The Great GL 2011 Adventure Roundup

If 2011 is shaping up to be a great year for games in general, then the adventure genre is preparing itself for its own impressive assault on the gaming calendar, with a slew of promising titles marshalling themselves behind some rebellious standouts. In the first half of the year alone, there is an extensive list of point ‘n’ click adventures scheduled for release, showing those of us who hang out in the genre’s backyard, kicking cans, that it is far from the limp, asthmatic obseletion that many would have us believe.

The list runs the gauntlet from horror to comedy, through surreal waters, 2.5D backgrounds, hand-drawn works of art and back again, with a raft of familiar and new premises to stir interest. For some, this may be the year that the Duke comes home, the year that dicktits becomes the insult du jour, or the year that Skyrim eats our Xboxes, but for those smaller genres… well, don’t overlook them – for them, it could be the year of fire, the year of destruction, and the year they take back what was theirs – a new age, a time of genre rebirth perhaps, and a time of much quoting of nineties sci-fi dramas. The year is 2011, the place: the GamingLives Point ‘N’ Click Adventure Roundup.

Lucius
One of the more interesting titles coming up, Lucius is a 3D horror adventure, heavily inspired by the Omen and focuses on six year old Damien-a-like, Lucius. Lucius’ grandfather was a member of a satanic cult and in exchange for wealth, promised the soul of his first born grandson to the devil. He got his wish and the family amassed considerable power and wealth, eventually coming to reside in a sprawling mansion with a number of staff. When the child was eventually born, Lucifer claimed his soul and replaced it with his own blood, allowing him to finally place his offspring on earth. Upon reaching his sixth birthday, the boy sets down his evil path, beginning with bumping off the mansion’s residents, one by one, in the form of ‘accidents’.

The game is full of puzzles and follows a linear story which rewards players with new skills and supernatural powers for completing tasks – powers such as telekinesis which can then be used to further your evil intentions. Sounds good to us and it makes a great change to have the chance to play on the side of evil. Lucius is developed by a small team based in Helsinki, known appropriately as Shiver Games and is due for release in June.

Edna & Harvey: The Breakout
This kooky modern/retro point ‘n’ click has been a resounding hit in Germany and we fell in love with it when we reviewed it here at GLHQ. It focuses on the surreal lunatic, Edna Konrad and her terry-towel rabbit, Harvey. You are tasked with breaking out of the asylum where Edna has been incarcerated since the conviction of her father, and regaining her lost memories along the way. The gorgeous hand-drawn art style and odd cast of characters are complimented by a raft of smart puzzles, great humour, and witty writing to make it a must-play title. It brings back some old skool features such as the verb bar, but combines them with modern touches such as the blessing that is the ‘show all hotspots’ key – a vital inclusion in adventures these days.

The game was developed by one man as a student project and grew into this quirky delight which is an impressive feat. We feel a series in the making here, and if the teaser that we managed to dig up in any indication, we may not be far wrong. Expect this one to be rattling cell bars on 11th February.

Black Mirror 3
The final part of the dramatic Black Mirror trilogy doesn’t waste any time and jumps into the action mere minutes after the conclusion of the second game, putting us once more in the shoes of the surly, sarcastic Darren Michaels. As a blaze engulfs Black Mirror Castle, a stunned Darren is arrested and is eventually, after three weeks, bailed out by a mysterious benefactor – all the while, plagued by terrifying nightmares from his recent, shocking experiences. Now he is faced with fighting through a web of intrigue and mystery surrounding past and recent events to get to the truth of the ‘Curse of the Gordons’. Will the curse overcome him the same way as it did his forebears or will he manage to defeat it and unravel the mysteries of Willow Creek and the Gordon family once and for all?

Spread over six chapters, the game runs off the Black Mirror 2 engine and boasts over 62 locations in and around the town of Willow Creek. The 2.5 D style returns and early screens show off some beautifully detailed locations that we have come to expect from the series. One to watch. Let’s hope that the end won’t let fans down as much as the first game and we can’t wait to see where the labyrinthine story goes next. Developed by Cranberry Productions, Black Mirror 3 will see a release on 22nd April.

