My Bottom-5 Least Favourite Adventure Games
I’m a huge adventure game fan, as should be evident to anyone who read my Top-10 PC games list and who have paid attention to my past reviews, wherein adventure games are a regular sight. And while admittedly, I enjoy the vast majority of adventure games I’ve played, obviously there’s also some that I don’t enjoy. With most adventure games, even if I don’t like the game that much when I first play it, I eventually tend to focus more on the positives than the negatives.
Therefore, making this list was a little tough and I really had trouble digging up genuine stinkers that were worth giving (dis)honourable mentions.
However, one broad group of adventure games that falls under this distinction are any and all Sierra text-parser games. Text-parser adventure games are infuriating enough from the get-go, but add Sierra to the mix and you’ll have frustrating gameplay coupled with frivolous deaths. My wrath in this regard is particularly directed at Larry 2, 3 and King’s Quest 4 – but I didn’t have a solid enough entry for the list (since these games are all probably decent enough if you look past the Sierra-death syndrome).
I also briefly considered The Longest Journey to go up on the list, but the game has grown a lot on me since I first played it. Yes, it’s a terribly flawed game, with barf-enducing 3D models, a glitchy skip system, super long dialogue sequences and even a few illogical puzzles. However, the story more than makes up for these, so that’s why I didn’t feel it was fair to include it.
Anyway, on with the list…
Admittedly, I’m not as disgusted by this title as much as I used to in my early adventure-gaming days. But Monkey Island 2 is still easily one of the most frustrating adventure games ever made, which seems incredible since it came from the company that perfected the genre. Guybrush’s quest for the treasure of Big Whoop faces him again with his nemesis LeChuck, resurrected as a zombie. Amongst some of the amazing feats you must accomplish include turning a waterfall off with a monkey, dressing in drag to sneak into Elaine’s Mansion (again), diving to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve the figurehead of a sunken ship and thwart the designs of an evil governor who is too Phatt to get off his bed.
Apart from the insane puzzle mechanic, the game is bound to stump you numerous times with asinine inclusions such as the “If this is X, what’s this?” puzzle. The game does give the player a lot of freedom to travel between islands, but especially the final parts of the game start to bore me, especially being chased by LeChuck at the finale. Speaking of the finale, this game has one of the most infamous endings in gaming history, which in its way is the whole selling point of this game. You’ll either be incredibly impressed or just hate the game even more because of it.
LeChuck’s Revenge did wind up on this list though more because there wasn’t another adventure game I could think of that I had as much negative emotions attached to. However, MI2 is clearly the least awful of the games on the list. For one, it still features the excellent comedic writing of Gilbert, Grossman and Schafer. The graphics have aged surprisingly well and still look nice with a lot of variety in locations. And the soundtrack is excellent, easily my second favourite from the whole series. Never the less, it is a game that will probably make you run to a walkthrough in frustration.
This may feel like cheating a bit, but as you’ll recall from my Top-5 adventure game series list, Strong Bad’s Cool Game 4 Attractive People was really more a series of five mini adventure games, rather than one game divided into five chapters, which is what we’re used to seeing from TellTale. However, the middle chapter of the series was easily the biggest let-down.
The episode starts with Strong Bad’s Funmachine console becoming broken. In a convoluted plot to raise the money to fix it, Strong Bad organises a Battle Royale of the Bands. However, not getting a big enough slice, Strong Bad then enters the competition himself with the goal of sabotaging the other bands. The premise seems ripe for some excellent music industry related humour. In addition to which, the Homestar Runner series is known for its great parodies of most musical genres, so I had all the reason in the world to expect musical awesomeness from this instalment.
Unfortunately, the music was one of the weakest aspects of the entire episode. Apart from Homestar’s excellent “Food Related Love” slow-jam which actually functions as the key point to one puzzle in the game, the rest of the musical output was surprisingly lackluster. And this after the two previous episodes included excellent original songs. I would have been okay if they had just recycled some of the older songs from the cartoons, instead we got this mess. In addition, this was easily the most linear of the episodes (until Episode 4, which was still a step up from Baddest of the Bands) with ridiculously easy puzzles and surprisingly little outstanding comedic writing. Baddest of the Bands wasn’t really terrible, just very, very mediocre. If you’re planning to play Strong Bad’s Game, you can do yourself a favour by skipping this mess.
