evil games are still on my list because I have a fondness for PS-one era pre-rendered backdrops and get a kick out of the story. Grim Fandango interests me because its so damn funny that its worth the torment of non-sensical puzzle design.

In a way, it’s kinda sad that I weigh up the value proposition of games of this genre in such a manner. But there is no denying that the elements which previously illuminated point and click adventure titles (beautifully illustrated graphics, clever dialogue, solid length) have been eclipsed by other genres and that the brick and mortar premise requires fundamental updating and reinvention.

PS. If you are interested in sussing out more of this genre, Kurt Kuluta over at Hardcore Gaming 101 has been covering the genre extensively over the past few months. Maybe you’ll find something you like, even though I’m a bit adverse to the genre, I wouldn’t dissuade you from taking a look see.

PSS. My opinions here are a bit skewed by fact that I haven’t taken the liberty of actively trying some of the great adventure games from the indie scene, many of which excite me and perhaps also evidence the recent growth in the genre. This article is the start of something on-going, I hope.