By John Walker on November 24th, 2011 at 10:56 am.
I have a theory. If you took some babies, raised them isolation – perhaps on the Moon – and gave them no cultural input at all, they’d still eventually develop adventure games. They’re like an inevitability, an unavoidable direction for things to head toward. Don’t believe me? Look what’s happening to the so-called casual market, as every game type starts morphing into proto-adventuring. You can’t get a match-3 these days without it trying to include an inventory. Hell, look at the painfully mediocre L.A. Noire, and its almost sweet attempts to invent the graphic adventure genre as if it had never happened in the 80s/90s, thus making all the same tiresome mistakes as they did in their earlier days. As for the hidden object genre – it’s like a pupa, waiting to emerge. Unfortunately, some of those attempts to convert to a beautiful butterfly are still a little, well, awkward. They’re moths. One such moth is Pahelika Revelations.
The sequel to another game, apparently, that this episode harks back to a little too much when asking $15 for the privilege. But fortunately there’s a demo that offers about half an hour of this peculiar primordial adventure ooze. Presented like a hidden object game, but in fact an inventory-based adventure, it really does feel as though someone looked at hidden object gaming and thought, “You know, if I just tweaked this and this, then…”, once again as if 1988 to 1998 never occurred. So you click in an arbitrary fashion, trying to find that which can be removed from the screen, and then click that on other things.
Rather than tell a story, instead it just sort of has a story, that occasionally flops down from above. In between you try to fathom what it wants you to do not by its prompting, or in order to progress through a path, but merely because there is a thing there to do. You try to get the electricity to work in a house because there’s a box that can power the electricity. You create a spell in a cauldron because you’ve found a spell, some ingredients, and a cauldron. Why you’re casting that spell, what lies on the other side of a locked door, apparently isn’t important. It’s like being a creature that can only know its immediate present, with no concept of past or future.
Yet, solving puzzles is rewarding, so that reward feedback kept me going through until it made me stop playing. I didn’t enjoy any of it, but yet I clicked. However, there are some really bloody silly mistakes. Getting the electricity on, for instance, inevitably involves a pipe puzzle, with your rearranging tiles to get electricity to flow from one point to another. Except, astonishingly, it will generate impossible puzzles. Seemingly redrawing the arrangement of the puzzle each time you open it, tiles that block your progress are randomly distributed. Such that the first time I tried it, it was literally impossible to complete. But being the first time I’d seen it, I was left bemused by what I was supposed to do. Only returning to it later out of frustration did I discover how idiotic it really was. And crappy sentences like,
“This alarm clock is in a obvious need of repairs.”
Don’t endear me at all.
So all in all, it’s rubbish. But it’s interesting. Because it’s like adventure games, despite existing just fine in the specialist world, are trying to burst out in the mainstream, constrained by an ignorance of the genre and stunted development. But their inevitability seems certain.