The Next Big Thing
The Next Big Thing is a slick, eye-wateringly pretty looking game developed by Pendulo Studio, who had a great deal of success with their previous title, Runaway. Using the same graphic engine, The Next Big Thing brings back the familiar, rich art-style backgrounds and over the top characters, this time focussing on two oddball journalists in Hollywood’s golden age. The story explores the idea of what would happen if the monsters that we know, love, and fear from horror films were actually played by real monsters. Take that idea a stage further and imagine them now being cast in kiddie films, rom-coms, or worse…*gulp* musicals. Any self-respecting monster would rebel and that is where the game comes in, with our journos tasked to cover a Horror Movie award ceremony.

Boasting one of the best websites we’ve ever seen for an adventure game, the Next Big Thing promises 120 backgrounds, well realised 3D characters and animations and a stack of cinematic sequences to blend together the twisting skein of mysteries, puzzles, humour and nods to cinema’s finest genres. Amongst the serious and dramatic titles due out this year, the Next Big Thing stands out as a potential comedy gem and we’re seriously loving the art style. Due out 25th March.

Bracken Tor: The Time of Tooth and Claw
Something wicked this way comes and the player has to ask themselves how far would they go for a big story as they step into the shoes of a hungry journalist. With the moors soaked in the bloody mythology of ancient beasts and unknown terrors prowling the darkness, only a fool would go looking for answers alone in the dark. This is where you come in. After the mutilated body of a hiker is found near the mysterious stony outcrop of Bracken Tor, you decide to try and find out the truth, and begin delving into not only the brutal death and other supernatural reports, but the Bronze Age origins of the nightmares that have plagued the moors for centuries.

Bracken Tor offers an in-depth sinister story, as you unravel the past and try and stay alive long enough to solve the recent, horrific death. The game is being developed by Cornwall based indie development studio, Shadow Tor Studios, with assistance from the ‘Mysterious Beasts Research Group’ and the ‘Cornwall Archaeology Society’. The website is comprehensive and features a number of teaser trailers and screens to tantalise fans of the darker side of the genre. With a good pedigree in the horror end of the genre with the well-received Barrow Hill: Curse of the Ancient Circle, Bracken Tor promises well researched, spine chilling gameplay and will be hopefully hitting shelves 4th March.

A New Beginning
While other titles have gone down the route of horror or comedy, it isn’t often you get what Daedalic Entertainment are calling an ‘interactive, eco-thriller’. Taking control of two protagonists, the player is swept into a world on the brink of ecological disaster brought about by climate change. Recently retired Scientist Bent Svensson has spent his life working on an alternative energy source – research which is about to fall in the hands of an unscrupulous energy magnate. Enter a young woman called Fay, who has been sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor. Okay, she has actually been sent from the future to prevent a vast environmental disaster form taking place and she needs Bent’s help and his research to do so.

The game weaves its tale across detailed, hand-drawn backgrounds, and features more than thirty characters, lovingly presented and animated, along with a wealth of puzzles and problems to be overcome. No one ever said that saving the world was easy. Just ask Captain Planet. Okay, don’t. The game is being developed for the Wii and DS, alongside the more traditional PC platform and will be arriving from the future on 8th April. We’re pretty certain that it won’t be wanting your clothes, boots, or motorcycle, but have them ready anyway.

Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarök
We previewed the sexy looking Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarök some time ago, and the release is drawing ever closer. The game centres around a nameless writer who has been dispatched to investigate a grand, abandoned building armed only, as ever, with a camera and a torch. The building in question is an abandoned ‘pleasure dome’ called ‘The Utopia’, constructed by an eccentric architect, known as Baron Wittard. He built an entire city inside the building, including shopping centres, homes, offices and leisure facilities. It was to be a paradise, however, Wittard’s dream never even made it to its grand opening after a series of mysterious events, and now the forlorn place is silent, dogged by rumours, mysterious disappearance, disturbances, and tales of dark, hidden secrets.

It is up to you to battle through the myriad of puzzles and mysteries to unlock the secrets of Baron Wittard’s sad, broken world before a lurking evil is unleashed.  The screenshots look impressive and detailed and it boasts some haunting scores which serve to deeply immerse the player in this lonely world gone wrong. The game has been receiving great previews from those who have got their hands on it which is a superb coup for new indie developer, Wax Lyrical. Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarök will be released on 18th February.