Alex Kidd was Sega’s mascot before Sonic the Hedgehog. Starting from 1986, Sega tried to push Alex into public consciousness with a practical cornucopia of titles featuring the goofy, big-eared, giant-fisted character. Whereas the majority of Alex’s titles were action and platformer oriented, this 1988 Master System title broke the trend by being an adventure game, where you try to guide Alex through everyday life and possibly to an amusement park.
In actuality, the game was an entirely unrelated title called Anmitsu Hime which simply converted into an Alex Kidd game in the western releases. That aside, the idea of putting an action-character into an adventure game was sort of novel for its day. Sadly, Sega lacked the know-how to actually make Alex Kidd into a good adventure game. For one, you control Alex directly and moving around is just a chore as you slowly and meticulously have to examine every room for useful items. The game lacks a very vital element of the contemporary LucasArts and Sierra games, which was comedy. Instead, the game has entirely straight-faced approach to its gameplay and, as a result, just becomes boring to play.
There really is no enjoyment to be had in this game. However, it’s worthy to keep in mind that the genre was still developing at this time, so it would be unfair to judge it simply because of its lack of common adventure game conventions. In addition, Sega hadn’t really made another game like High-Tech World, so that too is why I can’t hate on the game too much. Never the less, a really lacklustre adventure game.
Runaway: A Road Adventure was an excellent adventure game from a little Spanish studio called Pendulo, which managed to tell a compelling story and be a fun and challenging adventure game, despite a lot of bugs and lack of technical refinement. When Pendulo decided to make a sequel, they upped the production quality and considering their prior success, you would have thought that they could churn out gold. Unfortunately, Runaway 2 is one of the most infuriating adventure games I’ve ever played.
Starting with the small things, there’s just the puzzles themselves. While the first game’s dialogue could get a bit long-winded, it at least had the added advantage that you were never lost about what your goal within the game was. Runaway 2 definitely smoothed over the dialogue which sounded a lot better, but there were so many times that I would have wanted Brian to just tell me what he needed me to do so he could accomplish something useful with the levitating, alien bowling ball for instance – yet I was left clutching at straws instead.
In addition, the game environments are just badly designed, with important interactive items littered off to the sides of the screens and away from the obvious line of sight. There are numerous times in this game where it’s possible to just flat-out ignore important items. Also, walking around on the beach at the start was annoying, because the whole location which should fit on a single screen, doesn’t fit the screen and instead you’re forced to watch a microscopic Brian making his way slowly across if you need to get to the other side of the screen.
The last and most insulting aspect of the game is that the plot revolves around one of the worst (and even just flat-out racist) characters from the first game, Joshua. It’s annoying that the game is left on a cliffhanger at the point where I finally started to get interested (Runaway 3 refuses to run on my computer which is why I haven’t completed the story yet). This last part is probably just the cause of the fact that the game is the first half of a two-part story. Even though the game looks great, has pretty good music and voice-acting, playing it just isn’t any fun with puzzles constantly being less and less obvious with no hints given.
The Broken Sword series is one of my favourite adventure game series and therefore, you can understand that for me to put an instalment of it as the number-1 pick for this list is saying something. The Angel of Death was released in 2006 and it was the fourth instalment of the game series. It reverted the series back to its point-and-click roots after a flirt with keyboard controls in Broken Sword 3 but still retained a 3D design. Unfortunately, while abandoning the controls of Broken Sword 3, it seems Revolution Software also fired the writers, animators and programmers, then hired a bunch of grade-schoolers to finish the game. Yes, it’s that bad!
To begin with, your choice of whether to use the keyboard or the mouse to control George in this game is entirely arbitrary since George will walk his own path regardless of where you go. The animations in the game ooze from the lack of effort put into them. 90% of the time, the characters just stand around still without moving anything other than their mouths. There’s no motion or life in any of the characters. Most of the puzzles in the game are still easy (as per Broken Sword tradition) but some are so incredibly cryptic you’ll be hard-pressed to comprehend them.
The part of the game which really sucks though is the story-telling. The characters appear to zoom around the globe with no clear purpose until about 15 minutes before the game’s big finale, when the Ark of the Covenant suddenly steps into the picture. There are just tons of throw-away characters, none of them even remotely interesting or likeable. Combine this with the shit-tastic controls, the weak puzzles, the nondescript graphics and the lacklustre voice-acting and you’ll know why half the time playing the game, I honestly felt like giving up, digging a ditch and burying this game.
If you’re still unconvinced, I made a whole video show-casing the game’s awfulness which you can watch on YouTube.