The Angry Gamer – Tales of Adventure

In the midst of the hairspray and neon of the 1980s, a wonderful genre of video gaming was born: the "point-and-click" adventure (PACA for short). While other adventure titles were typically more action-based, PACAs were a lot more “laid back,” as it were. Instead of relying on quick reflexes and/or button mashing, you had to rely on your wits and your wits alone. Often, PACAs had a small window where you saw your surroundings in first person perspective. To interact with various objects, people, and creatures, you had a list of commands outside of the window, such as “move,” “talk,” “take,” and so on. A cursor of some type was used to select a command, then you’d move the cursor to whatever you wanted to interact with, hence the term “point-and-click.” Naturally, this genre first appeared on computers, as the mouse comprised the actual pointing and clicking. Console gamers weren’t left in the dust, though, as some fantastic games sooned appeared. We’ll examine a few of them here; this is by no means a complete list, just a few of my personal favorites. (All of the games here just happened to be published by Kemco, who still cranks out games to this day.)

We’ll begin with my favorite console of all time, the NES. The little gray box had one of the most revered PACAs of all time…Shadowgate. In this game, your task is to work you way through a creepy castle and ultimately put a stop to an evil wizard who plans to destroy civilization as we know it. No pressure. Oh, and you start with absolutely no items or weapons other than a torch.

Shadowgate

Shockingly enough, the game could actually be completed in fifteen minutes or less, start to finish. Of course, anyone who tells you that they could do that right away without consulting a FAQ is a lying scumbag. Shadowgate and many other PACAs of the day left no margin for error; if you made a mistake, it almost always resulted in your death. Good thing the game had save slots, huh?

NES owners had a few other games in this genre to choose from, too, such as Déja Vu. This title had gamers in the shoes of detective Ace Harding, who awakens in a bathroom one day with no memory of who or where he is. As you can see, the layout of the screen is almost identical to Shadowgate, with the only big difference being the placement of the “move” box.

Déja Vu

Déja Vu was aimed more at mystery fans, with its Mickey Spillane-esque world and heavy detective work. Uninvited, like Shadowgate before it, was much more of a horror-oriented adventure. If the skeleton scarecrow on the box art wasn’t frighting enough, the buttons next to the various commands were little blood splatters! Once again, your task was to explore a mysterious abode, this time to save your sister’s life. In-jokes about Shadowgate and Déja Vu were found in this game, including Ace Harding’s tombstone!

Uninvited

On the portable front, the original Game Boy received two excellent PACAs, namely The Sword of Hope and The Sword of Hope II. These combined the point-and-click interface with classic RPG elements, which appealed to fans of both genres.

The Sword of Hope The Sword of Hope (battle screen)
The Sword of Hope II The Sword of Hope II (battle screen)

The old “make a mistake and you die” component was removed here. Don’t get me wrong; you will die in The Sword of Hope, but as a result of some nasty vermin kicking you around. While not as deep and philosophical as today’s RPGs, The Sword of Hope still featured powerful monsters, corrupt monarchs, mysterious shamans, and all of the other "classic" RPG elements than fans have come to know and love.

In later years, some of these classics have been updated slightly and rereleased on modern platforms. For example, when the Game Boy Color was launched, Shadowgate Classic was released alongside it. The gameplay was identical to its predecessor, but the graphics and sound were updated slightly to make use of the GBC’s powerful hardware, plus the placement of menus was altered to properly fit the GBC’s smaller resolution. (Shadowgate Classic holds a special place in my heart, as it was the very first game I picked up when I bought my Game Boy Color back in ’99.)

Shadowgate Classic (GBC)

Déja Vu got the rerelease treatment as well, with Déja Vu I & II: The Casebooks of Ace Harding appearing on the GBC. The graphical overhaul was especially well done in this game, as you can see below.

Déja Vu I & II (GBC)

PACAs seem to have faded over recent years, but the genre is and always will be a strong one. There’s no reason why it can’t be adapted to modern technology, to captivate a new generation of gamers all over again. They made Beyond Shadowgate and Shadowgate 64, after all. Who wouldn’t want a fully 3D rendered Uninvited II, or Sword of Hope III with cheesy anime cutscenes? At this point, I’d even take a rated-M-for-mature sequel to Déja Vu