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Riven Riven


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Hadean Lands Hadean Lands


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Tesla Effect Tesla Effect


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Diablo II Diablo II


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Dag Scheve Dag Scheve


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Puritas Cordis Puritas Cordis


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Gray Matter Gray Matter


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Dark Fall: Lost Souls Lost Souls


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Tex Murphy: Overseer Tex Murphy: Overseer

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Fallout 3 Fallout 3


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Dark Side of the Moon Dark Side of the Moon

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Atlantis II Atlantis II


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Overclocked Over-


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Seven Games of the Soul / Faust Faust


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The Immortals of Terra Perry Rhodan


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Where Have All the Puzzles Gone? (Part II) Puzzles (Part II)


 by Steve Metzler
Where Have All the Puzzles Gone? (Part I) Puzzles (Part I)


 by Steve Metzler
Archived commentary

Sunday, 28th September, 2008

Atlantis II / Beyond Atlantis revisited
This one featured in my Where Have All the Puzzles Gone? (Part I) article, as an example of how *not* to do puzzles. I actually managed to get my hands on the gold masters for this one, so had the review published for once before it even hit the store shelves. While recovering the original article from Games Domain Review using the Wayback Machine, I had difficulty getting the large screenshots back. Fortunately, I was able to find them all on Gamer's Hell... but they had taken my original shots and plastered their logo all over them. What cheek! Crediting other people's work as your own is just not on. However, I was able to remove the logos from the shots using my trusty picture editor, so they appear again in their original logo-free condition ;-) Anyway, here's a link to the review:

Atlantis II / Beyond Atlantis (Second Opinion)

Perhaps I went a little hard on it, but... nah.



Saturday, 27th September, 2008

Countdown to Midnight
Those of you who are familiar with the Tex Murphy games will be delighted to hear that the same creative team who brought you Under a Killing Moon, The Pandora Directive, and Overseer (that would be Chris Jones and Aaron Conners) have formed a new company called Big Finish Games. Their first project is titled Three Cards to Midnight and it's due out sometime in November :-) Here's a link to the web site:

Three Cards to Midnight official site

There's a trailer there, and some fine looking screenshots. It's kinda hard to tell what the gameplay will be like from the information that's available, but I'm hoping for the best. The game features three difficulty levels - Easy, Entertainment, and Expert - which should be enough to suit the whole gamut of adventure gamers out there. Three Cards to Midnight has taken a leaf out of The Pandora Directive's book, and has multiple endings depending on certain actions you choose during the course of the game.

There's an interactive demo coming out in early October that should answer the gameplay question. One little tidbit of information from the site is bothering me though:

6+ hours of gameplay

I'm hoping that's on Easy mode, or it's going to be a tad short for my tastes :-\



Saturday, 20th September, 2008

Overclocked, and over here
Just published Steve Ramsey's latest review:

Overclocked: A History of Violence



Sunday, 14th September, 2008

Monkeying around
Just started replaying Monkey Island 2: Le Chuck's Revenge. It's a shame that LucasArts never produced a talkie version of this one, but it's still my favourite of the series. I'll do a Second Opinion review, and probably cook up a walkthrough while I'm at it...

In the meantime, Steve Ramsey is close to completing Overclocked so we should have a review of that one up in a few days time.



Wednesday, 3rd September, 2008

Seven Games of the Soul / Faust
Following on from the risible Ring: The Legend of the Nibelungen, we have Slovenian developer Arxel Tribe's next effort, which was a whole bunch better:

Seven Games of the Soul / Faust (Second Opinion)

In fact, it was so much better that I recommended it for a GDR Silver Medal. Unfortunately, Arxel Tribe folded after that, which was a shame because I thought they were improving with every game.



Sunday, 31st August, 2008

More puzzles feedback
Received some examples of the questionable puzzle design in Runaway 2: The Dream of the Turtle from reader Jared Hansen. As these things go I'm afraid it's mostly spoilers, so apologies for the big grey boxes:

"You are posing as a government agent cum scientist and need to operate some alien technology. Nothing seems to go with anything else, so..."

" need to leave the building and talk to a soldier you met in the previous part until your character decides that he 'knows too much' and then you can pull out a device you got that's a copy of the brain-wiping device from Men in Black. (Naturally you couldn't use it on him before the conversation...) When you attempt to use the device, though, it falls apart due to unclear reasons, spilling things that look like glowing marbles that you need to use on the alien machinery."

Bit of a cop-out in the puzzle design to be sure, though I've seen worse. But the next example really takes the biscuit:

"I think probably the most aggravating puzzle that I faced is another from, yeah, Runaway 2 where you are given a couple of bottles of wine. Because your character refuses to give them to anyone else it's rather obvious that you need to drink them. But unlike in Monkey Island you can't use your inventory items on yourself - you can only use them on other objects."

