Thursday, 6 January 2011

My personal top adventure games of 2010

Here is a short (but sweet) look back at a few of the Adventure Games that really stood out above the others for me in the past year. This is not a definitive list, rather some suggestions of titles that really left an impression on me and come with my highest recommendations.

Adventure game of the year:

Heavy Rain - PlayStation 3

Love it or hate it, Heavy Rain has done more for taking Adventure Games into the mainstream than any other Adventuring title in 2010. Selling over 1 million copies in its first two months on sale, hitting number one in the sales charts in several countries and having a monster Sony marketing push behind it showed to the world that when marketed right, a good Adventure game can sell well to the core gaming audience. Don't we all just wish titles like Grim Fandango and The Last Express received half the marketing Heavy Rain got?

Following up to the previous title from Quantic Dreams - Fahrenheit - the game had some expectations to live up to, and other expectations it would want to disprove. Over-reliance on Quick time events remained, but felt more natural in this case, as the movements and actions required were closely related to the movements of arms and legs in-gmae, for example - rather than random button mashing. Asking the player to swing the control stick in the same arc the on-screen character followed when moving their arm made sense, rather than combinations of X, and O buttons.

Another bug-bear of Fahrenheit was the games descent into fantasy and Sci-fi, which was handled badly. Starting as a gritty crime drama, the game quickly turned to the ludicrous and turned many fans off the game. Heavy Rain sticks to the realism of that first act, and manages to keep up the intense real-life plot going all the way through. Sure it dips into the unlikely - in the same way any thriller movie might, but it remains rooted in reality, and is stronger for it.

I have written a lot about this game in the past - please see some of my other thoughts on the title here and here, and if you decide to give the game a chance, I hope you will agree with me that this game helped Adventures take a real step forward in 2010.

Portable Adventure game of the year:

Nelson Tethers Puzzle Agent - Pc, Mac, multiple Apple platforms.

Released by Telltale Games, featuring the artwork of Graham Annable - this is a puzzle-filled Adventure game along the same lines a the Professor Layton series. Full of interesting characters and crazy situations, the game has an intriguing premise of disappearing locals in puzzle-obsessed small-town America and dangerous-looking Garden Gnomes!

The puzzles are very much the same standard we have come to expect from the Professor Layton games and range from simple to very challenging and will provide a lot of longevity, but to simplify things, you can collect hint tokens (also a feature in Layton games) which can be spent when you get stuck.

The sense of humour shines through in the artwork, voice-acting and situations. It is all very unusual, but will intrigue you and keep you wanting to uncover the real answer to the town mystery, and how to solve it. The links between puzzles and the storyline are more often than not very tenuous, which does tend to diminish the impact of the story - when the puzzles you solve have little real relation to the plot. This would be a huge flaw often, but seeing as the game is designed to be played on-the-go and in small bite-size chunks, you can see the idea of a coherent story may carry slightly less weight.

All in all an acquired taste - certainly for fans of logic puzzles, but not a game which will capture the hearts of everyone. I think it is more the unusual design and sound that kept me hooked - so many strange people to meet and places to explore.

Retro Adventure game of the year:

Broken Sword: The Director's Cut - multiple Apple platforms.

By retro Adventure game of the year, I mean a classic game re-imagined. As has been the trend recently, many popular Adventure games have been re-issued this year on new formats and with new features and this was a hard category to judge. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge came close, but I felt the conversion of Broken Sword, released across Apple platform in January, was a perfect fit on those devices.

Complete with full music and voices (not found in the Nintendo DS release) and additional puzzles and scenes which were not present in the original game, coupled with new Dave Gibbons (he of Watchmen fame) artwork and re-mastered graphics, the game found a new lease of life on touch-enabled devices. The control method works perfectly and the simple yet elegant graphic style works just as well on the screen of a phone as it does on a tablet or TV screen. The new puzzles don not seem out of place and blend seamlessly with the classic ones. Everything done to this edition adds to it, rather than hindering it.

Whilst the Monkey Island Special Editions continue to split opinions through their use of all-new graphics, Broken Sword has simply polished up the already lovely visuals, and added extra detail in the form of character portraits during conversations. The old aesthetic is still there, and this will not put off any fans of the original release, but the extra layer of sheen will help to attract new fans.

The story and characters remain some of the best ever written, the puzzles are (fairly) logical and intriguing, and the music still as stirring as it ever was. Voice acting compliments the characters well and for a game where conversations are key, the acting does entertain the player enough so that even long conversations do not grate.

There is little more that can be said for such an icon of Adventure gaming - but simply put, this is a must-purchase for all Apple users.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Puzzling (Mis)adventures - not quite adventures, but still recommended

Over at, we have posted a new article focusing on several games that really stretch the boundaries between platforming and puzzling, and although they are far from traditional adventure games, they contain some great puzzling elements for the wider audience.

I looked at Super Scribblenauts on the Nintendo DS, and you can read my impressions of the title here, which was a huge improvement over its predecessor. It comes with high recommendations as one of the best DS titles of the year.

Please check out the article for that game and more puzzling misadventures, and widen your adventuring horizons! Let me know what you think if you have played any of these games.