The annoyance with adventure games (aka; A monkey for a wrench)

6 Sep

Dear Internet,
I wrote earlier about why I think that games are stupid when they are basically based on button hitting. In that same entry I wanted more games about being creative (drawing, singing, thinking etc.), or be about using the mind (quiz, moral choices, real subject matter etc.)

There are only two game genre (that I know of) that is based upon cognition and not finger agility and that is Adventure games and strategy games. But strategy games often also feels like a button hitting contest as well since the winner is often the one with the biggest troops. And the one with the biggest troops have hit a lot of footsoldier-buttons to get it (or perhaps I just suck at it).

But today I wanted to write about some troubles that I have encountered while playing adventure games.

1) Finding important objects can sometimes be annoyingly hard.
In Monkey Island II we have to find all kinds of things, and sometimes I have to know; what to look for and where to find it (like in reading a walk-trough). When there isn’t any logic to why I should “take that mirror”, or “steal that monkey”. There are a thousand point-and click-parts in any adventure game but very rarely does it seem logical that one part is more important than any other. “I don’t want to pick that up”, “I have no use for that” and then suddenly he takes up a sword or a map or a piece of paper.
The solution to this could be: 1) Clear character motive for taking things (i.e Guybrush needs a sword, so he takes it. Sherlock needs a clue, so he looks on the scene of the crime) 2) If it’s not logical through situation then at least draw attention to it through dialogue, cut-scenes or logic (i.e we need a key, there’s a key)

2) I love it when I understand it, I hate it when it’s just strange (again having to look in a walk-through)
Sometimes I just understand it. “Yeah, that goes there, no doubt.” Sometimes I have to try everything in my inventory with everything in every scene. THAT COULD TAKE HOURS! And it’s not hours of fun!
So I get angry! I think (perhaps because I am a psychopath) that when I have to go look in a walk-through, it isn’t me that have failed it’s the game developers. If I loose the respect and belief that the developers have a constructive puzzle of logic and mind then I will just skip it. Play it for the story alone and not bother trying to solve the “Monkey as a wrench”- puzzle.
The solution to this are basically the same as the solution to the problem above. More clues! No, you shouldn’t have to feed us with a spoon, but when we need a hammer, tell us we need a hammer and then we perhaps could think of where to find one! An example of how this works is in Monkey Island I & II SE where we have “the hint button” (although the clues disappear quite fast on screen, and sometimes they are not related to the problem that needs to be solved) that works. Another solution could be as in the Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack The Ripper game where a log to remind us of where we’ve been, who we met can be read. I don’t take notes when I play adventure games (perhaps I should) so I get confused (especially if I have had a longer brake playing) to where was why who. By my experience, the most effective puzzles are the once where all the components for solving it are in the same scene.

3) Sometimes the puzzles seems forced.
It’s a game, I know, but why does everything have to be a puzzle. Why can’t something go right to. This is the same problem as many other kinds of games has. The need to extend the story. Like in Half-Life 2. The entire game is a travel through landscapes. I though I was suppose to destroy a wrongful society, not go on vacation. It’s all about motive, motive, motive. Why do I need to go there, and why do I need to use that monkey for a wrench. In adventure games it’s often that the little puzzle doesn’t seem to fit with the big plot. Like a spitting contest to get an award to sell to a clerk to get money for a boat trip to get a monkey head that you can exchange for a part of map that will lead to a treasure that has NOTHING TO DO WITH GETTING THE VILLAIN!

I have never made an adventure game script and have no idea how hard it is, but my complains are basically to point out some flaws. I still love them, but to me the perfect adventure game would be one where I could solve all the puzzles by thinking not by searching the web for the solutions.

“Well, Mr. Negative. What sort of games do you like?”
I agree that I complain alot so I would like to give some examples of games that I like and why… but not now.

Blog 2.0 - A blog for the playa!


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