Point and click adventure games are dead! Or so Charles Cecil would have us believe, if his opening statement at the ECTS 2002 press conference is to be believed. This only holds only any significance if you know that Charles Cecil is the creator of point and click greats such as the Broken Sword series. When it comes to mastery of an engaging narrative driven game, Charles, or Mr Cecil is the king. Nevertheless, I must protest and declare that Charles is wrong.
Now, this is not something I take lightly, believe me. Here is a man who has single-handedly created some of the greatest games I've ever played. To disregard all that with a throwaway comment, would be foolish at best. So do not underestimate how right I actually am, when I say that point and click adventures are not dead, they're alive, I tell you, ALIVE!
Now, what you may ask, has brought on this soap-boxing about point and clicking for goodness sakes? Whether you're asking yourselves that or not, I'm going to tell you. This week I did an incredibly brave thing. I revisted my favorite game in the whole world. Now, that's not such a big deal until you realise that this game is from 1994. That's nearly 10 years old. Okay, in the days of mame it's not actually that long ago, but it is long enough for the human memory to have distorted my original experience into something far removed from the actuality of the game.
Anyone who has watched reruns of Battle of the Planets only to be bitterly disappointed, will understand my anxiety. The fact was I had Beneath A Steel Sky on my laptop and just as Pandora had opened the box, so I pressed "start game." The opening sequence is a narrated voice over still-frame cartoons because the original game came with a comic book (if anyone's got an unwanted copy of that comic book, do send it my way) – so far so good.
The good news is, when the game finally kicked in it didn't actually look that bad. At the time of course it looked awesome. The helicopter flying over the Blade Runner style skyline was just gorgeous and gave you everything you wanted from a cyber-punk inspired videogame.
Then it came to playing the game. And that's the best bit. It's just like I remembered it! How often does that happen when you indulge yourself in some misguided videogame nostalgia? I'll tell you how often, like never! It's comparable with meeting up with your highschool sweetheart. You know it's probably a bad idea, but you just have to do it incase they are as funny, gorgeous and intelligent as you remember them, in which case it's a match made in heaven and you can wave goodbye to singles nights. Of course when meeting up seems like a good idea, we always forget why we're not still with them. Once again human memory conspires against us and sticks two fingers up at our better judgement.
I am currently wallowing in Steel Sky goodness and enjoying every second thanks to www.scummvm.org. The jokes are still funny and the story is still just as intriguing, which means I can play it all all over again. And the best thing about point and clicks is that no matter how much time goes by there are always those impossible bits that you got stuck on the first time round. The only difference is, this time round you remember exactly what to do because the solution was so ludicrous, yet ingeniously funny that nothing could make you forget it.
How could a genre that endures so well ever be declared dead? Recently I have completed Sam and Max, another fine of pointy clickyness, which had me hooked from beginning to end. I understand that originally point and click was a device used to overcome the restraints of technology at the time. But that doesn't change the fact that they are a great means of story telling, which in itself lends a timelessness. At the end of the day, a good story will always be a good story.
It is also worth mentionning that Broken Sword Shadow of the Templars is the only game I have finished on GBA. Not many games garner my attention for that long. And not many games offer up such pure enjoyment. None of these point and clicks resulted in me switching everything off sulkily and huffing off to the pub with a sore thumb and possibly a broken telly, depending on severity. Some how the challenge level was just right and allowed for much head scratching, followed by little gaming epiphanies. There's nothing more satisfying than a gaming epiphany.
Thankfully there are developers who still believe in the power of the point and click. Just recently KB revealed that a new Sam and Max game is in development – we are officially excited. And of course Revolution Software will be bringing us the third installment of the Broken Sword series this month, allbeit in a 3D evolution of the point and click. Well, Charles has got a hand in it, so it's bound to be good – he hasn't put a foot wrong so far.