Jun 27, 2011

Book Review: The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures

A 772 pages long book on adventure games might not be enough to cover everything the genre has to offer, but would definitely be the most expansive attempt to put the history of the graphic adventure game to paper. Especially if said book also managed to brilliantly review over 300 of the most important and interesting games, while simultaneously providing with some excellent interviews with creative legends such as Bob Bates, Al Lowe, Josh Mandel and Corey Cole. Happily, The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures by Hardcore Gaming 101 is such a book; actually it's the only book that manages to impressively pull such a trick, without making any quality concessions.

Under the guidance of Kurt Kalata and using the wealth of the HG101 site to build upon, the writers that helped make this book a reality have accomplished a most impressive feat. They cover each and every game Sierra, Lucasarts, Dynamix, ICOM, Access and Legend ever produced (that would be roughly half the book and would include more than a few truly obscure games I had never heard of) and then move on to cover the multitude of smaller, less remembered and even contemporary developers and games, meaning that, yes, seasoned adventurers will discover more than a few gems they missed.

The Guide to Classic Adventures thus proudly includes recent indie gems such as Time Gentlemen, Please!, The Blackwell Legacy and 5 Days a Stranger, along classics of the caliber of Snatcher, The Last Express, The Neverhood, Sanitarium, Blood Net and Simon the Sorcerer, while also happily enlightening me (and hopefully you) on such vaguely remembered offerings as Plan 9 from Outer Space, Fascination, Nippon Safes, Noctropolis and the Fish Files, just to drop a few names.  

What's more, each review, for the book provides pieces that do feel quite a bit like extended reviews, is in most cases an extensive piece detailing the game's history, describing its plot and characters, critiquing its interface and puzzles, estimating its influence on the genre, providing with emulation and translation options, suggesting fan remakes and generally giving an excellent idea of what the game is all about. Granted, some of the minor entries aren't that extensive, but what really matters is that everything is very well written indeed, highly enlightening and mostly (well, within reason) spoiler free. Even more impressively the book avoids getting overtly nostalgic and isn't afraid to point out glaring faults of well-known designers like, uhm, Roberta Williams. It feels so unbiased it actually convinced me, after years of stubborn refusal, to give Riven a try.   

You can find out more about The Guide to Classic Adventures and of course grab a copy right here. Mind you, this review was based on the Kindle version of the book.

Verdict: An absolutely excellent book every adventure gamer and -obviously- adventure game designer simply has to own. It's the closest we've got to a properly printed graphic adventure encyclopedia. Buy it. Now.

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  1. Okay, okay, I'll buy it!

  2. That's the spirit my friend!


  3. Oh, yes, I saw this announced some time ago and thought "I really ought to get a copy of this."

    Guess I was right :)

  4. Indeed you were dear Ben. It will be invaluable to you as a dev too.

  5. adventure games were my deal in the when i was like 13
    King's quest, LSL, Full Throttle -- godlike

  6. Absolutely so, though one would have to admit that recent adventures seem to have found their stride. Lovely blog by the way :)