Back to the Future, episodes 2, 3, 4, 5
The long awaited episodic game based on the Back to the Future franchise launched late last year with the first part: ‘It’s About Time!’. And it was, too – in every sense. The four remaining chapters are due to follow and, together, tell a completely new cinematic story, featuring Marty McFly and the ever-awesome Doc Brown, voiced by none other than the ‘real’ Doc himself, Christopher Lloyd. Set six months after the end of the third film, the DeLorean mysteriously returns to Hill Valley, prompting Marty to once again venture back in time and enlist the help of a young Doc Brown to solve the mystery and stop the ever-wibbling space time continuum from unravelling. It’s prone to doing that, or so we’ve heard.

Masters of the revival, Telltale Games, are promising more time travelling adventures in the remaining parts, which are tantalisingly titled as follows:  Get Tannen!, Citizen Brown, Double Visions, Outatime. Sounds good to us. No word on definitive dates yet, but expect them to be spread out in a similar way to the recent Monkey Island releases. We’re more looking forward to what they do with the boxed retail release though when it eventually sees store shelves – expect a special edition of some kind.

Alpha Polaris
This one is a horror adventure in a setting with a difference: gone are the mysterious mansions, creaky castle corridors, and knicker-wetting descents into bottomless sarcophagi. Instead, the game is set in an American oil research station named Alpha Polaris, lying alone in the snowfields of Greenland. Outside the station all is not well, as a huge ion storm begins to gather, stirring reality and unknown night terrors together. You must guide Rune Knudsen, a Norwegian biologist, as she takes on a lurking force in an enclosed setting, which promises to ramp up the tension and produce a thick atmosphere of fear and paranoia.

The game features 3D characters against impressive looking backgrounds – a common high-end genre staple – and a strong storyline along with an original score and the usual puzzles. Alpha Polaris is developed by an indie Finnish team, Turmoil Games, who are aiming for a deeply atmospheric piece driven by story and characters and we hope they succeed because the setting is intriguing and, from the screens we have seen, it is shaping up to be a tasty looking title. No word on an exact release date yet, but we hope it won’t slip from the ‘early 2011′ window that it currently occupies.

Last Half of Darkness: Society of the Serpent Moon
Society of the Serpent Moon is another title in the successful Last Half of Darkness series and is another horror adventure from Californian indie studio, WRF Studios. As ever in a horror game, no mysterious package heralds anything warm and fluffy… indeed, the package you receive at the start of the game contains a scribbled note, a map and, worst of all, your fiancé’s bloodstained ring.  A few days previously, she was sent to investigate a number of vampire-like murders that had been plaguing a small European town… so it would seem that all did not go well.

It is up to you to track her down and solve an ancient mystery along the way, not to mention the problem of the townsfolk who are turning into creatures of the night that are far from emo and sparkly. Just don’t pack a stake in your carry on luggage – the American customs people take that stuff seriously. The game is slated for a 2011 release, but there are no further details at this time. The ongoing Last Half of Darkness saga has many fans and offers traditional horror adventure gaming with some innovative ‘hands-on’ puzzle features that we can only hope are included in this latest release.

Deponia
Another beautiful looking hand-drawn adventure from the makers of Edna and Harvey, Daedalic Entertainment, Deponia is set on a trash planet of the same name which is presented in a broken down style reminiscent of Borderlands – albeit slightly cleaner. Deponia is peopled by a number of odd characters filling the game’s world, from small settlements to villages buried inside rubbish heaps – you, however, play as grumpy daydreamer Rufus who, in true Skywalker-esque style, wishes he were anywhere but Deponia. He dreams of a life in one of the beautiful cities floating far above the grimy planet and when a girl called Goal falls from one of these cities in the clouds, it is the chance he has been waiting for and he embarks on a journey to get her home.

The concept is a great one and the worn and cobbled together nature of the rubbish world of Deponia looks and sounds endearing, as do the beautiful backdrops. The character art style bears a resemblance to the genius work of Jamie ‘Tank Girl’ Hewlett, which gives it instant appeal (for me at least) and the classic theme of a young daydreamer looking to a far off place to escape from a mundane existence is a strong one that is always appealing. Deponia should be hitting UK shores on 20th May.

