I don’t talk about vidyagames all that often on here. That said, I’ve already written two entries in this little series. It was fun, so here are some more of the games that have really stuck with me over the years. There are actually a lot of games that really helped to shape my tastes, and so for today I’m focusing on two groupings. I know I said I’d be looking at strategy games and RPGs, but here I am looking at adventure games and shooters.
As a genre, the Adventure Game seems a bit… dead. There are still some really nice adventures coming out (see my final example from the genre, below), but it’s not the powerhouse genre that it was 25 years ago. There are some amazing games below, but I do have some honourable mentions that did not quite make the cut. These include Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, the Gabriel Knight series, King’s Quest, and Runaway: A Road Adventure.
The Secret of Monkey Island
The Secret of Monkey Island was not the game that launched the genre, but it was a pretty defining one. The story of aspiring pirate Guybrush Threepwood, it was full of great jokes, fun puzzles, carried a good story, and had really cool art. I mean, obviously this is the iconic point and click adventure. I actually preferred the second game in the series, but this is the OG and set the pattern. I was delighted a few years ago when a remastered edition came out. Look at how pretty it was, with the original graphics there for comparison:
Beautiful, and much more in line with the art style established by later games.
Whilst Monkey Island was a really defining game of the genre, my favourite adventure game was, and remains, Grim Fandango. The noir feel, crossed with artwork inspired by the calaca figures used to decorate during Mexico’s Day of the Dead is a surprisingly compelling combination.
The game tells the tale of Manny Calavera, a grim reaper, or ‘travel agent’ on a four year journey through the land of the dead. The story is really compelling, and is quite sweeping in scope with characters in whom you can really find yourself becoming invested. I think the great voice acting helps with this, too. The trailer is actually pretty good at conveying some of the feel of the game:
As with Monkey Island, there’s a remastered edition available, and I’d totally recommend it. There are some updated graphics, but the main thing is just making the game easier to run on modern systems. I really do recommend this one.
There were a few Discworld adventure games, and I really liked the second one, Discworld II: Missing Presumed…!? The art style was really cute and fit the setting well. The humour writing was blatant, but fun. The voice acting was really wonderful as well, featuring actors such as Eric Idle, Nigel Planer and Rob Brydon.
The followup, Discworld Noir was a very different game in a lot of ways. First of all, the art style was very different. Gone was the beautiful, brightly-coloured sprite art in favour of a 3D style that would not hold up a decade later. It was also a much darker game, and that did work well. Playing on film noir tropes, the game follows Lewton, a private investigator digging around in Ankh-Morpork, the greatest city on Discworld, and the setting of many of Pratchett’s best books.
I love the detective story in this game, and its wonderful to explore Ankh-Morpork with Lewton. There’s also, without spoiling anything, a really great twist halfway through that changes the feel of the game again and adds an interesting new dimension to your detective work.
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars
Whereas Lucasarts put out a number of very funny titles driven by humour, characters and puzzles, Revolution went a different way with Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. They went more cinematic and story-driven. Inspired by Holy Grail, Holy Blood, the same book that inspired Dan Brown’s inexplicably popular The Da Vinci Code, Broken Sword is a wonderful mystery story that takes place in a lovingly illustrated Paris. The intro, stupidly removed in newer remastered version of the game, was iconic:
The beautiful backgrounds, the wonderful music, the engaging story, the killer clown. It all just comes together into the near-perfect gem of a game. This might actually be a close second to Grim Fandango to me. Okay, well not that close, but certainly with plenty of distance between this and whatever adventure game would take third place.
The Darkside Detective
The newest adventure game on my list, and the one published after the year 2000, The Darkside Detective reinvigorated the genre for me. The game follows a paranormal investigator, rendered is some really lovely pixel art, as he tries to unravel a number of short cases. The game is short, with each chapter being a self-contained little story with its own plot and a handful of puzzles. The puzzles are fairly logical and not as random as those in some other adventure games can feel, which is a big plus to me.
The music is great. The graphics are nice. The stories are interesting. The humour is funny. This is the game that brought my attention back to the genre and led to me picking up a few new titles, a few oldies that I had missed, and a few of the recent remasters for some of the classics.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with shooters. I think some of the best games are part of this genre, and some of the worst. Fortnite and most of the Call of Duty series, for example, really grate on me, but then there are games like those below and some other honourable mentions that are just amazing. My honourable mentions for this genre would be games like Timesplitters 2, Metro 2033, Half Life, Team Fortress 2, Left4Dead 2, and Space Marine.
Like the Secret of Monkey Island, Doom did not truly create its genre, but it did define it, or at least refine it. The first version of the game I played was the Shareware version, but I also picked it up for SNES a little later. Both were a lot of fun, really atmospheric, and bloody challenging once you got past the initial levels. The game sees you take on the role of a space marine taking on a demonic invasion of the moons of Mars.
