Written by: Rik

Date posted: September 14, 2004

Note – like some of our other ‘brief history’ features, this was written some time ago, before many of the games mentioned here were revisited and reviewed for the site. I think it still serves a purpose – to provide a brief overview of the genre – but though it’s been updated a couple of times since the original date of publication, it could probably still do with an overhaul. Until that happens, though, we’ve got the feature as it was, with this disclaimer pasted at the top.



Infocom release Zork. It is a text adventure, sans graphics, in which your situation is described to you in text form, and you type in your instructions, such as “go north” and “pick up stick”. Despite this, the genre proves to be popular, offering as yet unparalleled levels of involvement with the characters and story.



Text adventures are all the rage. Infocom follow up Zork with a couple of sequels, a new game called Planetfall and a game based on Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy (pictured).

Meanwhile, King’s Quest is released by Sierra and the graphic adventure is born.



Sierra capitalise on the huge success of King’s Quest by releasing a sequel, subtitled Romancing the Throne.

The points-based scoring system and the ability of your character to die are notable features that come to be associated with the Sierra range over the years.



The text adventure is still going strong. Infocom release Leather Goddesses of Phobos, while I cut my teeth on Level 9’s Jewels of Darkness (pictured). Consisting of three episodes, the basic text adventures are enhanced by the addition of still graphics. The dodgy text parsing that blighted earlier adventures has been considerably improved, but remains an annoyance. Despite offering moving graphics, the newly-released King’s Quest 3 and Space Quest still rely heavily on text input and are hence blighted by similar problems.



Sierra release Space Quest II (pictured) and expand their range of adventures. Police Quest promises a comprehensive police adventure, and achieves it by sticking rigidly to police protocol and being largely devoid of humour.

Meanwhile, Leisure Suit Larry makes an unwelcome first appearance on the scene, offering you the opportunity to be a middle-aged misogynist. This proves too much for some people to resist, and a further six games are released in the series (just goes to show how far some blocky, badly drawn porn can get you). Elsewhere, Defender of the Crown is released by Cinemaware and looks absolutely stunning.



While the Sierra juggernaut rolls on (Police Quest II (pictured), King’s Quest IV, Space Quest III), LucasArts enter the fray with Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders . It uses a game engine known as SCUMM that does away with text input completely and cuts down the frustration factor considerably, although it is arguably used to better effect in cult favourite Maniac Mansion.

Meanwhile, Magnetic Scrolls release Corruption, an old-school text adventure enhanced by some impressively digitised stills. It is bloody impossible, especially for a seven-year old boy with no knowledge of the cut-throat corporate world it depicts.



LucasArts release the film tie-in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (pictured). It’s generally well received, but let down by some tough puzzles and frequent fight sequences.

Delphine bring us Future Wars, an involving adventure slightly let down by some fiddly puzzles and irritating combat bits.



With Sierra’s ‘Quest’ games now starting to feel tired and dated, LucasArts challenge them for the adventure game crown. While Loom is fun but short, The Secret of Monkey Island (pictured) has it all: story, characters, humour, puzzles – and is the genre-defining graphic adventure.

Meanwhile, Delphine release Operation Stealth, a Bond-alike adventure again cursed with some fiddly action sections.

Stoo: this year also brings my favourite of the old Sierra adventures, Conquests of Camelot, sporting Sierra’s newer SCI engine.



Monkey Island 2 is released and is every bit as good as it should be.

Delphine’s long-awaited Cruise for a Corpse (pictured), meanwhile, is apparently disappointing and a little bit on the short side.

Sierra start re-releasing their old adventures with a newer, shinier interface. This year we get a new version of the first Space Quest in VGA.



Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (pictured) is released: an all-new Indy adventure written specifically for the gaming public. It fails to disappoint and is immediately acclaimed by critics and consumers alike.

However, the new kid on the block is Alone In the Dark, the original go-and-investigate-a-scary-mansion game. It wins loads of awards and paves the way for the likes of Resident Evil and the rest of the survival horror genre. Sierra give an update to Police Quest.



CD-ROM drives arrive, bringing with them lots of terrible games. The storage capacity of a CD encourages developers to pack them full of pre-rendered cut-scenes and full-motion video, resulting in a whole host of disastrously shallow “interactive movies”. The 7th Guest is the one that started it all, but that was actually quite good compared to those which followed its template – remember Hell Cab, Critical Path or Psychic Detective, anyone? Luckily, other developers sensibly realise they can use CDs to store a hell of a lot of sound files, and hence produce proper adventure games that are enhanced by voice actors reading the scripts. LucasArts’ Sam and Max Hit the Road (pictured) and Day of the Tentacle arrive, complete with “talkie” CD-ROM versions, and are rightly acclaimed as adventures of the highest quality.

Not to be outdone, Adventuresoft employ Red Dwarf’s Chris Barrie as the voice of Simon the Sorcerer, star of their new game (which also happens to be pretty good).



