Good God, this was a good year for adventure game fans. The genre has been coming back in a big way for several years now, but I think we can stop calling it a comeback. There's nothing Lazarean about the glut of outstanding adventure titles now to be had across all platforms (including and especially mobile) but that makes this year's showing of adventure games no less impressive.
What we said: If the mechanical nature of the game — the challenge of trying to circumnavigate the globe in eighty days — is what propelled me onwards in the game on a micro level, the imagination and invention that has gone into the narrative aspects of 80 Days are what kept me coming back for multiple adventures. The manner by which you can mould and shape Passepartout’s character through your interactions with others is a joy in this game, the subtleties and ambiguities in the relationships that you foster along the way are rare to experience in this medium, but 80 Days does a wonderful job of weaving the most beautiful and engrossing arrays of smoke and mirrors to hide the cogs underneath, and delights in fluid prose that musters its own incentives for reading on, rather than relying on blunt rewards.
What we said: Always Sometimes Monsters is a fascinating, utterly engrossing morality play, delivered as a Game Maker adventure that constantly asks questions of the player. There have been games that deal with difficult decisions before, but perhaps none so deftly as this. Always Sometimes Monsters is a marvel.
What we said: Macabre yet playful, disturbing yet uplifting, thought-provoking and intensely compelling, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a masterpiece of storytelling and characterisation. So long as you're prepared for a visual novel as opposed to a full-blooded adventure game, it's a truly essential purchase, and a Vita exclusive you'll savour over two dozen rewarding hours.
What we said: As cliché as it is to say, good things come to those who wait. With an expertly written narrative, a brilliantly realised location in Europolis, and subtly far-reaching choices to make even at this stage, Book One: Reborn is an excellent return to The Longest Journey saga. In fact, if this is reflective of the episodes to come, Dreamfall Chapters could end up being a masterclass in adventure gaming.
What we said: A cracking adventure game, possibly the best Sherlock Holmes game that Frogwares have given us thus far, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments goes a long way to making players feel like we are are Holmes rather than simply playing a game about him. There are little niggles here and there, but frankly if you enjoy your detective mystery games, it would be criminal to overlook one of the best we've had in ages.
What we said: I'd never have pegged the folks behind Bulletstorm to craft something like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, but I'm very glad that they did. It has a few niggling issues, but ultimately this is a brilliantly subtle, imaginative and thoughtful game.
What we said: The Wolf Among Us ends on a high: a masterful conclusion that delivers massive revelations, ties up loose ends and even delivers some profoundly satisfying catharsis without losing touch with Willingham's bittersweet gritty universe. Most of the choices we've feel impactful and important, whether big or small, while Cry Wolf saves some of its biggest for last. Dealspwn will remember that." Bring on Season 2.
What we said: Valiant Hearts is a breakthrough title that attempts to show the gamer the impact the First World War had on regular people. Instead of being given a bag of guns, you’re simply tasked with surviving by getting through each area so you can get the protagonists home. This is the game that proves war games don’t have to be all about mowing down waves of enemies and the emphasis on the characters and atmosphere outshines the basic puzzling and item gathering.
Winner: The Wolf Among Us
Let's face it, any of the games above would have been worthy winners. The only unanimous nomination on the list, The Wolf Among Us, taken in its entirety, was a dazzlingly stylish, frequently brutal adventure series that grabbed our attention and simply wouldn't let go. Here Brendan encapsulates why The Wolf Among Us beat out some seriously stiff competition to take the Adventure genre crown this year:
The Wolf Among us beat The Walking Dead at its own game. Telltale's new title was packed with dark, chilling takes on classic fable characters and their integration into a gritty 80s New York was inspired. My choices seemed to have much more weight to them than they had in TWD, and being able to play the game without a ridiculous wait between episodes was a compelling experience. Although, I did put at least half a day between episodes, as our Jon recommended giving each episode some breathing room to reflect on the choices, which turned out to be some great advice.
The Silent Hill-esque soundtrack was truly absorbing too and I found the game to be Telltale's most gorgeous yet, thanks to liberal uses of purples and yellows, especially for that opening title sequence. I really enjoyed my second playthrough too, where I opted for different choices and was able to try out Bigby's darkest impulses. This has probably been the game that's stayed in my thoughts long after playing it the most this year. Frankly, I think a third playthrough is about due.
How about you, dear readers? What was your favourite adventure game of 2014?