Coffin Dodger: Still Life 2 Demo

Hello, come quickly, there's been a demo.

There’s controversy surrounding the 2004 Microids adventure Still Life. Because controversially some people think it wasn’t astonishingly disappointing. Not disappointing in the way most crazypants Euro adventures are, but disappointing in the sense that it was a murder mystery game that didn’t have an ending. It just stopped. When they ran out of money. The ludicrous claim was put on the game’s website that, ahhhh, it was the beginning of an ARG you see. Which it wasn’t. And Microids very soon dropped dead. Well now they’re back! And Still Life 2 is coming soon, with a demo out. And it’s astonishingly disappointing. But in an interesting twist, it is disappointing in the way most crazypants Euro adventures are.

The original game always receives enormous amounts of defence. Although when you have a sliding block puzzle to operate a crane, you’re not on strong grounds. However, beyond the whole not having an ending thing, it had some reasonable production and ideas. It was more frustrating because it was close to success. This glimpse of the follow-up does not suggest the same. I think the simplest thing to do is make a list of why this demo is so poor:

– It begins with interminable cutscenes, going on and on and on barely referencing the previous game and then leaping into the middle of another serial killer’s reign of terror, our FBI hero, Victoria McPherson, investigating, and receiving an awful lot of phone calls.

– The killer’s second line (in one of two voices he appears to possess) is, “Welcome to my humble abode.”

– In his other voice he says, “You’re the one who dubbed me the East Coast Killer! It’s time you find out what’s behind those meaningless words.”

– The inventory screen made me feel squeamish, with its peculiar river-of-shit moving background.

– Some pixel-sized hotspots for objects aren’t correctly lined up with their targets.

– You can’t pick up a mattress if you have a nail file in your pocket.

– When trying to escape a front yard surrounded by an electrified fence, my character not only refused to scale the offending boundary with the two-storey-high ladder she found, but also wouldn’t even acknowledge either of the insulated pliers in a toolbox.

The demo has you play as a reporter who has been covering the murders while openly mocking McPherson on air. She’s been captured by the serial killer and you’re tasked with escaping. Doing this is relatively elementary if you’ve suffered enough mediocre adventure games. But they’ve found a way to make it more irritating. The traditional inventory is replaced with an RPG-style limited number of inventory spaces. Or “cases” as they’re insanely called. You have sixteen of these, and a nail file takes up one, while a mattress or large ladder requires all sixteen. So while this is clearly an attempt to make some logical version of adventure gaming’s more usual magical pockets, it ends up being far more daft. In order to climb out the window you have to put a nail file in a wardrobe to get the mattress. Want to move a ladder? First put your mobile phone in a skip. Lordy lawks.

And rather brilliantly when it’s over the screen declares:

Like right now soon!


  1. DrGonzo says:

    Wow. Was going to download the demo, thanks for the warning!

  2. Andrew Dunn says:

    The inventory system sounds amazing, from the background to the item-juggling.

  3. TariqOne says:

    I’m not an adventure gamer, but I call shenanigans, Walker. Between this and your review of the original Still Life on Eurogamer, you’ve taken a sufficiently gratuitous number of potshots at nutty adventure gamers and their games, such that I question your credibility as a reviewer of this genre.

    That said, it does sound pretty half-baked. But still.

    EDIT: Sorry, failed to mention your “junkie fan” crack in your earlier preview of Still Life 2 right here on RPS. Again, I ain’t one. But I know one. Be nicer.

  4. Larington says:

    Adventure games have been in limbo for a very long time, they haven’t really needed to evolve the gameplay much at all, but people assume this must happen because progress is apparently always good. I’m not so sure.

    Of course, I must make it clear that I welcome our First (And Third) person shooter overlords… But still, if folks are still quite happy to go back and replay Monkey Island games (Or in my case Syberia 1 & 2), do adventure games really need to evolve gameplay, or are we hung up on innovation for innovations sake more often than we should be?

    As for this game, I haven’t enough time to see if that applies to this game or not. Back to work Larington (Sound of whip being cracked).

