Point-and-click adventure games were once a prominent force with their emphasis on storytelling and mental challenges over bombastic action. Now, after a decline in popularity, they are enjoying a resurgence – and the revolution is global.
PuzzlesFounded in 2007, Hamburg-based Daedalic Entertainment has created a steady stream of adventure games. Debuting with Edna & Harvey: The Breakout in 2008, subsequent titles have explored diverse genres and art styles and won awards. However, reaching an audience was an early problem. "Many gaming magazines feel their audiences aren't interested enough, so they opt out of reviewing or previewing adventure games," says Claas Wolter of Daedalic. "[But] we're doing adventure games the way we love them. We're trying to deliver the good old puzzle, and get the wide audience." The success of titles including the comedy Deponia series and fantasy The Night of the Rabbit has allowed the developer to produce more technologically impressive fare, such as the strategy role-playing game Blackguards, alongside further adventure games.
The series spans multiple worlds, exploring themes of determination versus destiny, family and the power of stories. After leaving Dreamfall on a cliffhanger in 2006, Tørnquist says he was overwhelmed with demands for a conclusion. "Every day for the last seven years, I've had emails and tweets and letters – actual letters, on paper, with handwriting! – begging for this game." Dreamfall Chapters, the conclusion, is due for release this year, after being funded with $1.5m raised on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. "I never thought people would care as much as I did," said Tørnquist. "Turns out, people care even more."
In the UK, adventure games have seen a grassroots surge, with new titles largely from the indie scene. The 2009 point-and-click Ben There, Dan That! from Size Five Games has been a cult favourite since release, inspiring other developers to pursue the style.
"There's a lot of room for wit in adventure games – you can really see the dry British humour in them," said indie developer Christos "failnaut" Reid,, currently working on sci-fi mystery Breathe. "Adventure games diminished because the market moved towards mainstream AAA [high budget games produced by big development teams] experiences … But the ease of indie distribution has rocked the boat. People are selling games regardless of publisher backing, whether it's as simple as a [open source hypertext engine] Twine game or something like The Walking Dead. It's an exciting time to be a fan."
Conversely, the American approach to new adventure games is about beloved names, big money and technological clout. After a decade at the now-defunct development arm of LucasArts, Tim Schafer set up his own company, Double Fine. Another example of Kickstarter success for oft-ignored adventure games, it attracted more than $3.3m in funding. The result was the recently released Broken Age, his first foray into the genre since the classic Grim Fandango.
Elsewhere, Telltale Games started small. An adaptation of indie comic Bone progressed to CSI tie-ins and new outings for former LucasArts title Sam & Max, before winning considerable acclaim with mature properties The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. With regular episodic releases, gorgeous art direction and deeply involving stories, Telltale has become the face of adventure games for a new generation.
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