Special: Life's an adventure!
In the 1980s and early nineties, the adventure genre was the king of computer games. In the 80s, if you were a PC owner not playing King's Quest then you might as well be a communist. However, with the rise of home console's popularity combined with the birth of other genres this once loved genre fell to the wayside. Since then, there have been a few resurgences with The Longest Journey series and Indigo Prophecy. However, none have recaptured the same hold on the marketplace the genre once had. Is there any way this might someday change? Might we see new installments of King's Quest, Space Quest and Gabriel Knight someday? Just maybe with the Wii we can.
History goes in cycles. What once fell out of fashion can come back again. Just look at torn jeans and frilly skirts. Many of the popular genres of today will someday fade to the wayside. With this in mind, the adventure game, more specifically the point-and-click adventure (referring to the use of the mouse) will hopefully again have its day. We are seeing a bit of this already. The Nintendo DS possesses quite a few adventure titles such as Touch Detective and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. With Hotel Dusk and others further down the line, the DS seems to be the new haven for adventure. However, the Wii is perhaps the future of this long forgotten genre. After all, any title released for the Wii has more mainstream visibility than these niche DS releases. Anyone who has played the Wii knows that the Wii-mote works similarly to a mouse. The interface is there to bring point-and-clicks back, but the question that remains is how to make these new titles successful.
Clearly adventure games, when compared to titles like Gears of War, are not as attractive to consumers. It's not great mystery that the average video game consumer are males ranging from high school to their mid-thirties. The adventure genre has a much more general audience due to the puzzle-solving nature of the games. Just look at Myst. A game with hardly any story somehow held the title as best selling game of all time for years after its release. Clearly angst-ridden teenagers were not the only ones playing. Considering all this, it makes market sense to do this from Nintendo's standpoint. Let's face it guys, you are going to have rough competition from Xbox 360 and PS3 this generation. You need any foothold you can get.
One way to urge the market to these games is to price them on the lower scale of the market ($20-$30). This way, picking up an adventure title would be less cost prohibitive and more attractive considering the more expensive titles. More importantly, a way for this to succeed is name brand recognition. This means producing sequels and remakes of older adventure game titles in order to further the sales. After all, who wouldn't want an update for their favorite game? With this in mind, here are a few adventure game series that are begging for their next installment to be on the Wii:
Tex Murphy Series:
This was a series of five games that focused on the adventures of, you guessed it, Tex Murphy, your typical 1940s private eye who happened to live in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco. The last few games released are notable for being some of the few to actually effectively use full-motion video (FMV). The games excellently blended tradition noir storytelling with sci-fi themes. The rights to this series are up in the air, going from Access, the original company, to Microsoft and then Take Two Interactive. Now they very well may be in the hands of the original creators. Hey guys, there's a new system out there waiting for an old-school hero. Just some friendly advice though, ditch the FMV. The Sega CD burned that bridge for all of us.
Gabriel Knight series:
This is a series produced late in the lifespan of Sierra On-line before they ditched adventure titles after being bought out by Vivendi and converting to Sierra Studios (most notable for publishing Half Life). The game centered around Gabriel Knight, an occult investigator. Each of the series' three entries took Knight to a different locale where he had to contend with everything from voodoo to werewolves. The games were known for their dark plotlines rich in history. The first title, Sins of the Fathers, was one of the first I saw with graphic violence and, shock, cursing. If Nintendo could somehow wrestle the rights away from Sierra, then this would be a prime title to re-invent for the Wii. It would go a long way to shedding the big N's ever-present kiddy reputation.
Space Quest series:
Space Quest is another refugee of Sierra On-Line. This adventure game was obviously sci-fi themed. However, what it did that was unique at the time (and arguably still now) was blend sci-fi with comedy. This isn't weird eastern humor, but it the Spaceballs style satire that audiences have always adored. The main character of the game, Roger Wilco, is a space janitor who just happens to be in the wrong place and stumbles into an adventure. Usually this leads him into saving the universe from the likes of sludge bandits and insurance salesman. Yet somehow he never gets promoted. I suppose the future is much like modern day America (I better shut up before someone has me killed). Surely Roger Wilco should be remembered for something more than an Internet chat tool.
Sam & Max:
Sam and Max, a trench coat wearing dog and hyperkinetic rabbit respectively, have been the stars of multiple comics since their advent in 1987. The pair works together in a sort of surreal world to solve mysteries. They are probably best known for the LucasArts 1993 adventure title, Sam & Max Hit the Road. This game is beloved by many fans of the genre for its quirky humor. Recently, Telltale Interactive (made up of a number of ex-LucasArts employees) released Culture Shock, an original Sam and Max game for download via Gametap. The new title has received almost unanimous praise. Of all of the games on this list, Sam & Max has the best chance of actually making it to the Wii. In a recent interview Telltale stated that they are very interested in porting the title to Nintendo's new system.
Is this all a pipe dream? Perhaps. But for classic point and click fans like myself, this is a dream worth pursuing. For the very sake of variety it is worth pursuing. How many FPS games are released every year? How about RPGs? With any luck Telltale will get their way and Sam & Max will be ported to the Wii. If that title is a success, then just maybe we can see a long beleaguered genre rise again.