Just as the level grinding of RPGs seem to have infiltrated every other genre in recent years, it’s hardly surprising that the mechanics of one of the most classic of game genres, point and click adventures, should have also inconspicuously appeared in the most unlikely of places. This list could also be called the five most innovative point and clicks, but its highly debatable as to whether most of these are still point and clicks at all. Of course innovation does not come without its costs. It’s hardly surprising that two of the studios responsible for these games, Studio Cing and Team Bondi, are now no more.
Zack and Wiki
Zack and Wiki is one of the few games to truly unlock the potential of the Nintendo Wii’s quirky control scheme. Your prime weapon in the game is a golden monkey named Wiki who turns into a bell when you shake the remote. As if this wasn’t strange enough, this process turns nearby enemies into useful objects, like saws and cranks, which you use by performing the correct physical gesture with the remote. The game awards these moments of dexterity(?) with a score, one of the many peculiarly Japanese twists to a game that features white haired female pirates, rabbits in flight helmets and a monkey with a school girl voice, all presented in a brightly coloured anime aesthetic. The point and click elements are still here, but they are so buried in Manga kitsch and wild arm waving that it’s easy to forget what you are playing. But whatever it is, it sure is fun.
So fresh it even spells Noir differently, but Rockstar’s La Noire is an adventure game through and through. Way back when Lucas Arts created the classic Sam and Max Hit the Road, an adaptation of Steve Purcell’s surreal and satirical graphic novel, the creators decided that the transition from location to location should be accompanied by a Road Rash style mini game. What LA Noire does with its GTA style driving simulation is not that dissimilar. LA Noire also gets the prize for most over production; although the level of detail lavished on creating a realistic backdrop of 1940s Los Angeles is quite extraordinary, but it serves very little purpose other than to provide a gorgeous, atmospheric backdrop to the game’s various crime scene and suspect interview dialogue puzzles.
The ill fated Japanese Studio Cing’s masterful Hotel Dusk sees you wandering the corridors of a weird motel in backwater America, where you discover that every inhabitant is linked in some way to a traumatic incident in your past. With its minimal rotascoped, sketchbook animation it’s more a graphic novel than a game (you even have to hold the DS on its side), and it pretty much exists at the opposite end of the spectrum to LA Noire. Whilst LA Noire gave a sense of openness and freedom of choice, the equally atmospheric and hardboiled Hotel Dusk utilised its claustrophobic setting and end of chapter pop-quiz recaps to coral the player down a rigid narrative. But what a narrative! Hotel Dusk will have you sitting up in bed until 4am every evening until you get to the bottom of things.
Resident Evil may be busy courting fans of the action genre in recent years, but the first two games, which helped create the survival horror genre (along with Alone in the Dark), have a rich backbone of inventory based puzzling that is pure point and click shtick (point and shtick?). But it’s not just as simple as ferrying items’ back and forth to open a myriad of locked doors whilst performing simple logic puzzles, like mixing together the right chemicals to kill Plant 42, oh no, because in your way is a legion of shambling zombified scientists and terrifying hunters.
your inventory is very limited in space, forcing you to juggle guns, ammo and health items like an overworked circus performer
But perhaps your biggest threat, besides the notoriously obtuse camera angles and sloooooow and awkward aiming system, is the fact that your inventory is very limited in space, forcing you to juggle guns, ammo and health items like an overworked circus performer to make room for the various objects required to progress through the game. It’s as though some absolute sadist took a look at the seemingly unlimited space in most point and click inventories and decided to ruin everyone’s day.
Close to LA Noire for the title of biggest budget point and click is Quantic Dream’s PS3 exclusive Heavy Rain, though unlike LA Noire each setting serves a specific narrative function and the resultant pacing is much more akin to cinema. Heavy Rain is a masterfully told forking path narrative that forces you to accept the responsibility for your actions by saving after every decision you make. Heavily influenced by American TV dramas, you fluctuate control between four different characters all linked to a mysterious string of child murders, any of whom can die if you aren’t careful. The maturity of the writing and the realism of the graphics is jaw dropping, but where this game really shines is by taking a game mechanic that is so often reviled as lazy, the Quick Time Event, and infusing it with drama and immediacy. In a sense it also replaces the mouse click as a means of interacting with the world, an interesting mutation of the point and click mechanic.