Gray Matter
Jane Jensen makes a long awaited return to the adventure genre after her success with the Gabriel Knight series, penning the intriguing looking Gray Matter. The game is a classic point ‘n’ click mystery with gothic/supernatural overtones, spread across eight chapters and focuses on two protagonists. Dr David Styles is a neurobiologist who, since losing his wife, has become a recluse, locked away in the ominously titled Dread Hill House. That bodes well. Samantha Everett, a young street performer shows up on his doorstep one night and becomes his assistant, helping him through his various, odd experiments.

As is always the case, things start off well and quickly descend into mystery, with unexplained events starting to plague Dread Hill House and the dead seemingly returning.  The screens are stunning, showing off the high-end 2.5D adventure with some exquisite 2D backgrounds and well realised characters. While the old mysterious mansion/reclusive scientist may be classic, slightly stale fare, the game’s visuals at least seem to make it well worth a look. Indeed, if it tackles the classic setting and characters well, it could be strong contender for adventure of the year.

J.U.L.I.A
We should note, that if we ever go into a cryostasis pod, we’ll be packing a camcorder and survival kit worthy of the SAS… indeed, we’ll be packing the actual SAS. You’ve heard how this one goes… Rachel Manners is an astrobiologist, who awakens from a cryogenic sleep to the sound of an alarm on board the vast space probe that she’s been travelling aboard. She has been out for several decades and for some reason, the crew are all missing. Something has gone wrong – probably something nasty… no Pikmin Onion ever mugged a spaceship, we know that much. Now you have to figure out what happened and why, along with uncovering the mysteries of the solar system in which you find yourself.

The start at least reminds us of Alien and others, and isn’t far off the same concept as the recently released Darkstar: The Interactive Movie, but we love it. Alone in space, with some tooled up gear and a mystery to solve – it sounds good, and from the few screens that we’ve been able to find, it looks pretty good too. On a personal note, I’m actually hoping that it veers more toward drama than space horror because something like Event Horizon could well finish me off after Amnesia. J.U.L.I.A, from the awesomely named indie team, Cardboard Box Entertainment, is expected to dock early this year, though no date has yet been set.

Tales of Monkey Island
This one should need little introduction, since even people who steer clear of the adventure genre will be well aware of the Monkey Island series’ impact on, not only the genre, but gaming and the culture which surrounds it. The episodes which make up this release may have been out last year, so this is a fly addition, however, those of us who like our games in one piece, rather than blown into chunks will be rejoicing that next month finally sees the UK retail release of the Tales of Monkey Island.  Tales focuses on everybody’s favourite hapless pirate, Guybrush Threepwood as he once again goes into battle against the ever-tenacious LeChuck.

In the course of stripping LeChuck of his demonic powers, Guybrush somehow manages to infect the entire Caribbean with expelled voodoo. Yep, sounds disgusting doesn’t it? With the voodoo infecting ordinary pirates, Guybrush sets off in sail of a cure for the problem, but nothing is ever as easy or simple as it may appear (unless you count the pointy-chinned Mr Threepwood himself). With the return of old favourites and some entertaining new faces to help spin the winding story, the retail release of this well received five part adventure should keep fans of ‘proper games’ happy. Expect to get this slice of physical media in your salt-stained piratey mitts on 25th March.

Moon Base: Orion
Another P&C eschewing the realism offered by many in the genre, Moon Base: Orion is a gloriously quirky looking title with a stylised hand-drawn style that is finding its way into many of this year’s adventures. The game centres around the sarcastic Space Janitor, Rad Tunever, whose holiday is rudely interrupted by that most inconvenient of things… a distress signal emanating from the far off Moon Base: Orion. Rad becomes embroiled in an adventure to rescue the base’s inhabitants and save the galaxy from a vast threat. Will he ever get that well-deserved holiday? We suspect not. Simple premise, cool setting, and beautiful looking artwork shoves this one into the top picks of our titles to watch for this year.

No word on the release date yet, having already slipped from its Q4 2010 window, however, we have faith in the sexy looking indie dev, Red Talon Games (based in Canada) to get this one out before the galaxy falls to an intergalactic threat. Or at least, drifts off into its soup, which can be just as lethal.

