December 30, 2005

Where's your sense of adventure?

About a year ago, I started playing Myst IV: Revelation. I got through the opening area and one world and started on the next -- and got bored. The area I was wandering around in was sprawling, and I found it a pain in the neck to map. All the curving paths were impossible to draw out correctly on the first try, and by the time I had drawn most of a map only to discover that two points at opposite ends of the map were actually adjacent, I couldn't get excited about starting to draw it from scratch. I put the game aside for a while. Well, for a year, actually.

Two nights ago, I caught a stomach virus and thought, well, what better way to convalesce than by playing some adventure games? I restarted Myst IV, skipped the world I'd left off from and started on the other one I could get to (a process which itself took, like, a half hour) -- and soon enough found myself in the middle of a forest with the same problem as the previous world: lots of winding paths, lots of scenery, lots of "Have I been here before? I can't tell from this angle, I'd better turn around...huh, now which one of these two paths is the one I just came down? Crap." Eventually I realized what the problem had all started seeming padded. Like most of the locations I was spending time in were just places with nice scenery between the actually important spots. Like, I just want to solve puzzles; I don't want to walk around for ten minutes between them. I finally admitted I just didn't have the patience and uninstalled the game.

It might be time for me to break out the old Infocom emulator and play some text games. No waiting around for images to load! No cheesy voice acting! It sounds almost revolutionary, doesn't it?

Posted by Francis at 10:57 AM

Check out for links and reviews to new text adventures, some of which are as good as or better than the old Infocom ones.

Posted by: katre at December 30, 2005 11:03 AM

Indeed! Tablesaw and I can recommend some truly good ones, though viewing "by rating" on that site, or looking at the Comps/Awards, will be a fine start.

Posted by: Lance at December 30, 2005 12:24 PM

I liked Myst IV, and beat it without hints (booyah!). Playing the fifth and final chapter might like it a little better. The ages so far are quite short. I'm stumped as hell right now on Todelmer, for those of you who know about it. One incredibly irritating thing about the game is that when you open up your journal, it starts on the first page, so you have to leaf through the entire thing to get to the end and write something new. (I guess you could write each entry before the previous one, but when you take a picture, it puts it at the end of the text, so it still sucks.) Can't believe that wasn't fixed in playtesting.

I assume you were talking about the prison Ages, since Serenia is more difficult to get to and is likelier to be visited later. Spire is the darker one, with lots of structures that give it its name; sounds like you visited that one first. Haven is the thickly forested one.

I didn't bother with drawing maps. The Ages were tough to navigate sometimes, but it was also kind of nice to wander aimlessly a bit when I had no idea what to do next.

Posted by: Tyler at December 30, 2005 02:23 PM

Have you played Grim Fandango? Best adventure game of all time for my money...

Posted by: The Dan at December 30, 2005 03:01 PM

Tyler: Yes, Spire was the age I solved. Then for some reason I skipped Haven and went to Serenia. This time I went back to Haven, and got annoyed at wandering around in the forest. I just feel like the experience of not really knowing where I am vis-a-vis where I've been, or whether the reason I'm stuck is because I've missed some obscure path somewhere on a massive map, is not something that's any fun, or what I play adventure games for. I did keep my saved games in case I ever feel like giving it another shot, though.

Dan: Yes, I have played Grim Fandango -- one of my favorite adventure games. The soundtrack is awesome, too. (I have it somewhere, if you want a copy.) I wouldn't say it's my absolute favorite though...that would probably be either Obsidian or The Neverhood.

Posted by: Francis at December 30, 2005 03:25 PM

Ah, yes, I can see how your Serenia map would loop around. Tricky, that, particularly when you have to mess with the water. And for a while I was indeed stuck in Haven because I'd missed a short offshoot on a path.

Agreed; Grim Fandango rocked, although a lot of gamers would rank Day of the Tentacle higher. Monkey Island is also good, particularly the third one. I still have not forgiven LucasArts for cancelling both Full Throttle 2 and Sam & Max: Freelance Police in favor of producing eight hundred more Star Wars games, and I probably never will. At least S&M:FP is being given new life elsewhere.

Posted by: Tyler at December 31, 2005 12:11 AM

Day of the Tentacle and the Monkey Island games are also among my favorites. Monkey Island 4 did annoy me a bit, with the thing where apparently someone said "People like games that are in 3-D! We need to make the next game be in 3-D!" because, yes, Monkey Island 3 was the best game in the series, and looked absolutely fantastic, and then Monkey Island 4 kinda looked like crap.

But let me see if I heard you correctly...did you say that someone else is going to produce Sam & Max: Freelance Police after all??? That is awesome.

Posted by: Francis at December 31, 2005 09:27 AM

Hey, I see the people who are now producing the Sam & Max game are also selling a game based on the Bone comics. That sounds promising -- anyone played it?

Posted by: Francis at December 31, 2005 09:33 AM

Monkey Island 2 was my favorite, personally. Probably because by 3 I had figured out the game designers' tendencies, so the puzzles weren't as hard. Also I wasn't 12 anymore, so that helped.

I'm all behind your plan to fire up the Infocom emulator, but let's be serious: if you hate wandering around in annoyingly self-similar mazes, are Infocom text games really what you want?

Oh, and I assume you've seen the new presentation(s) of the Hitchhiker's Guide text game, right? ( Now that's a hard game, and the new illustrations are pretty without detracting from the fundamental text-game-ness of it.

Posted by: Jess at January 3, 2006 12:55 PM