  5. John Walker says:

    TariqOne – I’ve been reviewing adventure games for over ten years now (and playing them for 25 years), and I’ve been lovely about the good ones. Some might even say adorable.

  6. Noc says:

    Did you try allocating the nail file to your Strife Specibus? It would have cleared up a slot in your Sylladex to Captchalogue the mattress.

  7. Morningoil says:

    John Walker, you’re a funny, funny boy.

  8. Helm says:

    “You’re the one who dubbed me the East Coast Killer! It’s time you find out what’s behind those meaningless words.”

    This is terrific.

  9. gryffinp says:

    Dude! You’re practically stepping on The Demoman’s turf here!

  10. Angel Dust says:

    @TariqOne: Mr. Walker is the stalwart crusader of ‘ye old adventure game’ here on RPS. He’s often posting about them and making us aware of the gems in the AGS scene.

    Anyway I always thought Still Life was, quite frankly, shit. It has some of the worst puzzles I’ve ever seen, most of them seem like they’re from, a different game entirely. The story, with the parallel threads, is initially intriguing but ends up running out of steam halfway through before simply just ending. Adventure game aficionados are too forgiving of an even halfway polished title when a lot of the games pull shit that wouldn’t have even flown in the adventure game heyday of the 90’s. Thanks to the AGS scene though there are still plenty of fantastic adventure games being made and the studios who are still making adventure games would do well to look in that direction.

  11. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    John “Was brought on as a writer for the DS remake of Broken Sword” Walker was called out for being mean to adventure games?

    Now that’s just silly.

  12. Gassalasca says:

    Hmm, and all the while I thought the full game is out. Which it is, only in German.

  13. aufi says:

    it was a worthwhile poke; it probed Mr Walker’s position for the greater general understanding.

    certainly, one may trip over oneself to display intricate and nuanced concentric-circles-of-games-industry knowledge. for those of us whose attentions are prioritized differently, however, it’s welcome clarification. :)

  14. Gap Gen says:

    Coffin Dodger would make an excellent early-20th Century hero name. Possibly if Rodger The Dodger dropped his given names when he came of age.

  15. Daniel Puzey says:

    Sounds to me like this is B-game material…

  16. Mang says:

    At least the first one had decent production values, regardless off the rubbish puzzles. This one seems to have taken a big step back in that direction… :/

  17. Subject 706 says:

    Argh, why does it seem SO hard for developers of modern adventure games, not to make their games mediocre to shit? Making a really good an engaging adventure game would really be a positive thing for the game industry of today.

  18. Heliocentric says:

    One of my favourite adventure games lately was overclocked. I wish it had more attention to a few puzzles and made interactive elements more obvious. But the puzzles are usually solved by what you would do in that situation. Thats clever adventure game design.

  19. Piman says:

    From the sound of it, the script was written in French and translated by someone who’s heard of English, but never learned to speak it. All of the stuff you quote would be fine in French – “cases” is the French term for slots, and “Soon on your screens” is “Bientôt sur vos écrans”, or “Coming soon, to a screen near you” in more idiomatic English. So you can add “thinking that writing in French but using English words is an acceptable form of translation” to the list of problems…

  20. phil says:

    The I believe first game was the one that halted your character’s exploration of a serial killers links to her family’s past to allow her to seek the ingrediants for and labourious make, a goddam cake. Mighty fine story telling.

  21. danielcardigan says:

    “You’re the one who dubbed me the East Coast Killer! It’s time you find out what’s behind those meaningless words.”
    …while I kill you, here on the East Coast.

  22. Paul Moloney says:

    “certainly, one may trip over oneself to display intricate and nuanced concentric-circles-of-games-industry knowledge. for those of us whose attentions are prioritized differently, however, it’s welcome clarification. :)”

    Can someone translate that for me? It’s early and I’ve only had 2 espressos.


  23. kevlar says:

    I won’t even bother picking it up. Apparently aside from the generic gameplay, the answer to the mystery left open in the first one is the most painfully obvious.

    It seems like Sokal and Microids never should have stopped working with each other, because both of their post-Syberia work has been extremely underwhelming.

  24. mister_d says:

    What a shame. The original was a decent game — definitely at the top end of the “crazypants” scale.

