Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A traditional genre adopted for the modern gamer

As a kid I loved adventure games, as I am sure most early computer users did. But as I have grown older I no longer have the patience necessary for the genre. Puzzles that make no sense just make me angry and carefully moving the pointer over every pixel on the screen to discover clickable items is terribly frustrating.

Thankfully the guys over at Telltale have attempted to fix adventure games and have put out a series of games that are surprisingly playable, even for those with a shorter attention span. Especially with their latest Back to the Future game it feels like they have really nailed it. They have successfully adapted the genre for the modern gamer.

First of all they have divided up their games in episodes. By breaking them up in to smaller pieces, they have made a genre which gameplay by its very nature includes at the very least some hair pulling, a more manageable challenge.

Then in the back to the future games they have eliminated the uncertainty of what to do next by making the next goal very clear, not only using character dialog but by having the goal you are supposed to focus on next pop up on screen. This removes the part of all adventure games where you used to just wander around trying to figure out which puzzle the game wanted you to focus on next. This might seem like it would take some of the fun out of adventuring and maybe it does, but it also saves a lot of your valuable time. Sometimes adventure games can feel like a real time waster and then it helps to have a clear goal to focus on. You might not know how to achieve said goal, but you know where to direct your attention.

When playing these types of games you will eventually get stuck. It’s really unavoidable and it’s an experience maybe best likened to repeatedly banging ones head in to a rock wall. You will stare at the screen until your eyes start to bleed, at which point you turn to gamefaq for the solution, meanwhile hating yourself for being such a weakling. At least that's my experience. Here Telltale has a better solution. A five step hint system, where using the last step might be about as shameful as turning to gamefaq, but where the first few hint merely points you in the right direction. It will feel almost as you figured it out all by yourself.

Then there are small things, like drastically reducing the amount of interactive items in each area, cutting down the amount of items in your inventory at once and only allowing you to access a relatively limited part of the game world at a time. And maybe most importantly making sure that none of the solutions are too bizarre and that all the puzzles make sense.

Telltale might be accused of taking the difficulty out of the genre and making adventure games for sissies. But I do commend them for creating adventure games that I can enjoy as much today as I did as a kid, even with my limited free time and lack of patience. Characteristics I feel I have in common with most modern gamers.


JJS said...

I've seen a lot of people say the BTTF game is too easy, but I'm with you: it's manageable fun for a non-adventure gamer. I want to see the latest adventure of Doc and Marty, not get stuck for 20 years on a giant rat like in Dallas Quest.

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