If that list is impressive, then the third and fourth quarters promise yet more with games such as The Last Crown, Coven, Memento Mori 2, and Harvey’s New Eyes on the horizon to name but a few, with sequels to genre familiars preparing themselves for a second front on the year. While countries such as Germany never fell out of love with the adventure, or the PC for that matter, to the extent of other territories, we can only hope that more gamers, many of whom (such as myself), are returning to the PC, will see the worth – and the gems – in this plucky genre that never quite let the coffin lid be nailed down by an increasingly dismissive industry. There are some genuinely great games already out and have been for years – smart, funny, and beautifully presented and 2011 promises more still. This is nothing new, just that this time, they are sufficient in number and quality that people outside the P&C playing field may just notice and bring us our ball back. If you’ve been away a while or just never tried one, if story matters more than multiplayer mash ups, then think about it and consider wading in – they won’t eat all your resources or spit DRM acid over your goodies and they mostly don’t bite. Mostly.




Last five articles by Lorna

  

13 Comments

  1. FC360 says:

    The only 1 that has my interest there is Lucius as it’s the only game that doesn’t sound like a small developer game. I wouldn’t mind playing a couple of the others when their part of the Sold out range and cost £4.99. Nice article Lorna :)

  2. Tania says:

    Great article Lon, I especially love the Babylon 5 references at the beginning! ;)
    I can’t wait to get my paws on Bracken Tor, Black Mirror 3, Society Of The Serpent Moon and Edna And Harvey. It will be nice to get a boxed copy of Baron Wittard too, it’s a great game. Tales Of Monkey Island I downloaded a while back but havn’t gotten around to playing it yet! I might give Alpha Polaris and Lucius a go too.
    Ohhh, so many games, so little time and money! :)

  3. Ste says:

    I had no idea there were that many P&C games floating around. Perhaps its time I got back into these games and give one or two a whirl. Great roundup Lorna.

  4. Lorna says:

    Thanks for the comments folks.

    @ FC360 Wow. What on earth is wrong with small developer games? I suppose I struggle to comprehend that statement. While some cases may mean low budget in a bad way others brim with innovation and creativity. In many ways they have an advantage over bigger titles because they stay more true to what the developer actually wants, rather than being dictated by the whims of a boardroom or publisher.

    Games like Amnesia were created with a handful of people and yet have gone down a storm and helped redefine what horror should be for example. If you never touch games because of that one small thing then you’re quite stifling your gaming experience. And these sort of games will never be in the 4.99 Sold Out range, sorry. They are usually sold at a low enough price as it is, often via small publishers or digitally distributed by the developers themselves to recoup as much of the costs as they can in order to make the next title and personally, I wouldn’t grudge them a penny!

  5. Kat says:

    Seriously considering saving up for a decent laptop this year. I used to love the odd PnC game, some of these look fab!

  6. Edward says:

    I’m actually really excited by the prospect of a lot of these. Granted, I’ll skip the horror ones for virtue of being a pussy, but some of the non-Telltale games in that list almost sold me through description and art style alone.
    Tales of Monkey Island was a brilliant adventure, so I’m glad thaty’s seeing a retail release, and I will be getting Back to the Future soon, as I’ve been waiting for it for ages and know that even though they’re not a “big” company, they’ve still produced some of my favourite games this generation.

    Great article, Lorna- insightful and often hilarious (Especially at the following point… “only a fool would go looking for answers alone in the dark. This is where you come in.”) which has gotten me really excited about one of my favourite genres all over again!

  7. MarkuzR says:

    Lucius. I don’t really have to say much more than that really… having been fascinated by The Omen as a child and wanting to have the power of crossing Carrie with Obi-Wan so I could kill people with mere thoughts, this game appeals to me more than cucumber appeals to the bin. Watching the game in action a few weeks ago had me giddy with excitement, and I seriously can’t wait to get my hands on it. Yeah, the graphics can be a bit ropey in places but this one is all about the premise for me. One of the attractions was that you couldn’t just kill the people, you had to actually orchestrate their death to make it appear like an accident AND hide any evidence that could link it back to you. Awesome. I literally can’t wait.