  25. clovus says:

    I always find AGs with “suspenseful” or “dangerous” plots to be odd. The game has to find contrived ways to put you in danger, but that can’t involve any actual action. You also end up “sneaking” around, but the games don’t normally have basic “steal game” gameplay involved. Instead you just know that you can’t walk past a certain door until you make a blowgun out of a straw, a thumbtack, and some drug that was laying around outside the guard’s station. Of course, this has always been a problem with AGs. It is just more palpable when they go for a “horror” or “crazy killer” kind of plot.

    So while this is clearly an attempt to make some logical version of adventure gaming’s more usual magical pockets
    Trying to subvert AG tropes is a waste of time. I enjoy when they are lampshaded though. Like in Space Quest II when Roger Wilco finds a ladder. I believe he expresses some discomfort after the animation showing him shoving it into his pocket.

  26. Risingson says:

    Still Life could be a good or a bad game (I actually liked it a lot: there was the cookie puzzle, the absurd chest puzzle, but there was also the brilliant robot puzzle that reminds me of Obsidian times), but never, ever, say that a problem of one adventure game is a problem of all adventures. Pixel-hunting is an issue of bad design, out-of-context puzzles are issues of bad design, and good design is what makes Dave Gilbert games or classic Sierra/Lucasarts/Westwood/so on adventures better.

  27. Helm says:

    Sierra games have so much pixel hunting and absurd or idiotic puzzles in them. I say this while Gabriel Knight 1 and Quest for Glory 1,2 and 4 are some of my favorite games ever. Lucasarts games had their share of awful puzzles.

    I am not saying the problems that Still Life has are inherent to how adventure games must be, but they’re ingrained in the minds of developers as what is befitting a graphical point and click adventure game. While it’s not good to demonise a whole genre for this, it isn’t good to also draw a vague line and say “This is what the genre is” and “this is what bad game design in the genre is”. There’s practically no graphical point and click adventure game without stupid puzzles in it. If you take all the bad stuff away there’s very little left besides a story and characters. And this ‘story and characters’ is what other genres of games have appropriated now that technology allows it and this is why adventure games are mostly inconsequential at large. They’re now a niche market. And niche markets sell based on feeding a habit of nostalgia. People WANT adventure games that have the same stupid puzzles they used to have because that’s what they recognise as the adventure game identity now that every game has story and characerization and character development. At some point someone will have to examine this issue lucidly, not just pick a side as a defender or attacker of adventure games and play to the cliche.

    If you take all the bad game design out of any of your favorite adventure games, there’s 20 minutes of gameplay left. Full Throttle attempted the no filler approach and was very, very short and *still* the main thrust of the game was a fridge logic fetch quest. Nobody remembers Full Throttle fondly because “god, do you remember the dog and car wreck and magnet puzzle? That was awesome.” They remember baddass Ben and stoic Maurine and icky Ripburger and the great theme tune and the road warrior haikus and – perhaps even! – some of the bike fights.

    The best puzzle design in an graphical adventure game for my money is probably Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and let’s look how many modern-day developers, all hung up on ‘telling their story’ have taken from its 3-way approach to puzzle solving?

  28. Cooper says:

    It seems to me that adventure games have missed what it is that makes them – exquisite writing and delivery.

    You can have all the fancy attempts at moving it on, but what I really want is Chris Barrie holding an extended conversation with woodworm.

  29. Igor Hardy says:

    The first Still Life was so weak that I’m not even interested in trying out this demo. There’s enough fun AGS made adventures to keep me happy for months.

    As for the genre’s traditional inventory puzzles, I find them much more fun (and often easier to figure out) than the ones in puzzle games.

  30. Pantsman says:

    Play bloody Culpa Innata. If you can get past its low-budget wierdness and its first ten minutes of “use x on y” dullness, it’s got some really neat ideas. I’m going to say this in every adventure gaming thread until you play it, Walker. DO NOT DISAPPOINT ME.

  31. Berto says:

    I loved Still Life, even with several flaws its one of my favourite adventures (and i found your review in Eurogamer a bit harsh, John. I was mad at you that day :D).

