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Adventure Awaits: A Resurgence In Adventure Gaming?

by on February 22nd, 2011

So I was faced with quite a dilemma this past weekend. I was home [alone, on a long weekend] and realized that I was bored. I had no desire to fire up the XBox or the PS3, nor did I really want to see something in the theatres [and there are plenty to watch before the Oscars!]. Instead of spending another weekend watching old episodes of Top Gear [no complaints there, really], I turned to my iPad and fired up some good ol’ adventure gaming.

Now, adventure gaming isn’t for everyone. But if you grew up in the 90s, you’d be familiar with the classics and titans of adventure gaming such as Police Quest, Roger Wilco, and Adventures of Monkey Island, and if you’re like me, you loved them. What’s there not to love? There were plenty of clever puzzles, requisite cheesy jokes, and 8-bit graphical glory.

As computer power and graphics improved over the years though, adventure gaming took a back seat to first person shooters, real-time strategy and JRPGs. This is an inordinate shame, since none of those genres really provided the stress-free, yet stimulating mental diversion that adventure gaming provided. Until now…

In the past year or so, Telltale Games has started churning out new adventure games for both the console and the iPad, and I believe that this could spell a resurgence in the genre. The studio has released revamped versions of Sam & Max, Wallace & Grommit, Monkey Island, as well as Back to the Future [a new series to enter the genre], and I must admit that they’ve done a great job in staying true to its roots. The cheesy jokes and puzzles are all still there, but like their console cousins, the graphics have been knocked up from 8-bit to industry standard 3D. Sounds good so far, right?

Well…almost. There are a few significant drawbacks. The current generation of the iPad is just a touch underpowered to render the 3D graphics fully. When I spent the weekend playing both Tales of Monkey Island and Back to the Future, there were several noticeable moments of lag and freezes in game play. It simply appears that the rendering engine is not optimized for the iPad.

Another issue I had is that the controls just weren’t as intuitive as I’d have liked. The virtual joystick was implemented well, but without the resistance of a physical controller, I found that the hold and drag mechanism limited my ability to control characters. Still, being able to tap and select different parts of the environment is definitely a huge step up from the game’s console cousins, where you had to direct the characters over to the specific objects to interact with them.

Lastly, and this is a major issue with this new iteration of the genre, is that the games are simply too short. For $7, I was hoping that each game would last me for an entire weekend. Instead, not only did I finish one game, but I also had enough time to finish a second game before Sunday night was through. While it certainly provided more entertainment than a 2-hour long movie, I was still quite disappointed.

Still, I’m still very optimistic for the genre on the iPad. While there are both advantages and disadvantages when compared with their console versions, the ability to enjoy adventure games on the road is a huge win. If you’re a fan of the original genre, I think you’ll still have a lot of fun. Still, the adventure gaming uninitiated will have the most fun with these games. I’d definitely recommend anyone who’s yet to try any of these games to give it a shot [or, given the price, borrow from someone who bought the game].

You’ll thank me when you do.

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Posted under: App Store, Reviews