The App Store’s Best Adventure (Updated 30.08.2010) – Top of top, cream of the crop for your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad iPhone
Adventure games have always been my favourite genre. Yeah, yeah, I start almost any adventure games review this way. But what can I do if it is true? Sadly I was too late for the Interactive Fiction era. When I entered the conscious gaming stage of my life at about 6 (I was an avid gamer even before that but have few memories about that) I fell smack in the dawn of the point-and-click games with such legendary games as King’s Quest 1, other Sierra series, The Secret of Monkey Island and others. The casual pace of the games and the devious puzzles that make the grey matter really earn it’s keep always appealed to me. For a long time I have shunned first-person adventure games for various reasons and have only grown to appreciate them on the iDevice which is simply perfect for them.
What is the THE best adventure game on the iDevice? Well, there’s no way to tell for sure. For one thing this genre has been largely overlooked for a long time by the developers and has only recently begun to attract attention with quite a number of high-quality releases in the past few months. And there’s always a matter of taste. As I said earlier there are the retro style Interactive Fiction and their recent rebirth – Graphic Novels with such a game as the Raving Manor being the perfect example. Then there are the games I was born in to the genre with – 3d person point-and-click with Broken Sword: Director’s Cut heading my personal list, having recently dethroned Beneath the Steel Sky Remastered. The first person point-and-click games list is headed by the amazing 1112 episode 02. The less represented Action/Adventure games headed by the recent survival-horror – Fallen. And who can forget the popular genre, born by Flash games – Escape the Room with Surrounded being one of the most noteworthy titles. Finally we have a category born by the laserdisc arcade machines and reincarnated on the “Jesus” phone – Interactive Movies with Dragon’s Lair being the undisputed king.
Interactive Fiction (Graphic Novel, Choose your own adventure)
This is the genre that is the grandfather of them all. In the time of no mice, when text-only monitors roamed the planet games like Zork glued the would-be adventurers to the screens. The main problem with IF games has always been the bane of “guess that verb” since the player had to manually type in commands. On the other hand without the necessity of focusing on the graphic side of the game the content had loads more importance than in later titles. At about the same time an enterprising person from Bantam Books published a series of gamebooks, that gave almost the same experience, but without the computer and based on descriptions of a situation and a number of decisions with relative pages to turn to next. In the more recent years these genres were reborn on the PC with graphic novels – games that centred heavily on the content and gave very little choice in how things would play out down the line. All of these subgenres have found their way on the iDevice and the following titles can be referenced for your pleasure:
3d Person Point and Click
Aaaah, even these 5 words bring fond memories. Point-and-click is what adventure games evolved in when mice became more widespread. Having replaced the tedious command typing by a simple set of possible actions adventure games immediately became much more user-friendly and widespread. And thus began the golden age of adventure games. The main distinguishing characteristics of these games are a large inventory, insane amounts of pixelhunting and often – devious puzzles. Most of the genre on the iPhone is represented by ports of various PC games, although a few were designed specifically for it. Introducing today’s winners:
1st Person Point and Click
This genre, shunned by me for various reasons for quite some time, has witnessed a recent rebirth on the iPhone. By design it is a perfect fit for the platform without the necessity of having pesky touchpad-style cursor controls. Beautifully designed static backgrounds along with (often) an almost zero amount of Non Player Characters and loads of puzzles are the hallmarks of this genre. Myst was the game that made it really popular on the PC all those years ago and it was it that defined the complex puzzles, often not much based on the inventory. Quite a number of titles have been ported on the iPhone lately as well as a few having been developed exclusively for the iDevice. And the lucky nominees are:
Action adventure games are designed for those, who not only like to keep their grey matter busy, but also to keep the fingers working as well. Games, attributed to this category, often vary in the amount and quality of the adventure content. To be consistent as possible and taking into account the overall topic I’ll try to list only the ones heavy on Adventure/Puzzle solving and leave the rest for another day. I would also like to note that the beloved by many console players genre of Survival Horror is also a subgenre here. Without further ado here’s the list:
