Resurgence of the point-and-click adventure game

Last updated 13:14 31/01/2013

A few years back, I used to play point-and-click adventures till the cows came home.

The Monkey Island series, Grim Fandango and Full Throttle were among my favourites (over the course of this blog I've probably bored you stupid over my admiration for Tim Schafer's Grim Fandango, a game that features a skeletal undertaker). So it was for lots of other gamers.

But somewhere along the line, point-and-click adventures lost favour with gamers. Why was that?

Maybe it was because publishers didn't see a market for point-and-click adventures anymore; maybe it was because a new generation of gamers didn't understand the humour and complex puzzles found in those early Lucasarts games; maybe it was the advent of the console, which made point-and-click adventure games harder to play. But I wonder whether the real reason that point-and-click adventures lost favour with many gamers was because they found as their lives got busier they didn't have the hours to invest into a game that had puzzles that required more than just pulling a lever to open a door and often involved trial-and-error game play.

Maybe that was it.

The decline in popularity of the point-and-click adventure is on my mind at the moment because I've been playing through The Cave (Steam, console), a modern-day point-and-click adventure that shares many things in common with games like Grim Fandango (''Here he goes again,'' I can here you mutter) and Monkey Island.

The Cave comes from Ron Gilbert, one of the legends in point-and-click game design, and Tim Schafer's Double Fine studio is also involved. The puzzles are often multifaceted, involving several steps, and often each of the three characters you can control at one time.

Without spoiling anything, one early puzzle involves using an empty bucket to catch water dripping on a fuse, which you then use to power a vending machine which spits out a hotdog that you'll use to lure a monster. See? Much more complex than ''press that button over there to open the door''.

So far none of the puzzles in The Cave are as obtuse as Monkey Island's ''use rubber chicken on cable'' puzzle but was it obscure puzzles like that that put off today's generation of gamers to the joys of point-and-click? 

But while there's no denying that today's gamer is time-poor, especially if you're working fulltime and have a family, a seachange is happening and it's thanks to current games like The Cave and Telltale's The Walking Dead (a point-and-click adventure series released last year but not available - yet - to New Zealand console owners) that the point-and-click adventure has returned to the attention of today's gamer. They're showing that games which test the grey matter rather than just follow the same repetitive formula that the previous three games in the series did can be fun.

I'm pleased to see games like The Cave and The Walking Dead reviving the fundamentals of the point-and-click adventure, but how do you feel about point-and-click adventure games? Are you glad to see this genre getting a second life? Or do you leave them alone because, well, you just don't have time to commit to a game that requires deep thought to solve its puzzles?

If you've played The Cave, what are your thoughts? Is it as good as the old classic point-and-click games?

Other stuff you might be interested in: Game Junkie is on Twitter and you can email him here. He'll even answer your emails, not get some smart robot to do it. He also has another gaming blog here, which was actually updated recently. You should check it out.

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