Now that my sensationalist headline has caught your attention, I’d like to slow down for a moment and actually attempt a rational argument, inspired by the long-overdue release of Broken Age, Double Fine Productions’ troubled nostalgia baby that’ll probably go down in history as exemplifying the light and dark sides of crowdfunding.

Point-and-click adventures are an awkwardly-named genre of games defined by the mechanic of moving a character around the screen with various actions like “look at” and “talk to”. Their slow pace and minimalist mechanics made them something of a beacon of good writing and storytelling from roughly the late 80s to late 90s, perhaps best embodied by classics like LucasArts’ Monkey Island series. What point-and-clicks were also known for, though, and what might have contributed to their eventual fall from grace, was their habit of employing puzzles driven by infuriating anti-logic that utterly killed the pacing of otherwise excellent narratives.

Telltale’s Back to the Future game surprised me not just by being a rare example of a good movie-licensed game, but by taking the old point-and-click adventure format and modernising it. Not only is the writing well above the gaming average, the puzzles can take some head-scratching while only occasionally stooping to the sort of arbitrary fiddliness that makes Monkey Island harder to enjoy today. Even just having the option to move your character with an analogue stick is a godsend in itself.

The Secret of Monkey Island - Image rights: LucasArts

The Secret of Monkey Island – Image rights: LucasArts

While plenty of game mechanics age over time, point-and-clicks in particular suffer because their worlds and characters can highlight how shallow most gaming stories still are even with ridiculous technological potential and ballooning budgets. The format Telltale used in Back to the Future serves all the same purposes that the traditional point-and-click interface does and represents a logical improvement upon it. If Monkey Island had never been developed until 2015, I doubt its creators would have chosen such a contrived control scheme when the tools available to them allowed something like Telltale’s interface.

That new point-and-clicks are still being made speaks more to the nostalgic power of games like Grim Fandango or Day of the Tentacle than any inherent worth in their gameplay. In particular I think it says a lot that many games from the infamous full-motion video fad in the mid 90s used point-and-click mechanics as a basis for what were often little more than movies with gimmicky interactive moments. Gaming culture has a bad habit of selective amnesia, which makes it hard to innovate upon beloved games without drawing ire, and it’s for that reason I don’t expect Telltale-style mechanics to achieve the pedigree that the old point-and-click system did, no matter what its merits might be.

The point-and-click adventure game is dead, but people insist on stringing up its corpse and making it dance to the same old tune.

Broken Age image rights: Double Fine Productions

Broken Age The Secret of Monkey Island are avaialble on multiple platforms. Follow the links to find them.

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About the author

Jazmin Frost

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Aspiring novelist, veteran nerd. I'm a young gal with a Creative Writing degree and pretensions of making a living from it. Mostly I write science fiction and fantasy and I’ve penned a fair few short stories, but my great hope is to finish my first novel and find a publisher willing to back it. I welcome anybody with questions about my writing. Beyond that, my chief interests are videogames, movies and nerdom as a whole, and I enjoy scribbling reviews and other analytical pieces.

  • State of Psychosis

    why would you say that point and click games are dead? they’re back from the dead if anything. Now that anyone can make a point and click indie game they’re a dime a dozen now which is great :) Also, tablets, iphones and other new devices involving touch screens have helped them make a comeback since the genre works so well with touch screens. They aren’t just back… they’re back with a vengeance. I mean some of my favorites are actually new now. like the deponia series. They’ve also done away with a lot of what turned people off of the games to begin with like dead ends. Sadly myst style first person games have gotten way too easy ever since dear esther came out, but there’s even hope for that sub-genre since we’ve got a new game coming out from cyan worlds and several other ones in development that look like they’re going away from the “walking simulator” type gameplay and back to the puzzle solving gameplay of our youth. ASA: a space adventure did that well and I have high hopes for a game in development called prominence. It seems like every year someone is trying to say that the genre is dead but it never is. It slowed down for a couple of years over a decade ago and that was it. they came right back. it’s just a lot of people still only play the older ones like broken sword and monkey island and think there’s nothing else while that’s simply not true. it has never really been true. there are tens of thousands of fantastic adventure games out there. You just need to search. There’s tons more than you can find on GOG, steam, etc but they are a good start for finding the most popular ones. I mean, they were still saying oh no adventure games are dead in the early 2000’s but adventure games were still coming out then too. They never will be dead because fans of the genre are always going to be here especially since we’re the type to play these games well into our adult years since they appeal to the more mature gamer. People I know who play first person shooters, rpg’s, platformers, etc often outgrow playing video games altogether when they hit around 30, but you can’t outgrow adventure games since they are intellectually challenging and stimulate your critical thinking skills. They’re something that gets better as you age. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why they’ve been coming back so strong in the last few years. My generation was the 90’s generation and at the pinnacle of adventure gaming and we’re all turning 30 now. I still play the odd RPG and sometimes play hockey with a friend of mine, but adventure games are the only genre I haven’t grown out of at all. i buy a new one every week and if I haven’t run out yet, they certainly can’t be dead.

  • State of Psychosis

    seriously though dude.. play the deponia series if you think adventure games are dead. they just vary a lot in difficulty now. some are way too easy. You just have to read the reviews before buying. A lot of them are still really good. Anything from daelelic is pretty well always fantastic