Category Archives: PC Games

Top 50 PC Adventure Games: Scales

To help you determine if the game might be worth playing, each game on the countdown will have both of these scales at the end of each review.

Contemporary Scale

High: Easy to pick up and play, even if you’ve never played an adventure game.  Highly intuitive.

Medium: Some frustrations that gamers today shouldn’t put up with, but is intuitive enough that if you like the story, you’d probably forgive them.

Low: Does not translate well today.  Unless you’re a completionist or the premise really strikes a chord with you, it’s best to avoid it.

Cruelty Scale

Merciful: Impossible to get stuck, and if you die you’ll regenerate right before your mistake.  Saving the game is only necessary if you decide to turn it off.

Polite: You can die, and you should save on a regular basis just in case.  However, you can never make the game unwinnable.

Tough: You can make the game unwinnable, but only if you’re being careless.  Your instinct will be to save before experimenting.

Nasty: You can make the game unwinnable by accident.  You’ll know you’ve done so, but it wasn’t obvious beforehand.  Save often!

Cruel: You have to worry about walking dead without any clue that you’re doing so.  Saving the game doesn’t prevent catastrophe, and it’s likely at some point you’ll have to restore back to a much earlier point in the game and replay entire sections.

Top 50 PC Adventure Games

As a kid growing up with an IBM in the 80’s, our choice of games were mostly limited to awful strategy games programmed in BASIC or adventure games.  Our family consumed a lot of these and we often played them together.  I fell in love with being in an adventure where I had choices to make.  I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books, but adventure games allowed for critical thinking.

Most adventure games have required hammering your way through a story while trying to determine what random inventory objects you’ve collected will help you advance the plot.  It was a limitation of the beast, though some games were able to take this idea and still create captivating stories.  The best games were so immersive that the puzzles were seamless rather than obtrusive.

I’m talking a lot in the past tense.  Not every game on this list is from the 80’s, or even the 90’s. Some quality adventures are still made, but they’re fewer and far between, and I’ve had less time to play what’s out there.  I have no doubt there are brilliant games I haven’t played.

Considering all the hybrids out there, what qualifies a game as an adventure?  For me, it’s when the predominant feature of the game that shines through is the story.  The Professor Layton games have stories, but they’re essentially pure puzzle games with threadbare plots thrown around them.  Half-Life has a good story, but the predominant feature of the game is in the action.  At times the distinction feels arbitrary, but I sense there won’t be any obvious games passed over.

I realize some of you have never really played adventure games; to be honest, many of the old games do not hold up all that well, and even the old ones I love often could not find an audience.  To help you decide if a particular game might be appealing for you today, each game will have two scales.

The first scale is how well a game translates today.  If the story is awesome, but the controls are so clunky or the parser so unforgiving that it would turn off modern gamers, then the rating will be low.  If it’s still easy to pick up and play today, the score will be higher.

The second scale will show you how cruel or fair the game is.  Can you put the game in an unwinnable situation because you forgot to pick up that knife on the beach fourteen hours ago?  That’s the kind of cruelty gamers just don’t put up with today.  I wouldn’t either, but I did when I was younger, and I still fondly remember some of those games.  On the other hand, there are plenty of games on the list that never feel unfair.  Hopefully, you’ll find these rankings useful in addition to my reviews.

I have played to completion around 120 bona-fide adventure games.  While to some extent I like over half of them, there are about fifty that I find to be pretty solid and ones I would gladly play more than once, and in many cases, have done so.  See you on Monday for DbT’s third countdown!

Star Trek: 25th Anniversary

I figured I might as well fill up the countdown free weekends with more Star Trek, so the next several weekends we’ll look at some gaming from the Star Trek Universe.

Year Released: 1992
Platform: PC, Amiga, Mac
Developer: Interplay

One of the few true adventure games that Interplay had produced, they struck gold with this license. With characters lifted perfectly from the TV show, the game is a pleasure to watch (let alone play) if you even moderately enjoyed Star Trek.

Deftly incorporating all facets from the show, Kirk and his crew must solve each of seven missions efficiently and in accordance with the prime directive. In other words, don’t mess with the natives! After each mission, an admiral from Starfleet will give you a rating representing how well you accomplished your goals. The higher the rating, the more powerful upgrades you receive for your weapons, shields, and flight control. These resources are key if you want to stand a fighting chance during the battles. Several times you will be confronted by either the Romulans, Klingons, or Elasi pirates, and unless you become a master of the controls, you’ll need all the help you can get.

The majority of your rating relies on your demeanor towards native populations and to adversaries. During conversation, you are presented with several choices of how to respond. You can pick the funny, brash, or sarcastic comment, but these will get Kirk in trouble most of the time. Not only do you have to be a good adventurer and fighter, you have to be a good diplomat as well.  Also, solutions that require the least amount of violence also tend to get rewarded well.

A few of the missions are a breeze, but watching the characters interact is such a joy that I am glad the game wasn’t extremely difficult. However, there is one excruciating mathematical puzzle which I could never solve. Several years after pounding my tricorder against a wall–aided by an internet walkthrough–I acquired the answer.  While I grasp the solution now, it is a significant barrier to those who aren’t adept in mathematics, and can prevent otherwise solid adventurers from completing the game.

Interplay did an adequate job of incorporating the four icon system into gameplay.  At times you must combine items in your inventory and manipulate them, and the designers came up with some inventive uses for the phaser.  The graphics are excellent, and the sound is even better than on the original show. Imagine what twenty-five years can do for production values.

Perfect characterizations (aided by the voices of the real-life actors on the CD-ROM version), combined with a fluent story, moderate challenge, and excellent graphics and sound, Star Trek: 25th Anniversary should be modeled by today’s adventure games.

Rating:  77