"What you have to do is use the wine bottles on a corridor - so your character will walk down there into his room and drink the wine. To compound this terrible bit of design, though, the corridor is not actually an object. It's an exit. An exit that your character repeatedly says he won't use whenever you try to interact with it before that point, and no other exits in the whole game are interactive. That was the first time since the Sierra text games that I've felt that I'm trying to 'solve' the interface instead of the game!"

Agreed, that's a nasty one. It's puzzles like that which led me to abandon the first Runaway about a third of the way through. And after that experience, I wouldn't go near the second one.



Thursday, 21st August, 2008

Ring in retrospect
Alas, if only this space opera was as inspired as the classical music of Richard Wagner upon which it is based:

Ring: The Legend of the Nibelungen (Second Opinion)

I suppose your viewpoint of this game would depend on whether you approached it as art or an adventure game. Perhaps both points of view are valid, but you can probably guess on which side of the virtual fence I sit with this one...



Wednesday, 20th August, 2008

But will they come back?
Received some more feedback regarding the Where Have All the Puzzles Gone? articles, this time from reader Michael Rosenberg:

"I enjoyed your discussion of the decline of puzzles in modern adventure games and generally agree with you in both your general thesis and the specifics you cite (personally, Gabriel Knight 3 might be my favorite all time game). However, I also think you are being overly generous to Dreamfall. On the one hand, it has one of the greatest and deepest stories ever told in a game, I cannot argue with that. But in an article about puzzle quality, not overall game quality but rather puzzle quality, Dreamfall was horrible. Its puzzles were few and far between and when there were puzzles, they were usually very pedestrian. Any game which one can play for an hour or more, making definite progress the entire time, and yet not do anything at all but move the character from point A to point B (and not move in a puzzle way, simply have the character walk from one location to another) has serious puzzle issues. Again, the story was absolutely incredible, but this was Interactive Fiction that essentially forgot the 'interactive' part. That doesn't make it bad, nor does it make it a game that people should skip, but in an article about the decline of puzzle quality, this game is almost the shining example of the complete abandonment of puzzles."

Ahem. Well, in retrospect, I do have to say I agree with Michael's point. I was dithering over what puzzle score to give Dreamfall when I wrote the article. Because the production values of the game were so high, I opted for an Average rating for the puzzles. But Michael is probably right in that I should have gone with my 'tilt', which was leaning towards Poor :-\



Sunday, 17th August, 2008

Just back from a much needed summer break, and we have the latest Steve Ramsey review for you:

Perry Rhodan: The Immortals of Terra



Friday, 8th August, 2008

Where Have All the Puzzles Gone, Again?
So I managed to squeeze another dollop of adventure gaming commentary onto the Web just prior to me taking a week's break:

Where Have All the Puzzles Gone? (Part II)

The concluding part of my latest rant. Once again, your comments are very welcome. Meanwhile, Steve R. has promised us his Overclocked review, so you can expect that to be posted shortly upon my return. See yas again around the 17th or so!



Sunday, 3rd August, 2008

Finally, some commentary regarding the commentary
Aside from questions related to Steve's XP Games Corner, I don't get many e-mails around here. So I was delighted to get some feedback regarding the Where Have All the Puzzles Gone? (Part I) article, in the form of insightful comments from reader Igor Hardy. Following are some excerpts from that e-mail, and my responses:

"Generally, I agree with the way you feel about puzzles and the decline of their quality in current titles. However, I wouldn't connect designing and appreciating puzzles so much with the analytical side of the mind. Sure, that aspect is important, but usually puzzles are fun, precisely because they don't have to follow the very restrictive methodology of programming or logical deduction. Well, maybe making a meaningful discovery in mathematics can feel a bit similar to solving a puzzle in a game (unfortunately I'll never know from experience ;) ), but in both cases there's an essential element of imagination involved that is something completely different than checking what logical inferences are true in the given context."

Very true Igor, and indeed it's just those sort of puzzles that require you to think 'outside the box' that are prevalent in games like the Monkey Island series (which I would have liked to include in my article, but didn't out of concerns that it would become too 'LucasArts heavy'). But when I'm talking about illogical puzzles, it's not in the context of being slightly off-the-wall/creative/stretching the imagination. It's more about being so badly designed that they are not possible to solve without guessing, and that's not what adventure game puzzles are supposed to be about.

"I think the GK3 cat hair moustache puzzle has become infamous only because of some person called Old Man Murray. I actually thought this puzzle in all its silliness was a lot fun and very much in style of the classic Sierra games, a lot like many things in GK1 for example."

Heh. I read that Old Man Murray article too, when it first surfaced:

It's an entertaining rant alright. But one slightly far-fetched puzzle (which Igor and myself did somehow manage to figure out) does not make Gabriel Knight 3 a bad game. In fact, even the best games generally have one or two 'stinkers' in them.

In any event, by the middle of the upcoming week I should have Part II of my own rant about puzzles finished. Seeya all then.