Sorry, why am I explaining Doom to you? Everyone knows Doom.
Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast was an absolute belter of a classic for me, and I loved it to bits. I was therefore really excited when this sequel arrived. Jedi Academy has pretty similar gameplay to Jedi Outcast, with lots of gunplay and the opportunity to swing some lightsabers around, but it also added in a really cool multiplayer mode. Specifically, this was Siege Mode. This mode is what put Jedi Academy above Jedi Outcast for me. It had you take on a specific role in a battle, setting you up with the appropriate equipment for your chosen role. It played a lot like Star Wars Battlefront which would come out a year later.
I notice this has been re-released recently on the Switch. I’m not sure if I will pick it up nor not. I picked up the Jedi Outcast re-release and found that it did not hold up and that controller-based play is pretty limiting for me.
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault really caught on in my friend group, and we would often find ourselves playing the game online – probably one the first shooters that we really got into in that way. We even had out own server going for a while, right up until Call of Duty: World at War came along and stole its spot!
Based on the events of the Second World War, MoHAA was a brilliant shooter for the time. I think it’s here for me because it came across at the right time and meant a lot to my friend group. We got so competitive with one another, but were firmly reminded whenever we ventured out onto more popular server that we were not, in reality, the legends we were in our own minds.
This would definitely be my favourite shooter. The first Borderlands game was a lot of fun and it certainly set out a really good loot and shoot format that has been expertly built upon in the rest of the series. Borderlands was great, but Borderlands 2 upped the humour, the personality, the outrageousness. It was just more. The art style is also truly gorgeous and really sucks you in.
The gameplay is solid, and it’s especially fun on multiplayer. I love the characters, both playable and not, and the writing and voice acting are totally on point. Character like Moxxi, Mr Torgue, Sir Hammerlock, Claptrap and inimitable Tiny Tina are, once met, never to be forgotten.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours in this world and I love it. I liked the original. I liked the Pre-Sequel. I am really enjoying Borderlands 3. The whole series is great, but I just adore this game this most.
Whilst I really appreciate a shooter with a campaign, Overwatch has really clicked with me. It’s one of two more multiplayer-focused games that I’ve been into in the past few years, with the other being Star Wars: Battlefront. Overwatch is a visual feast with vibrant colours, a cool, sci-fi vibe, beautiful character design and just a dash of whimsy.
Gameplay-wise, it’s a solid shooter. What I love most is how each character feels so different to the others. Each one is a unique experience that requires a distinct approach and set of skills. I appreciate that variety and it definitely keeps the game fresh. The core mode is fun, but I really love the Arcade, where there’s a rotating selection of different game types including some classic deathmatch, 3v3 elimination and a free for all mode with randomised characters. I also love the story scenarios that are available at certain times.
I’ve sunk a lot of time into this game and I’m eagerly awaiting the upcoming sequel.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2
I loved Left 4 Dead back in the day. Getting together with a group of friends and throwing yourselves through a group of zombies to escape to safety? yes, please! When I heard there was a Warhammer game with the same feel I was all over it.
There’s so much to like in this game. The characters, first and foremost, make the game. I love that each one has real personality both in how they play, and in how they are presented. I love the banter back and forth between them as they progress through each stage. It makes the whole thing feel real and there’s a sense for me that when I’m sitting there being insulted by an elf or supported by a dwarf that I’m just home.
With each character having three (now some have 4 with DLC) subclasses, there’s a lot of variety in how you can play. Some of my favourite include Kruber’s human Huntsman, Bardin’s dwarf Slayer, Kerillion’s elven Waystalker and Saltzpyre’s human Bounty Hunter. Oh, and the new Grail Knight subclass for Kruber is a lot of fun, too. I love that each character uses different weapons, different abilities and just feels so different to each of the others. Character progression is really satisfying as well, earning talent points and cool new gear as you level up.
The game is also challenging. You can sometimes get through a level really easily with a good group and some luck with where and how certain things spawn… or not. Sometimes you get unlucky and things get very difficult. At that point things can get messy, but it’s so satisfying to claw things back and still get through the level, even if not perfectly.
I just love this game. It’s full of Skaven, servants of Nurgle, Beastmen, Chaos Warriors, Trolls… oh, just all the good stuff. There’s a real sense of dread when one of the big guys appears. I particularly fear the Chaos Spawn who always seem to want to take a bite out of me.
Next time, I’m looking forward to looking at some strategy games and maybe more RPGs. I’ve said this before. I might actually mean it this time. Maybe. We’ll see.
Catch y’all later!