    I tried this demo, but it was mighty dissapointing, it doesn’t feel a Still Life, its almost amateurish, and those visuals are like 2002 graphics… really bad. Microids should have hired a more experienced dev team.

  32. Risingson says:

    Helm, now that you are making so many generalizations, at least give examples of what you think of bad puzzles. And, sorry to use the “they also do it” argument, but why do we forgive impossible platforming in some games, really hard enemy killing in other fps and so on in other genres but not inventory puzzles in adventures? Lucasarts games and most of Sierra games gave lots of clues with those kind of puzzles, so “use everything with everything” is , somewhat, cheating.

  33. clovus says:

    What neat ideas did Culpa Innata have? Really terrible dialogue and TONS of it? Bad GUI? Ridiculously slow navigation? Forcing the player into a pointless day/night cycle? Extremely annoying player character? Greenpeas? GREENPEAS!?! I really like AGs, but there was just WAY too much to get past in Culpa Innata. I’m being a bit AIM here, but what was so innovative about it?

  34. hydra9 says:

    clovus: I’m in your team. I am glad that pantsman gained enjoyment from Culpa Innata, but I gave it a fair try, appreciated some of its plot ideas, then realized the game was absolute crap.

  35. Helm says:

    I didn’t play a lot of Culpa Innata, I couldn’t get over the rough beginning. I can see how it might get better later on but there’s really no excuse for a commercial adventure game to start with an ‘oh I lost my keycard’ puzzle anymore. Or to have such a UI, really. I could take or leave the dated visuals, though they certainly didn’t help.

    “Helm, now that you are making so many generalizations, at least give examples of what you think of bad puzzles.”

    Let’s go with the very first puzzle in King’s Quest 1. You pull a rock. On the ground. If you stand to the south of it, you pull the rock over you and die. Who does this? You didn’t mess with a rock above you where it came crashing down on your head, it’s stationary. On the ground. You pulled it over your whole body (seriously, the death animation for this will stay with me forever). That was my first graphical adventure game, it was well cemented in young Helm that Sierra Online was not his friend right from the go. That’s how gaming was considered to be back then, a contest of wits between designer and gamer and the designer didn’t play fair. This is the Zork tradition, with the main character appearing inept and semi-parapleghic and incapable of doing almost anything right straight away and the omnipotent designer taunting them through the voice of the narrator. “I can’t do this.” Says the female protagonist in generic 00’s graphical point and click. “It won’t budge”. “These two items don’t go together.” “You must be kidding.” “What, are you stupid?”. A Freudian analysis on why adventure gamers stand for this sort of abuse from their imaginary videogame girlfriend would be really interesting.

    Police Quest 1: aside from the follow-correct-police-procedure puzzles (which were arguably meaningful, though certainly not good design to copy verbatim from a manual), if you go outside the shower screen without your clothes on, you die of shame. No, no message “you’d rather not go out without your clothes on” or even the braver solution of going out in a cut-scene where you get reprimanded by a superior officer for lack of decorum and docked points or whatever… no. DEATH BY HUMILIATION. Sadism. Again, Sierra letting you know what’s up. Save often, bitch.

    Leasure Suit Larry 1: Have sex with the prostitute (arguably the point of the game to have sex, mind you) and if you’re not wearing a condom you get an STD. But you don’t die on the spot. No, Sierra has you walk dead a few screens and then kills you just so you might have saved over your last save after having sex and thus ruined your play.

    Space Quest 1: (this one my memory is a bit foggy so there might be a way around it but I don’t think I ever figured one out) man offers you money for your skimmer, you have to say no and go inside and back outside again and he will make a counteroffer and throw in a jetpack. If you had said yes earlier, congrats… you’re walking dead. And right after that you have to grind for money playing with the lethal machine.

