Every time someone asks if the adventure game can make a comeback, someone says they never left. It’s like a rule. A maxim. A customary contrarian counter.
Can the adventure game make a comeback? Not just persist in existence, but be a rejoinder to the lost lustre of their gone golden age. Could the way back to the future, the one that once again gifts it its Day outside of the Grim tidings, be achieved through a Full Throttle return to the past? Does a means to Dig in again Loom ahead, or does the Fate of it all still lie in Secret discoveries for a shrinking niche of gamer?
For a while it seemed like Telltale might be the torch bearers of the oft-neglected genre of Adventure Games, first as literal developers of established adventure game franchises, and then again later as their style shifted toward something synonymous with the company name. As a vehicle for delivering a story in between puzzles and memorable dialogue, it was a comparison grounded by a substantiated basis, but in retrospect, there was a certain quality that hadn’t carried across into the loosely related genre that consistently played a straightforward tone.
Across the various Adventure Games, with a few exceptions (The Dig standing out in particular), there was a kind of self-awareness to them. The games were self-referential in terms of subject matter and game genre, packed densely with nods to influence, pop culture, or the limitation of the game style.
While now a stare and a wink through a hole in the fourth wall is taken for genius, they thought nothing of dismantling the barrier between the player and the game. Where today our mediums employ familiar tropes with growing cognizance, the soul of Day of the Tentacle and other adventure games virtually required an awareness of the oft-lampshaded or otherwise subverted rabbit-holes of pop-culture.
It isn’t the first echo of the Lucasarts era to take new forms. Much of Double Fine’s stable conjures the feel of the old adventurous yoke, mostly resting on the shoulders of Tim Schafer’s legendary legacy. One that stood out as something new, yet imbued with the same personality as the lovingly remembered classics was The Cave. Much like the inspiration of this piece, The Cave came out of the mind of Ron Gilbert.
While there were many things that I didn’t like about the game, the artistic style, the music, the voice acting and most of all, the return to some semblance of an adventure game was something that made me happy to have the game in my life.
My biggest issues with The Cave were that its puzzles seemed to err on the side of Monkey Island 2’s awful Monkey Wrench conundrum, it wasn’t clear when you should hold onto the single object that might be useful (and meant a lot of backtracking if you didn’t) and that an echo of the ol’ pixel hunt reared its head in trying to work out what in the environment was mere artwork and what was a thing to interact with.
Remasters of previous adventures will continue to excite, but as with many games from years ago, there are certain idiosyncrasies in the respective genre that have since fallen by the wayside, and ultimately forgotten when possible. One of the reasons why we’ve been quietly anticipating Thimbleweed Park is precisely because it’s looking to return to our long-time favourite game genre, while delivering it in a way more readily consumed by modern audiences.
That’s not just our guess – it’s there in the words of Ron Gilbert himself.
Before we go on, yes, we want to talk Thimbleweed Park. Or allude to it. Anticipate it. But it’s not just Ron throwing it together. It’s also being created by Gary Winnick, co-creator of Maniac Mansion (among other games), by their company Terrible Toybox. Ahem. Continue.
Thimbleweed Park is due out in the first quarter of next year, and will be bringing an honest-to-tentacle adventure game to Xbox One, Windows, Mac, Linux, and eventually mobile.
There was a brilliant article on Thimbleweed Park back in March of this year that talked about how the team behind the game were hoping to update it – to make it more like what you might remember of the early adventure games, rather than the gritty detail of what they actually were. We have a few new screens of the game, freshly supplied, to paint a little of the small town setting that gives the game its title. We don’t even want to talk about what the deal is with the story just yet, not just because we want something to write about later, but because ooh, the intrigue!
What we’ll tell you is that there’s apparently sixteen thousand lines of dialogue, FIVE playable characters, an abandoned pillow factory, and more puzzles than exactly how many puzzles you can click on. Hopefully we’ll be able to share a review of the game prior to its release too.
In the meantime, it’s not exactly news, but an additional trailer came out three months ago, and look, we’re just excited about the game. Here it is.