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The Adventure Genre - An Old Friend
Adventure games have been around for a very long time. The genre dates back to the late '70s, and to this day, we continue to see adventure games making their presence felt. Like the side-scrolling platformer, it appears there's no stopping the adventure game from consistently appearing on PCs, home consoles, and even handheld devices. Due to how much gamers are spoiled these days with HD graphics, online play, and achievements, it should come as no surprise that the adventure genre isn't as strong as it once was. But even despite its lack of massive popularity, it is still the type of game that can appeal to different individuals, and I strongly believe it is a genre that will never and should never go away.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'm not talking about L.A. Noire. That game is excellent, and it takes the genre in an exciting new direction, but for the sake of this editorial, I'm primarily talking about point-and-click adventure games the likes of Sam & Max and Tales of Monkey Island.
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Old School Is Good
There's no denying the world needs games with amazing graphics such as Uncharted and God of War. There's also no denying that evolution and revolution are necessary if gaming is to be taken seriously as an entertainment form. But I refuse to believe that classic adventure game experiences are growing "too old" for gamers nowadays. OK, so pretty much every adventure game you play has a lot of the same core mechanics. You search for clues, solve puzzles, talk to NPCs, and read a lot of text. That's not exactly fodder for gamers who prefer nonstop action from titles such as Gears of War or Call of Duty. But not every gamer survives on an endless supply of digital ammunition and chainsaws. A lot of us actually enjoy a change of pace every now and then.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario Bros. 3, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, and Super Meat Boy are among some of my favorite games of all time. Those titles were known for their revolutionary gameplay, constant thrills, gripping mechanics, or in some cases all three of those attributes. After having recently played Puzzle Agent 2, which offers challenging brain teasers and sprinkles some adventure elements into the mix, I can honestly say that game wasn't exactly revolutionary. Hell, the primary reason I enjoyed Puzzle Agent 2 was because of its story and characters. The gameplay felt a bit dated, but it in all honesty, it was a bit refreshing because of that. I think after playing so many modern games, it just felt good to play something that harked back to the games of my youth. The same can be said about the Sam & Max series, which I'm currently in the middle of playing.
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Old but Not Broken
Part of the reason adventure games are still so much fun is because they are still a sheer joy to play even despite their antiquated mechanics. Truth be told, the genre holds up because even by today's standards it doesn't feel broken. When I first played Sam & Max Save the World, I was surprised to see that I was thoroughly impressed by the gameplay. Sure, if you play these games back to back, you're bound to grow a bit tired of them. But it's fun just sitting back and watching the game unfold ever so slowly as you make decisions, talk to characters, and search your surroundings for ways to advance the plot. I wouldn't call Sam & Max perfect, but I would say it's a perfect series for anyone who wants to play something a little different from a lot of what's out there these days.
Games that try to emulate an older design model often end up failing. Duke Nukem Forever was a heaping pile of steaming poop, and its gameplay fell flat because it felt too old. Adventure games, however, benefit from the familiarity. There aren't many ways you can evolve the genre. Yes, L.A. Noire offered a different kind of adventure experience, but gamers who grew up with point-and-click titles aren't necessarily guaranteed to love that game like the rest of us did. No, those gamers will play titles like Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures and the episodic Back to the Future titles. This is because these games play like old school adventure titles, and gamers are OK with that. If it's not broken, don't fix it--and no one has yet to try.
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I Heart Telltale Games
You've probably noticed that every adventure game I've listed here (with the exception of L.A. Noire) was developed by Telltale Games. That's because you can't talk about the genre without discussing Telltale. The fine folks at this delightfully jolly company have set out to create something special: an empire for a classic genre that certainly feels pretty old but is stil addictive and notable. I doubt we'll ever get an adventure game worthy of a perfect rating, but because the genre offers something decently paced and incredibly rewarding, there will always be an audience for Telltale to deliver content to, and perfect rating or not, most of their content is definitely worthy of merit. I wouldn't call myself the biggest adventure game nut, but even I can't keep myself from getting excited whenever Telltale announces a new project.
The video game industry needs developers like Telltale because it needs games like Sam & Max and Puzzle Agent. These may not be triple-A experiences, but they're memorable experiences nonetheless that warrant a play-through from gamers due to their charming characters, entertaining tales, harmless gameplay, and rewarding sense of satisfaction upon completion. I completely dig Telltale Games, and although I've only played a handful of their games, I feel the need to boldly claim that these people are some of my favorite game developers. Why? Because they give us something that may not have been very different years ago, but certainly is today. They give us adventure games, a genre that has been faithful to itself since its beginnings, a genre that was humble before and still is today.