    I won’t even go near the various pixel-hunts. The mazes (the red shirt puzzle in King’s Quest 5… ugh) There’s so much walking deadness, so much walkable area cruelty, so many puzzles you couldn’t hope to solve without a hintbook (or calling the “Sierra Hint Line” which was exactly why these unfair puzzles were designed) that I don’t even know what to tell you if you can’t see them. You might disagree with me on matters on interpretation of game design but most of these things are indefensible from a modern game design standpoint, which is why they’re generally frowned upon… at least in almost all other circles than the adventure gamer niche, where they’re celebrated as clear signs that indeed, something is trying to be a graphical adventure game like ‘in the old days’. Nostalgia shouldn’t cloud judgment. It’s no wonder that as soon as the internet and easy access to walkthroughs occured, most people lost patience with this “guess what the developer was thinking” approach to design.

    Oh, another one that occurred to me just now, in Gabriel Knight: bring sekey module. Talk about lateral.

    “And, sorry to use the “they also do it” argument, but why do we forgive impossible platforming in some games, really hard enemy killing in other fps and so on in other genres but not inventory puzzles in adventures?”

    There’s a very simple answer to this. A hard platforming puzzle or an FPS battle is a matter of increasing your skill until you can pull it off. The conditions for defeat and victory are analogue. You can fail, or you might do marginally ok (finish a difficult FPS battle with only 5 hp left for example) or you can do better than that and be rewarded later on by getting along easier or you can do absolutely excellent and the time and effort you sink into it will be rewarded as you watch yourself master the game and its flow. In an adventure game though, victory and loss are a binary affair most of the time (stuff like Star Trek: 25th Anniversary are sadly not very remembered). There are no shades of success. It’s either Guess What I’m Thinking or it’s Suffer In Limbo. Adventure games are standing still completely while you’re trying to solve a bullshit puzzle. Once most gamer notes this the suspension of disbelief is shattered.

  36. Igor Hardy says:

    That’s one tough love for the genre you have there, Helm.

    In every adventure game’s case if you get stuck over a puzzle there’s a 90% chance you will hard feelings towards it. It’s even worse getting stuck over an easy puzzle – no way to make up excuses then. That’s something that will always be present in adventure games.

    If you can figure it out by yourself Gabriel Knight’s sekey module is a plain brilliant puzzle. There were dozens of GK1 puzzles I found much more problematic. The truth is everyone’s mind works a bit differently.

  37. Helm says:

    I solved a lot of these things on my own, but I do not remember them fondly. I remember characters and settings and sometimes bits of resonant story (for example when I think of Gabriel Knight the first thought that comes to mind is when they wake up and find the dead animal (a cat or a chicken? memory is blurry) in the middle of the bookstore we get a glimpse of Gabriel’s somewhat stunted emotions when Grace says “god, how would anybody do this?” and he says earnestly “with a knife, maybe?”) but I do not have pleasant recollections of a lot of puzzles from any of the early adventure game puzzles. I have more pleasant memories of puzzles in Interactive Fiction, to tell the truth, because the UI wasn’t in the was as much and because through the textual abstract a lot more complicated problems and solutions could be thought up that weren’t shackled to budgets and engine limitations.

    Of course everyone works a bit differently but I do think I’m safe when I say that a majority used to play these games to get to the pretty stories and characters and graphics and they suffered through a lot for this and of course if you suffer for something and then are rewarded you feel a degree of pride for your accomplishments. But nowadays a game like Still Life 2 doesn’t look good enough probably won’t have characters deep enough or a storyline involving enough or a point to it all really, to justify the suffering through the gameplay for it.

    If people still want to make conservative graphical adventure games like in the old days it would serve them well to have great stories, great characters, great art to back up their pointless clickery. I probably wouldn’t suffer through ridiculous puzzles for them still but at least I’d understand why other people did much more.

    To not sound all negative, even back in the early 90’s the company Legend was making innovative and very playable IF-with-Graphics in the form of the two Gateway games. They had a few icky puzzles but again because they weren’t bound by engine and art dept. limitations as much as full graphical games, they got away with a lot more and the games are oozing with atmosphere and they have a point to them as well. So instead of rose-tinted glasses about Sierra or LEC, perhaps these games deserve reexamination instead.

  38. Risingson says:

    Hey. Helm. This isn’t fair. You say that most sierra and lucasarts games had bad puzzles, and then you give the first (and some of the worse – King’s Quest) as examples!

