I love adventure games. Text, point ‘n’ click, whatever. A good story with good puzzles in an interesting environment will always pull me in.
There are a lot of dreadful adventure games though. Hindsight makes some of them worse, as we’re no longer seeing them through the eyes of someone who was just glad to have any games at all. I personally had an incredibly high tolerance for absolute tosh back in the 80s
Which games were good and which games were bad is pretty much entirely subjective, but here’s a list of adventure game issues that are absolutely guaranteed to make my piss boil.
Presenting the solution before the problem
A good adventure game will present you with a problem or puzzle, and then allow you time to solve it. A great adventure game will make you think you discovered the problem through your own intuition. At no point should the player be given the tools or items to solve a problem before he or she is even aware that the problem exists.
This can lead to the player simply not knowing what to do next. Walking around with an inventory full of crap looking for somewhere to use it all. There is an unspoken agreement between the player and the developer: If I have picked up this crap, there is a puzzle nearby I need to solve with it. Breaking that agreement breaks the trust and can lead to the player getting frustrated, quitting, and thinking your game is poop.
Letting the player irreparably fuck their game
“Oh, you didn’t pick up that magic ring in that room near the start of the game that you can’t backtrack to? Looks like you can’t defeat Evil McBad at the end. We’ll let you find that out when you get there!”
Games that do this need to be burnt in a brazier. It’s the most extreme form of presenting the solution before the problem. You can almost hear the developer smirking as the hapless player goes about completing the game, only to hit an unsolvable puzzle in the later stages.
Never, ever do this. It’s an insult to the player. If I invest time and, in some cases, money in your creation, you’d better not pull this dick move on me. At the very least, tell the player if they’ve ruined the game somehow. Don’t just let them continue.
(Sidenote: The ONLY game that can get away with this is Infocom’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure. That game was designed to be as obnoxious as possible for laughs.)
“Origin: Computer games, specifically point-and-click games in which you need to click a specific place–sometimes only a few pixels on the screen (hence the name)–in order to get some magic clue you need to advance in the programmed-in plot line. Coined by SteveD on RPG.net.” – Source: http://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/RPG_Lexica:PQR
Unless your target screen resolution is 4×3, there is never any excuse to do this. If you want me to find an item to solve a puzzle, I’d better be able to spot the fucking thing on the screen. If the object is tiny, like a paperclip, put it in a drawer. If it’s a button, put it on a control panel. There is literally no excuse to do this unless you’re being a cocksneeze and trying to pad out your crap game.
If I have to hit GameFAQs to get through a puzzle and I find out I couldn’t do it on my own because the item is a magic pixel on the screen, the next command I will issue will be > USE FIST ON TEETH
Speaking of which, this can also apply to text adventures to a certain extent. Needlessly hiding objects within objects in room descriptions is just annoying and unnecessary.
Cat Hair Moustaches
Otherwise known as Absolute Fucking Moon Logic. Never, ever do this. Not only is it unacceptable, but I find it insulting. Do this and I will take it as a personal assault and hunt you down accordingly.
The Cat Hair Moustache refers to the bafflingly ridiculous puzzle from Gabriel Knight 3 where Gabriel has to disguise him self as a chap called Mosely by wearing a fake moustache, even though Mosely doesn’t have one.
The convoluted puzzle to construct a fake moustache from cat hair is so ridiculous and long winded that I won’t repeat it, but you can read the full solution here: http://www.gabrielknight4campaign.com/cat_hair.php#spoil1
Going back to presenting the puzzle before the solution, it’s no good presenting a perfectly acceptable puzzle when the only solution is something that the player could never possibly think of without a walkthrough. It always stinks of the developer trying to show off how clever they are to the bewildered player. A logical puzzle should have a logical solution.
Of course, wacky solutions to puzzles are amusing if they fit in with the theme of the game’s universe, but they had better follow some kind of knowable logic. Creating a puzzle where you have to use a trap to catch a chicken so you can use its beak to scratch off a scratch card to win £10 to buy a screwdriver to open a panel to retrieve a fuse to put in a guard’s sandwich to cause him to choke to death so you can enter a building when you’re already carrying a gun isn’t big or clever.
It just makes you look like a cunt.