Adventure games once ruled the roost of gaming, dominating sales charts in the pre-Doom landscape. There was something special about graphic adventures in the late 80s and early 90s, which still resonates strongly with people today — just look at the frenzied excitement that surrounded former LucasArts (now Double Fine) designer extraordinaire Tim Schafer’s Kickstarter to make a new game in this spirit.
The touch screen happens to be perfectly suited for the classic adventure format, so I set off in search of Android titles that hark back to the genre’s point-and-click roots. Here’s what I found.
Charles Cecil and Revolution Software’s masterful tale of intrigue, conspiracy, and secret organizations set PCs alight in the mid-to-late 1990s. Two of the best adventure games ever made, Broken Sword and its sequel both look and play beautifully on Android — with improved visuals and a fine touch-screen adaptation of the old point-and-click interface.
These are “Director’s Cut” editions, too, which means that they include extra content not found in the original release and have a slightly different flow to proceedings. Don’t miss them.
Controlling George Stobbart and Nicole “Nico” Collard, you uncover secret plots related to the Templars and Mayans (in separate games).
Yesterday keeps one foot in the present and one in the past, drawing on the tropes and traditions of its genre while accepting that some of these are better forgotten. That’s good, because it allows this quirky mystery to get on with its noir-inspired story. With gorgeous visuals, full voice work, and an interface that seldom gets in the way, it’s one of the better adventure games of recent years.
Be warned that it’s over all too quickly for a plot of its scope, and the puzzles tend to be too easy — but top-notch presentation and an entertaining story make up for it. Play on a tablet rather than a phone, if you can — this is a game originally designed for PC, so some stuff gets to be pretty tiny.
Yesterday isn’t immune to the genre’s tropes, but it doesn’t hold a gun to your head.
Price: $2.49 Requires: Android 2.3.3 and up Google Play link:Yesterday Developer:Bulkypix
Framed as a Myst-like adventure, Tesla’s Electric Mist eschews comedy and dialogue for mystery and extra puzzles. You play from a first-person perspective, tapping your way around the environment one static scene at a time. The story unravels as you explore the world and complete puzzles, emerging piecemeal across three chapters.
While Tesla’s Electric Mist is far less vague and incomprehensible than Myst, it’s also less enthralling — with a world that lives only by the time travel plot and puzzles that aren’t particularly tough. It won’t drive you crazy or consume your life for days on end, but it’ll exercise your brain for a few hours.
It’s refreshing to see this kind of game tread the path of an old-school adventure rather than hidden objects.
It may be without a voice cast, but Kaptain Brawe has loads of personality. It follows a not-so-bright Space Police officer who stumbles upon a series of interrelated conspiracies in a Monkey Island-like adventure of incompetent hilarity and ridiculousness. With witty writing, colorful visuals, great characters, and puzzles that adhere to the silliness but not the logical fallacies of old, it’s a cut above much of the competition.
I like Kaptain Brawe; it’s got spunk, and a cast of characters reminiscent of a Monkey Island or Space Quest misadventure.
City of Secrets has just about everything you could want from a point-and-click adventure game. It looks and sounds great, with stylized 3D visuals and excellent voice work. The writing — particularly the narration — is fairly verbose, but it’s entertaining and presented in a self-effacing humor that proves very charming. Puzzles are typically obtuse, but not to the extent of needing to create a cat hair mustache in order to disguise yourself as a man without a mustache (yes, this really happened in a high-profile game).
You get the first episode free, with the remaining four costing credits that can be earned by downloading other apps or paid as in-app purchases. Unlocking the whole game costs about two bucks, while individual episodes are around a dollar each.
I’ve never come across a good adventure as verbose as City of Secrets.
Price: Free (In-app purchases unlock further episodes) Requires: Android 2.2 and up Google Play link:City of Secrets Developer:Aidem Media
I described my conflicted feelings about The Great Fusion in some detail in my review back in March. It has everything going for it, with nice graphics, fun parodies, great presentation, and a suitable blend of comedy, puzzles, and dialogue, but it falls flat on execution. The writing is subpar — at least in the English translation — and the puzzling pitfalls of classic adventuring come back with a vengeance, pushing you away through illogical design.