Tuesday, 29th July, 2008

Apologies for the rather long spell without anything new being posted here, but I wasn't idle. In fact, I was very busy researching and penning an article that I had started to write quite some time ago. The article speaks for itself, so without further ado:

Where Have All the Puzzles Gone? (Part I)

The concluding part of the article will follow sometime next week. In the meantime, some feedback wouldn't go unappreciated. It's getting a bit lonely out here on this blog :-\



Sunday, 20th July, 2008

Stepping into van Gogh
Steve Ramsey brings us another review of a rare edutainment adventure, in the form of Mission Sunlight. In fact, it's so rare that it's completely off the radar at Moby Games.

The game was originally released in French, under the title Mission Soleil. The target audience is ages 8 - 13, but (as a mainstream site once put it) "And so while the score I'm giving the game (70) makes it look like it might be a decent pickup, I wouldn't really recommend it, unless slow-paced, frustrating adventures are your cup of tea." ...or as I would put it: unless you're into art, or collectibles ;-) Coincidentally, Steve didn't give me a score for this game, so I just made one up, based on the tilt in his review. Hope I guessed correctly!

Really, it's all about the puzzles
I've been pretty frustrated lately about the quality of the puzzles in recent adventure titles. The subject is too complex to dissect in a blog though, so I've started to write an extensive editorial piece that compares the puzzle design in adventures new and old, good and bad. Watch this space...



Wednesday, 16th July, 2008

Morpheus, but not he of The Matrix fame
This was one of my favourite games of the 90's. Some people (myself included at the time) slated it for the apparently abrupt ending, but in retrospect I think the ending was actually one of its strong points. A dream within a dream, as it were, that had you thinking about it for quite some time after. And there was a really good algebra-themed puzzle that had me right chuffed to have solved it without requiring any assistance. So here ya go: review of Morpheus (Second Opinion)

For those of you wondering how many more older game reviews I've got stocked up in my arsenal, the answer is... not too many more. But I think they lend a bit of necessary perspective when it comes to discussing how to keep our favourite genre alive and vibrant... especially since those of you who hang out on the various adventure game forums are probably well aware of my opinion on the more recently released adventures. With the exception of a very few: The. Puzzles. Suck.

Granted, not every offering even in the heyday of adventure games had great puzzles, but I seem to recall for the most part that a higher proportion of games at least had logical puzzles (unless the game in question was made by Cryo). But you don't even get that nowadays. Unless we drive this point home to the developers - that they need to go back to the great games and analyse what made them great - we'll continue to get more of the same drivel. You keep buying garbage, and I promise you that they'll keep shovelling it out the door.



Tuesday, 15th July, 2008

Branching out
Away for the past weekend, and also a rare break from computers. As we're getting into the swing of things again here, I'd like to welcome back long time Quandary contributor Clint Mullins, with his brief but informative review of Portal. I've been meaning to pick this one up myself, and just might do that now that it's available separately (already got Half-Life 2 when it was first released, so reluctant to splurge out on The Orange Box bundle just to acquire Portal).

And... since we do confess to playing the odd shooter or two around here, Clint and myself will be bringing you the occasional review of more 'generalist' fare like Bioshock or Crysis. Hey, we may not get there first, but we get there eventually ;-)



Tuesday, 8th July, 2008

Amerzone revisited
Most of you are familiar with Belgian artist Benoît Sokal as being the graphical genius behind the Syberia games. But game-design wise, he cut his teeth on this one: review of Amerzone (Second Opinion)

While Syberia sits there comfortably among the top-rated games on my shelf, Amerzone... doesn't. While undeniably good for a first effort, it just doesn't have the polish or wow factor that characterise these later games. I thought it kind of petered out at the end, like he'd run out of ideas. Anyway, have a read and see what you think...



Thursday, 3rd July, 2008

Celtica gets its 15 minutes of fame... again
Yeah, I know. No matter how pitiful a particular game is, it will always have its own little cult of followers. And when the unfavourable reviews start popping up, they rush to its defense as if the poor thing was just run over by a car and needs to be rushed to hospital. The fact is, with games like this: review of Celtica (Second Opinion)

...the car should have backed up and run over it a few more times just to be sure the bleedin' thing was dead. Steve Ramsey was right when he had this to say about Grackon's Curse:

"Just because a game is wanted by collectors, doesn't mean it is any good."

That observation certainly applies to Celtica, which is sought after simply because of the fact that there are, thankfully, not all that many copies left floating around. At least, I hope that's why it's sought after. The main problem I had with it was that it was so blatantly derivative of Myst that I couldn't manage to muster any respect for it at all. Another proud winner of the Games Domain Review 'Junk' award. I do remember that when I first posted that review at GDR, my friend Ray Ivey over at Just Adventure got a right good chuckle out of how vitriolic I was. Hey, maybe he's right. Life is too short to get all het up over a silly little game, no? But I call 'em as I see 'em, and so does Ray ;-) Though, we do usually see more eye-to-eye on particular games than we did concerning Celtica...