    And, well. Innovative. Conservative adventure games. Do you really think that those games need a change of interface?

    Let’s go to the other answer:
    “There’s a very simple answer to this. A hard platforming puzzle or an FPS battle is a matter of increasing your skill until you can pull it off. The conditions for defeat and victory are analogue. You can fail, or you might do marginally ok (finish a difficult FPS battle with only 5 hp left for example) or you can do better than that and be rewarded later on by getting along easier or you can do absolutely excellent and the time and effort you sink into it will be rewarded as you watch yourself master the game and its flow. In an adventure game though, victory and loss are a binary affair most of the time (stuff like Star Trek: 25th Anniversary are sadly not very remembered). There are no shades of success. It’s either Guess What I’m Thinking or it’s Suffer In Limbo. Adventure games are standing still completely while you’re trying to solve a bullshit puzzle. Once most gamer notes this the suspension of disbelief is shattered.”

    Why? Is it better trial-and-error the same phase again and again that a still game? I don’t see that in this way at all (I was really pissed off, to the point of letting the game sleep for years, with Half Life and its never ending tunnels with the same enemies) I don’t think that FPS games are more rewarding at all, and I don’t think that Star Trek 25th Annivesary was a good adventure game (really, as I think that those puzzles you mention from Larry 1 and Police Quest are specific design flaws), and I don’t think that just put graphics and a never-ending list of verbs did anything for innovation in Legend games (the great thing about those games is how well designed and told they were). So, as long as you are showing lot of knowledge in these kind of games, I still don’t know why you put all of them in the same sack. Kyrandia 1 was a bad game, Kyrandia 2 was a great game with some blatant flaws, Indy 4 is an excellent game and Space Quest 5 is too. Many others aren’t. It’s like saying Command & Conquer is a great game but Outpost isn’t.

  39. Helm says:

    You’re deflecting my argument, Risingson. Play a few 90’s graphical adventure games (without a walkthrough), keep a tab of the puzzles you run into and come back and tell me you didn’t find walking deads, pixel hunts, fridge logic, fetch quests and tedious trial and error in them. I don’t have to present even more examples to you. Go play Flight of the Amazon Queen. Innocent Until Caught. Lure of the Temptress. Curse of Enchantia. Countdown. Noctropolis. The Dig. Go play Monkey Island I & II. I didn’t give just the first King’s Quest as an example, and even if I had I can give you modern examples just as well. I’m not being unfair, I just sat down and played most of these again as a modern gamer and as videogames they varied from tolerable to excruciating while a few are blessed with interesting stories and characters, what can I say?

    I can go back to the c64 and play Exile, and it holds up on the whole. It’s exciting, the exploration is interesting once you get used to the controls. The action sequences are fast and skill-based and if you lose the game is forgiving. There are teleportation-based innovations that even modern games haven’t considered. There is a huge seamless world to explore. You have a jetpack! Great adventure game.

    I can play Prince of Persia (the old dos game, not Sands of Time) and it still makes perfect sense and is enjoyable. There is a great learning curve, the movement physics are chunky and the deaths visceral. The minimal plot is conveyed with between-level cinematics placed with a care by Mechner that modern developers seem to lack, something new happens on every level (sword, swordfights, skeleton, shadow, fat man, mouse & slowfall potion, long climb and shadow merge, jaffar fight)… most people wouldn’t consider it an adventure game, but that’s what it seems to be to me.

    Do adventure games need a new UI? Well they need a less simplified UI. Exactly when the verblist was condensed into ‘look/use’ they devolved into pointless clickery games it seems. Stuff like Penumbra feel fresh even if they have basic puzzles just because the physics-based UI offers analogue solutions to digital problems. You feel as if there’s an element of fudging along finding solutions that the developer didn’t even intend but the world allows, feels immersive not just Guess What I Was Thinking or Suffer in Limbo.

    “Why? Is it better trial-and-error the same phase again and again that a still game?”

