Before you even start Adventure: All In The Game, you're asked whether you think your knowledge of adventure games is Minimal, Adequate or Extensive. I immediately quit and opened the Readme to see if it was made by Games For Richard Inc. It wasn't. But it may as well have been. This is one of my favourite AGS adventures in ages, with great writing, solid design, and an excellent 'behind the scenes' premise that's far more than just a cute gimmick.
The basic idea is the same as in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels. You're Thalia James, a cop who patrols adventure games in search of trouble like characters rebelling against their set roles or stealing the precious objects us Outsiders need to solve important puzzles. The very first scene in the game involves an argument between characters originally cut from The Dig and a conspiracy to return it its earlier, darker Brian Moriarty design. Later, you visit everything from Space Quest X to bits of the cancelled Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans, first to train an impetuous new recruit, and then to take care of a bigger challenge involving the world of adventure games slowly turning into a rather more violent place than usual.
The first couple of screens may look slightly unwelcoming, making it seem like you'll really need to know your adventures really, really well to enjoy the story. You don't. If you know who all the characters are, you'll enjoy it more, but for the most part you can just let Thalia say "Oh, it's Jerrod from Gold Rush" or whatever and be absolutely fine. Most of the major characters are actually original creations, including Thalia herself and Sledge, her newly assigned rookie from Action, with the main plot revolving around the clash between their philosophies and Thalia's refusal to budge even an inch from the One True Path of cerebral puzzle solving.
Don't let the use of borrowed sprites and backgrounds fool you - this isn't just some quickly thrown together game. It's long, well written, and while the puzzles won't really challenge you unless you miss a slightly hidden hotspot on the screen, they're entertaining and perfectly in keeping with the premise. Creator Akril has a great feel for the genre, with Adventure equally comfortable as a tribute to adventuring as a parody of some of its sillier traditions. If you've ever loved the greats from Sierra, Lucasarts and friends, definitely clear an evening in your schedule to go see what their stars get up to when your cursor isn't bossing them around.
Can you solve the puzzle of clicking this download link? Hint: Use a mouse.
(Extra Bit: All In The Game is actually the second Adventure... uh... adventure, with its ideas first tried out in The Inside Job. That's an okay game, but nowhere near as accomplished as this one, and you won't miss out on anything by either skipping it or playing it afterwards.)