Ahhhhh, I love this article/thread, Patrick.
Ever since I was young, I’ve been drawn to puzzle-adventure games. It all started the first time I watched a friend play Sam and Max Hit the Road. I was so jazzed about it that I immediately got home and asked my mom to get a copy of it for me. Must’ve been a week, maybe months later, my parents handed me a multi-pack of LucasArts games including Day of the Tentacle, the Indiana Jones series, and of course Sam and Max was in there as well. I set the game up, and since our computer wasn’t top-of-the-line, there was no sound. “No matter, the subtitles work and that’s fine by me!” I thought.
It was incredibly difficult for my young mind to wrap my head around my first puzzle-adventure experience. My friend seemed so good at solving the puzzles with basic logic, why was I struggling with getting my characters to go to their next destination? Why couldn’t I progress the story?
It turns out I wasn’t doing something that seemed so… illogical. I had to click on a specific item using a specific action that just didn’t make sense. I didn’t know this at the time, and didn’t learn until I watched that same friend years later when he decided to revisit Sam and Max during one of our hangouts.
Shortly after my struggles with the game, and it couldn’t have been more than a day or two of my parents watching me struggle with the early part of the game, that they decided to return the game to the store while I was at school. I was so bummed.
My bad experiences with Sam and Max never deterred me from the genre; maybe kids are just more forgiving about these struggles than adults. One day, that friend burned a copy of Hit the Road for me (it was definitely not available at retailers at this point in time). I plugged away, definitely using a walkthrough for its trickier parts, asking my friend for help with others. After that, I found myself using a walkthrough for almost every point-and-click game instinctively, as though my struggle with Sam and Max suggested that I was incapable of solving puzzles using my own wit and attention to detail. And that stuck with me. It stuck with me through my first few playthroughs of Grim Fandango. It stuck with me when I finally went back into Day of the Tentacle (years before the remaster). While I had this strong urge to play these games, it’s like I was doing it for reasons other than the mental challenge. It’s fair to say that the artwork for LucasArts games from the early-to-mid 90s were a huge draw for me. I’ve always been drawn to cartoons, bright colors, silly-yet-lovable characters.
When the Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango remasters came out, I swore that once I got copies of them, I would play without any assistance. I wanted to really push myself this time. With both of them, I managed to get by with basic logic, but there were a lot of areas of the games that I vividly remembered and was able to use that to my advantage. It wasn’t until Thimbleweed Park was released that I was able to really put myself to the test, and boy oh boy did I fail! I think I made it a little more than an hour in before having to consult my Twitch chat for suggestions. OOF. Even still, I love that Ron Gilbert and the rest of his team were able to make a game like Thimbleweed Park. There is still so much love and support for the point-and-click adventure genre, and I expect we’ll be seeing more in the future.