Another interactive movie, Under a Killing Moon, arrives. It comes on four CDs and ambitiously attempts to combine first-person 3D movement with video-based adventuring. It doesn’t quite work, but isn’t universally panned by the press. Still-screen “adventure” Myst is also released and lots of people buy it.

More standard point-and-click fare comes in the form of sci-fi adventures Innocent Until Caught and Beneath a Steel Sky (pictured).

Cyberpunk caper Dreamweb gets attention for featuring a slightly rude bit, but it also happens to be an atmospheric and involving adventure (if a little short).



King’s Quest receives a revamp and part VII is the first Sierra adventure to be well-received for some time, although similar treatment fails to revive Space Quest VI. LucasArts’ motorbike adventure Full Throttle receives praise from all corners, although some argue it might be a little bit too easy. It also boasts the gaming character with the coolest voice ever. The Dig (pictured) finally arrives and is an involving sci-fi romp, although perhaps understandably it looks a little dated by this stage. Wizard fans are appeased by a new Discworld game (featuring the voice of Eric Idle) and a sequel to Simon the Sorcerer – without Chris Barrie this time.

Elsewhere, Flight of the Amazon Queen is passable, Orion Conspiracy better best forgotten, while Sierra’s horror epic Phantasmagoria is routinely slammed as a waste of seven good CDs. Also in this year we are promised a Star Wars point-and-clicker which never arrives – goddammit, LucasArts!.



A high-resolution cartoony look is now standard for adventures. In this year we got the nice-but-dull Broken Sword (pictured), the patchy-but-fun Toonstruck, the puzzling Orion Burger and the, er, sequelly Discworld 2. They all look pretty similar to each other.

Several games try to do something different: Gremlin’s Normality uses a first-person perspective and a 3D environment (with some success), Azrael’s Tear tries to “do” grown-up (and does it well, but no-one buys it), while Eidos’ Tomb Raider selfishly attempts to destroy the whole adventuring genre (sob).



Broken Sword II (pictured) brings more adventures with everyone’s favourite hero, George “Want to touch this dirty tissue?” Stobbart, while Adventuresoft’s Feeble Files falls desperately short of the mark.

Luckily for adventure fans, Christmas time brings the long-awaited Curse of Monkey Island and Blade Runner, both of which disappointed some, but remain among the best recent examples of the traditional adventure game.



Someone proclaims the adventure game dead. This is not entirely true, but adventures certainly appear to be thin on the ground. The fact that the latest King’s Quest game, Mask of Eternity, is a third-person action-adventure doesn’t help matters either.

Still, LucasArts’ Grim Fandango (pictured) doesn’t disappoint, while Douglas Adams’ Starship Titanic is another polished effort. The much-hyped X-Files game finally arrives and is universally derided.



Discworld Noir (pictured) finally makes it and surprises everybody by being both the best game in the series and one of the best adventures of recent times. It finally deviates from the “use this object on that object” gameplay of old by utilising a novel clue-based system. Still, not many people buy it amid more claims that the adventure game is dead.

This year’s only other notable adventure release, The Longest Journey, is nice enough but isn’t the sort of thing to save the genre. Outcast is considered by some to represent the next generation of adventure gaming, and to be dull and trite by others.

Meanwhile, Indiana Jones goes 3D for his adventures with the Infernal Machine – it may not be a traditional adventure, but it’s pretty damn good.



Out of the blue an announcement is made that a new Monkey Island game will be released. Escape From Monkey Island is out by the end of the year, and it’s pretty good, although the Resident Evil-style joypad controls annoy some traditionalists. Simon The Sorcerer 3D is cruelly treated by gaming magazines and fails to secure a release. Shenmue on the Dreamcast hints at what might be the way forward for adventures.



Mystery of the Druids (pictured) is the only significant release this year. Someone gives it a good review, but it’s not the sort of title that sends people rushing to the shops (also: it isn’t very good really).

The Ward, a labour of love for a small Eastern European development team, finally secures a release but unfortunately lacks anything in particular to recommend it.



Simon the Sorcerer 3D is finally released. It is universally panned once again. Rumours persist of a new Sam and Max game in the pipeline. Meanwhile, the original Sam and Max and Day of the Tentacle are re-released for Windows.



Full Throttle and The Dig  are re-released. The Broken Sword series is revived with the third instalment, The Sleeping Dragon, which re-images George Stobbart as a stubbly, explorer type.

The latest Tomb Raider game, Angel of Darkness is panned, and Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb receives mixed reviews.



The shortest paragraph yet. Some games based upon TV shows such as CSI (Dark Motives, game number 2, pictured) are released: a few people buy them. Despite the success of LucasArts’ re-released adventures, planned sequels to Sam and Max and Full Throttle are canned by LucasArts.

With things looking bleak, a revival of the genre seemed unlikely, but in fact it was just around the corner. In the next couple of years both Sam and Max and Broken Sword would make a return to our PC screens, along with new adventures such as the critically-acclaimed Fahrenheit.