But The Great Fusion is still worth a look if you like old-school adventure games, and, despite similar criticisms by other reviewers, it holds firm to a four-and-a-half stars rating on Google Play — so perhaps you won’t be so bothered by its shortcomings.
Despite early promise, The Great Fusion turns out to be the butt of its own joke.
Made by the same company behind the upcoming Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded, Fester Mudd pays homage to the Sierra and LucasArts greats. It gets tedious or tries too hard at times, but on the whole this is a quality effort. Take note that only the first episode is available at the moment, so you’ll be left hanging at the end.
A purposely-dated interface copies the old LucasArts SCUMM games, with nine verbs to choose from when interacting with objects. This ties beautifully into the nostalgia of the experience, but turns out to be as much a pain as a pleasure. If a love letter to the classics is what you want, though, there’s nothing better on Android.
It tries too hard, but this is the closest you’ll get to a new SCUMM game.
Price: Free (around $3 to unlock the full episode) Requires: Android 2.3 and up Google Play link:Fester Mudd Developer:Replay Games
Nephi’s Adventure 2 caught me by surprise. It was made by a group of Mormons eager to inspire people to learn more about their religion, and — unlike the majority of religious games I’ve seen — it’s actually good. Of course, you don’t need to know or care about the Mormon beliefs to enjoy Nephi’s Adventure (I certainly don’t know a thing), which tells a silly, humorous tale of misadventure.
It’s a point-and-click adventure in the traditional sense, with four separate interaction types, an inventory, and a propensity to make simple tasks require herculean efforts for the good of a joke. There’s decent voice acting and some very entertaining writing here, with plenty of light-hearted gags and pop culture references.
Far sillier and more fun than I’d ever have thought.
It plays off the tired trope of the lead character losing his memory, but Amnesia — which comes in three individual chapters — is anything but lazy. This is a challenging game with ever-trickier puzzles and a thrilling mystery to explore. Both visuals and gameplay remind me of early point-and-click adventures from the likes of ICOM Simulations (Déjà Vu, Shadowgate), only updated and adapted for touch devices.
The chapters are short, especially if you’re good at these kinds of games, but they’re worth the price of admission for fans of more cerebral point-and-click adventures.
Not to be confused with Amnesia: The Dark Descent, this is an old-school point-and-click mystery.
Elansar is like Myst on a smaller scale. You find yourself trapped on a mysterious island with your transport busted and in need of repair. I enjoyed exploring the island in search of answers to the oddities that dot its landscape, finding new questions at every turn.
Objects can be hard to see, especially on smaller screens, but a bit of patience and a skim through the hints and tips (on the main menu) should see you through. The island is tiny, unfortunately, so there’s no chance to lose yourself in the fantasy.
It’s basically Myst, shrunken way down.
Price: $1.35 Requires: Android 2.3 and up Google Play link:Elansar Developer:Orion
The Lost City is rather more casual-focused than the other titles on this list, but it proudly clings onto its Myst-style adventure roots. It’s an accessible, gentle path into the puzzle-focused side of the genre — with the presentation especially wooing non-traditional gaming audiences. Sparsely-used animations add a dynamic element to the graphics, while sound and controls should be palatable to players of all ages.
Don’t be fooled by my “casual” descriptor, though — this is a challenging and deep experience, with a compelling plot and intriguing puzzles. There are a few clever interface elements, too, such as a map that shows all previously-visited locations and the paths between them.
The Lost City carries on the spirit of Myst-style first-person adventures driven by environmental puzzles.
Okay, so ScummVM isn’t a game. But it’s the key to running dozens of point-and-click classics from the 80s and 90s. Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, King’s Quest, Space Quest, Simon the Sorcerer, Gobliiins, Discworld, and more all run beautifully (although you’ll need to add the data files yourself, with help from this guide). The only major downsides are that some titles play awkwardly without a mouse to guide your clicking and games with typing input are a huge pain.
You’ll have to download separate plugins for each engine (nothing runs “out of the box”) — scumm covers most of the LucasArts games, agi and sci handle Sierra’s Quest games, agos enables the Adventure Soft lineup, and so on. There are 28 engines supported on Android.
Revisit your favorites from the comfort of your Android device. The controls could use some further adapting to the touch screen, but otherwise it’s great.