I remember a time when many people said the Interactive Movie genre is the future of adventure games. Thankfully they have been proved wrong, but quite a number of really good games have been produced nevertheless and some of them found their way onto the iDevice. The hallmarks of these games are minimum amount of interaction required. Usually you just have to push the right button at the right time to advance the story. Living up to its name it really is more like watching a movie, with a little manual labour thrown in just to keep you focused. These games are quite scarce on the platform, but here’s a list I’ve been able to conjure up:
Escape the room
Finally, the list would not be complete without the genre, born by the spur of Flash office-time-killer games the last few years. The plot almost always starts with you waking up in an unfamiliar room with no memory of how you got there. The goal is to try to find a way out. Often there are no characters in the game whatsoever and the inventory rarely contains more than a few items. And the puzzles often are centred on opening various containers and trying to find keys for doors. There aren’t that many games of the genre as you would expect on the iDevice, though with Adobe’s announcement of integrating the export to iPhone app feature in the next release of the Flash development suite I expect we’ll see much more of them. And the games I’ve been able to find are:
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
As with almost any other genre it’s impossible to name the absolute #1, at least without knowing your exact tastes. Every subgenre has it’s highlights and outsiders. Adventure games as a whole still have a limited auditory, though some more than others. To the more casual gamer or a newcomer to the genre I would recommend starting with some of the lighter and easier games. A perfect example of such is Mystery Mania – the tale of a lost and confused robot named F8 in the mansion of his creator. The excellent bright graphics, somewhat easier puzzles and intriguing storyline make it an excellent introduction into the genre. Another good starting point is Fallen – the sole representative of Survival Horror on the platform. With a solid blend of Action an Adventure content it is a very atmospheric and creepy game (warning – headphones are a must).
For the more experienced players I would recommend to turn their eyes to the 1st and 3rd person point-and-click adventures. 1112 episode 02 – a sequel to the first adventure game, originally and exclusively designed for the iDevice is a good place to start. From the title to the ending credits it delivers the experience, more commonly associated with a full-scale PC game. Combining gorgeous hand drawn graphics, extensive dialogues, varied gameplay and an interface designed exclusively for the iDevice it is truly the LOST of iPhone adventure games
The iPhone has everything, even for the most dedicated old-school adventure fans. Quite a number of games have been ported to the platform, but the undisputed king here is Broken Sword: Director’s Cut – a model of how a game should be transferred to the iDevice. Not only the interface was completely redone from scratch taking into account the specifics of the touchscreen (yes, no touchpad style controls here), but an extra storyline worth of almost 3 hours of gameplay has been added to the original supported by new cutscenes done by Dave Gibbons – co-creator of ‘Watchmen’. And you never can go wrong with a storyline invloving a charming American tourist, gorgeous French reporter, the Templars, Hashishin, Baphomet, Nazis and world domination.
And for those, nostalgic of the old arcade games there are the Laserdisc classics with Dragon’s Lair at the helm. The interactive cartoon by Don Bluth has forced many to spend all of their pocket change in the futile attempts to save princess Daphne. And now you can have the same experience on the iPhone for just a fraction of the amount of cash you sunk into it all those years ago.
Even those, frequenting the Flash game portals can find something to strike their fancy on the iDevice. Quite a number of Escape the Room games have found their way onto the platform. I would definitely recommend you start with Surrounded if you’re into this.
And a couple more honourable mentions from me. One of them is HECTOR: Badge of Carnage Ep1 – a recent unexpected hit from the indie team of Straandlooper. The adventures of the half-decent Detective Inspector (you guessed it) Hector fueled by the creative genius of Dean Burke are a throwback to the golden years of adventure gaming and can confidently stand on par with such hits as Sam&Max or Day of the Tentacle. And who could forget Myst – the legend that held the title of the most sold game ever for more than a decade. The complete game has been brought over to the iPhone and is the final stop for the most die-hard adventure fans.
So you can see the iPhone has something for everybody, regardless of your gaming history. I have played almost all of the genre games on the platform, as well as having enjoyed many of them originally on the PC. Being quite an experienced player and real fan of the genre I would give the crown to Broken Sword: Director’s Cut. Is it for everybody? No. It would probably strike the newcomers as overly difficult and for them the Mystery Mania would be a much better choice to start. I invite you to check out our reviews of the games for more detail and make your own minds up. As always – the final choice is up to you.