A week or two ago I finished playing Resonance for review.1 It’s a neat little adventure indie game with some retro charm, some effective self-deprecating humour and a couple of pleasant puzzles to help a clichéd but well executed plot go down. However, it got me thinking about adventure games as a whole. While I’m glad they’re going through something of a renaissance in the indie and handheld realms, I still can’t help but notice that the same complaints keep popping up whenever I go through one.
Puzzles usually have one solution and it’s whatever the developers (usually a very small group of people) thought up at random. To unlock the rusty old padlock, you must track down the three numbers hidden across the mansion, all of which are guarded by their own sphinxes. Breaking open the door with a shovel, for instance, is never an option. It’s not a flaw of the game that it must be played according to the developer’s rules, it’s just that when the solution is so obtuse the player has to resort to a trial-and-error method of rubbing every item against every surface until something clicks, and that really sucks the genius out of it.
It seems to be an inherit flaw of adventure games that any obstacle can be solved by nodding off and spilling your entire inventory into each new room and hoping for the best. RPGs are routinely criticized for requiring too much grinding, FPSs are always getting complaints for how direct and static they are, each platformer that’s released is met with an outcry over how easy (or how hard) it is. These are legitimate complaints, and developers are constantly trying to mitigate them. The best titles do. But for adventure games, it’s just par for the course that you’re get stuck somewhere and have to feel your way in the dark until an answer pops up. Maybe that’s a part of the experience but I’ve always found that it breaks the game apart too much.
Then again, maybe I need to play more adventure games and get a better grasp of the logic.
1 Filipowich, Mark. Review of Resonance. PopMatters. June 26 2012.
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Further reading: Carpenter, Kyle. “Game Objects: Resonance, The Dream Machine and The Objective.” Medium Difficulty. Aug 21 2012.
Danskin, Ian. “Finding Myself In Resonance.” Unwinnable.” Sep 6 2013. (spoilers)
SirRockEm. “#5: In which I talk about Adventure games.” SirRockEm’s Sheridan stuffs. Oct 6 2013