    I posit that it is. Skill-based video-gaming in essence is about variable degrees of success in repetition of the same phase. In Prince of Persia I might miss a jump and it might mean my death and restart of the level. But often it means I just fell somewhere lower and I might have to backtrack up where I was again, and oh shit, I now am at 1 hp and I left a guard alive in the next screen so I don’t know if I’m gonna make it this time, but I’ll try and it’ll be exciting.

    This isn’t about (at least that’s not why I am having this conversation for one) whether you or I like some graphical adventure games but dislike others. For example I believe the Quest for Glory series, especially 1 and 4, are largely exempt from my critique and are extremely playable games even today where there are degrees of success, different ways to solve – generally straightforward – puzzles, optional segues, enjoyable combat for conflict resolution on top of the great characters, story and atmosphere. Guess how many modern adventure games are taking a page from the Cole book of adventure game design: exactly zero. Instead we get April Ryan clones solving stilted CSI investigations by dropping their shit to carry mattresses. One thing is easier to design and code than the other, after all. And the niche market will buy it anyway, so why worry we’re less innovative than a game from 1990. Still Life has a niche audience, whereas once adventure games seemed to be aiming for much more. My position remains that once these games were the ‘high end fps’ games of their time in terms of graphical presentation and that people were enchanted by stories and characters and mostly suffered through puzzles to get the reward of more art and story. In the age of 8bit consoles, that’s what computers could do that they couldn’t. Throw -slow loading- full-screen adventure game graphics on the screen. When computers become more powerful and other types of games with more analogue conflict resolution like FPSes became possible that were actually, you know, fun to play they took both the wow factor and the characterization tropes from adventure gaming (to degrees), and what the former were left with to maintain their identity were the vacuous puzzles. I am pointing my finger exactly there and saying that’s bad. This isn’t an ‘I hate adventure games’ rant, I have a very very specific point there. I suggested then that if people are so determined to mine the conservative adventure game niche they should instead go with the high road and try to appeal with storytelling and beautiful presentation than with “they are puzzles!” puzzles, otherwise we’re left with variations of Still Life. And if they have a larger ambition than just selling copies to a niche audience they should, once they have great presentation and characters, attempt to innovate on the core mechanics of how an adventure game works, introduce variable degrees of success and paradigms of conflict resolution that are more fun than pointless clickery in a static world.

    Your argument is ‘some games are good, some are not’ and it’s difficult to disagree with this, but it’s also not all we could be talking about. If we start connecting the dots we see patterns emerge. Aren’t they also important to discuss, instead of deflecting any theory on that oh that was a specific design flaw and oh that is an old sierra game and oh everybody is different in their brains and oh, fpses are also all just repetitive corridor shooters?

  40. Igor Hardy says:

    You must have played a different version of Quest for Glory series than I have, Helm. I played them all about a year and a half ago and the first two had some truly dreadfully implemented RPG elements and no “different ways to solve puzzles” besides one or two cases added just for show. I’m not counting the option to start the game over and pick a different class with different abilities (it didn’t affect the gameplay that much anyway).

    In QfG1 my thief character had to climb the tree about a hundred times to reach the required climbing skill level and there was no optional way for this class to solve a certain puzzle. In QfG2 I had to try my lockpicks on like a thousand doors (none of which you can actually open of course) to reach the required lock picking skill level. These are just examples of the worst problems.

    Yes, those two games had ambitious gameplay concept, but didn’t live up to it. Fortunately, the later titles in the series got much much better, but none was completely devoid of similar problems. And they are much more frustrating than a straightforward adventure game.

  41. Pantsman says:

    In defense of Culpa Innata, the gameplay was based around conversation, which I found tremendously interesting. It was all about asking people the right questions, and the outcomes really depend on the choices you make. For the most part conversations were logical, and it really had you trying to solve a mystery, not just solving puzzles to allow a character to solve a mystery. One consequence of this gameplay was that it was massively non-linear on a scale exceeded only by MASQ, in my experience. Plus it had some nice music and environment design.

    Yes, the graphics were dated. Yes, the voice acting was about what you’d expect from a low-budget eastern European title. Yes, the dialogue was of rather variable quality, what puzzles there were were rather uninspired, and it seems to end about a third of the way through the story. But I found myself so intrigued by its ideas that I still enjoyed the experience, and hope that other games take notice of what it did.