    I’m really liking the look of The Next Big Thing too; I’ll admit that it was the graphic style that caught my eye first but that’s the graphic whore coming through again. It just looks sexy, and hopefully it’ll be one of the few “Hollywood” type games that manages to pull it off. Also, there’s nothing wrong with musicals… heathen!! I think A New Beginning is one that’ll grab me enough to give it a shot, purely based on the fact that it’s not your run of the mill plot line… I’m not really one for the environment (one of the few things Clarkson and I agree on) but the fact that a developer has used it as a premise for their game is intriguing. And so for that reason, I’m in.

    I’m torn on the Back To The Future games, I have to be honest. It’s like… remember when you found out that George Lucas was going ahead with another three Star Wars movies and the reaction was either “Aw yeah maaaan!!” followed almost immediately by “Ah… hang on…. hmm… don’t!!” or was the other way around (rarely) with “Not sure that’s a good idea George, remember how you butchered them with the special editions?!” followed by “Although, it MAY be ok this time!”. I’m the same with this. I adore the movies. A lot. I’d hate for a game to come along that actually taints the “BTTF” name for me. That said, it does look gorgeous and they appear to have done it proud from the above screenies. We’ll see.

    Deponia looks beautiful… I love that art style. The plot premise is also tried and tested so, with any luck, it’ll turn out to be a cracking game. I had to chuckle that Moon Base: Orion features an ACTUAL Space Janitor… Rich will be so happy to hear that!! It’s certainly a really varied mix of games, and so different from the type of Point ‘n’ Click games that were around when I was younger. With my last memory of the genre being the game adaptation of Hook, which I believe was Lucasarts and not very good, it pretty much killed the genre for me but I’m more inclined to give it another shot now.

    Great article, and very funny in places… also the layout kicks serious ass. Awesome!

    @FC360… I’d like like to say that I had the same reaction to your comment as Lorna did, except mine was at 2am this morning and I hadn’t read the article properly so didn’t want to comment on JUST what you’d said, which is why I’ve left it until now. I have to say I was pretty disgusted at the attitude where you’ll only appear to buy games from larger developers who already have a secure infrastructure and, most likely, a plethora of funding available to them while stepping over the struggling indie developer who actually relies on individual sales to keep trading. It’s a very mercenary and blinkered approach to buying games, especially when these games are already being released at the sort of prices that “big studio” games only drop to after a year. If the games were SHIT and made by an indie company then I’d understand it, but that’s not actually what you said. To each their own, of course, but it’s a terrible approach to supporting the industry you love.

    @Ed… being a pussy is one of the things we love about you. *ruffles hair*

  8. Samuel says:

    Great round up, Lorna. There are a hell of a lot of point and clicks about at the moment. They seem to be having something of a renaissance this year.

    Some of the very best games I’ve played have been from smaller developers. Galactic Civilisations II, Machinarium, the Anno series when it started out, Cossacks, Patrician, The Ball, Men of War… I could go on. But I won’t, because some people just can’t be helped. They’d rather play mass produced shit like Call of Duty, because of course we all know that a massive studio results in pure gold every time.

  9. MrCuddleswick says:

    Jurassic Park! Jurassic Park! Lucius sounds awesome.

  10. Lee says:

    J.U.L.I.A. and Alpha Polaris sound cool been waiting for grey matter for a while and glad to see that it’s coming to the consoles.

    You’re going to be point and clicked out by the summer Lorna :P

  11. Jace says:

    Nice one Lorna. You know, these games just don’t get covered enough. I have only heard of two of them, and your previews make me want to play them all! And seriously, new BTF games with the voice of the Doc. Amazing. The problem for me is i’m so crap at this genre, I get totally engrossed then totally stuck, back in the 90s I actually took Broken Sword 2 back to the shop as I couldn’t get out of the gift shop. I know these days you can find sollutions to everything in googleland, but that just makes me more determined not to look.

    So all these are PC games, honestly, I didn’t realise there was still such a quantity of quality adventure games coming out. Consider me enlightened!

  12. [...] covered J.U.L.I.A briefly in our GL Adventure Roundup earlier this year, but since then news has been sparse on this indie sci-fi adventure.  Until now [...]

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