  42. Helm says:

    Igor: We didn’t play a different series, you probably didn’t experiment enough. You don’t have to climb the tree. You can throw a rock at the nest and it’ll fall down and you’ll get the ring (as a thief). Or you can cast flame dart at it and that’ll work as well (as a thief with 5 points at wizardry). The whole ring quest is optional initself also. Or you could take the ring and instead of giving it to the healer you can fence it off. If you absolutely have to use the climb skill you can go outside the hermit’s door and climb those rocks for fast stat boosting (will take about 2 minute of grind to get to the 30 points you’ll need or thereabouts). There is minimal stat grinding in Quest for Glory 1 and 2 but it’s optional (and mostly relevant to the Fighter class, which is the more direct ‘pain for gain’ class so it suits him). Quest for Glory 3 is the exception and it’s the wost game in the series (due to that trial you have to finish and for which you just have to grind at the excercise equipment endlessly).

  43. Igor Hardy says:

    Believe me, I did experiment. I needed to climb the tree to have enough climbing skill not for getting the ring in the nest, but for climbing over the fortress wall. The tree I think was the only practice option available since the rocks outside the hermit’s rock boosts your stats only once (or once in a while).

    Making the thief a magic user ruins the whole point of classes and without already knowing the game well you can easily ruin your vital stats with such experiments. At least that’s what the manual said, but the stats requirements in the game were badly balanced anyway.

    Quest for Glory 3 is my second favorite in the series after 5 as everything worked well for my thief character there, I needed no tedious stats boosting exercises, and the whole game moved forward at a steady pace.

  44. Helm says:

    Thief/Wizard (or Thiefzard, affectionately) is the most fun you can have in Quest for Glory, it never breaks the game. What thief wouldn’t like an Open spell if they can get it for 5 points of wizardry at character creation? You can go in the Brigand Fortress also by casting Open on the door, or picking its lock, or you can go through the hidden passageway with the troll if you eavesdropped on the brigands at the archery range and then dispatched them for the key. When behind the bush cast ‘calm’ until the minotaur goes to sleep and just type ‘open gate’ (if memory serves also waiting might put the minotaur to sleep if you don’t have spells). See? Multiple solutions. No grind mandatory.

    But I do agree some stats aren’t balanced well in QFG1. Actually 2 isn’t balanced as much as it could be also, 4 is the best in this regard, I feel. Shame most people didn’t play it due to the show stopper bugs that have now been completely fan-patched. I’m not saying these games are perfect (Sierra didn’t do ‘perfect’), I am just very glad they tried something different in the adventure game module as far as conflict resolution and variable success goes.

  45. Igor Hardy says:

    I went through the troll passageway and ended just before the gate. Possibly the minotaur was part of the problem, maybe I couldn’t pick the lock because he would notice me (but I don’t remember this very well).

    Anyway, I too liked the series a lot and I agree that it tried something refreshing and different. Yet I can’t say these games provided really decent puzzle alternatives (how can I guess that I should wait for the minotaur to go to sleep, for instance?). I’d even say they were often much more frustrating and tedious than typical adventure gaming stuff. Probably that’s the main reason why nobody tried to copy their gameplay style.

  46. W says:

    Overclocked was a borefest. People who like it probably haven’t watched a movie or TV show in the last 50 years.

    I like Walker’s handling of adventure games, he’s honest and fair. Keep it up!

    Although I must say I think he cut GK3 a bit short, flawed as it was it was better than almost anything has been since. :D (PCG, August (?) 1999, 67%)

  47. Hodge says:

    +1 to the love for Quest For Glory.

    The early Sierra games have a naive charm about them, but they haven’t aged well at all. Things got better with SCI0, then worse again with SCI1, by which time LucasArts had lifted the bar so high that they didn’t stand a chance.

    But Quest For Glory got everything right that the other Sierra games got wrong. Free roaming, multiple solutions to puzzles, and you could tackle things in any order you liked.

    Still Life 2 sounds awful though – I felt like throwing my keyboard at the wall just from reading John’s description.

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