What makes classic adventure games (and old telephones) so special?

“Thimbleweed Park is a new game that cuts to the core of what made classic point & click adventure games so special, …”

This is a cite from the description on Kickstarter of TWP. After we have played TWP I would like to know: What is the core that made classic point and click adventure games special - for you?

For me it’s a mixture: It’s the humor, the story, the love the game designers put into details, the graphics and the UI. The latter one wasn’t just a one-click interface. Instead the interface allows me to try different things, it gives me more freedom in doing (weird) things and exploring the world. I can open, push or pull things. I missed that! TWP showed me one more time that I hate the one-click-interface of modern adventure games. Regarding the graphics: The old point and click games had a -hm- “unique look”. I don’t know how to describe that. But for example Maniac Mansion had these big heads, Loom had that wonderful dark atmosphere and Monkey Island 2 had these pixelated watercolors. It’s not so much about pixels but more about the charming style the games had - and I would say that TWP has this style too.


It´s probably incredibly boring, but in this case I agree with every single thing you said. I would also like to add the sound, which is something TwP didn´t have. I loved the steps and door sounds in the old games. And the chiptune music of course.

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I liked the classic adventure games, because I played them when I was very young and had lots of time. I could enjoy them with my friends and I would sink into the atmosphere. TWP is actually the first adventure game, where I had the exact feeling. Giggling and puzzling through the game, like in old times. The only thing missing was my best friend sitting next to me.


And why do think was it like in the old times? Because you took the time to play through it? Or has the game a special atmosphere?

Yes, probably because I took the time and I played very focused. The details and graphics and humor are really exciting for me.

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For me it was the sensation of exploring unknown worlds and exploring stories taking place there.
Those can be fantasy or sc-fi scenarios, but also more real-world(ish) ones like in Indy, Zak or Maniac Mansion.

Comparing it to platformers where levels were made out of tile sets and repeating enemies nothing beats the fact that opening a door in an adventure game could lead to the most strange and wondrous things. And then there were doors which won’t open, but you imagined all kind of things behind them.

It’s a little bit like when you are exploring the real world as a kid. Behind every hill you discover something new, the world seems so vast and wonderful.


But isn’t that valid for “modern” adventure games too?

The difference is that when growing up we´ve partly lost our sense of wonder, we just can´t get lost in stories just the same way as we used to.

So nothing with being “really” trapped in the Nautilus anymore.

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Ist das Michael Ende??

That´s the book seller from the movie! :slight_smile:

You mean “modern” classic point and click adventures?
Yes, it’s still true. It is also true that at least some people may have lost their sense of wonder getting older.

But there are also differences to actual “modern” adventure games, with modern meaning more “advanced” graphics.
E.g. in a game like Firewatch I see the game world and especially as a grown-up I can extrapolate and make assumptions about the environment. Being a 3D game I also know they can’t just make crazy and diversified stuff appear around every corner, a lot more assets will get reused than in a (classic) 2D adventure.

In those classic games you can draw one background and suddenly have a spaceship with Elvis onboard in your game.
Or you just need to draw one screen and can have a beautiful vista like in TWP, something which would be more time consuming in a 3D game.
Also most of such drawn art is “handpicked” instead of reusable assets just placed in different ways which happens more common in 3D or tile-based games.

Maybe it’s more a nostalgia thing but I also like simple graphics of older (e.g. DOS) games which had no backgrounds (especially in darker surroundings like night, dark forests or caves it was just black). It left more to the imagination and made the game world appear more vast than you could ever make it with explicit graphics.

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Humour is definitely something that keeps me coming back to adventure games. Whether it’s actual jokes being made or just the twisted sense of wry when combining one object with another to conclude a puzzle… I just love it

There is something special about them, as they do keep us wandering around aimlessly for hours when we’re trying to crack a puzzle. And then you get that aha moment just before you give up and it’s all worth it


He wasn’t involved in the movie, afaIk. He even was so disappointed by the movie, that he insisted not to be mentioned in the credits.
Then he was involved in making the Momo movie to prevent the same disappointment for that movie adaption, which is indeed very close to the novel.


I consider “special” both some modern adventure games and some old adventure games; for me the old classics aren’t intrinsically “more special” than the games that I have played in recent years.

What really makes them different from what I play today is that I played the classics when I was a kid and they were the first games that introduced me to this genre. They ceased to be just games and became part of me, contributing to my education, to my way of thinking and to my preferences about art and storytelling.

Today I’m an adult and it’s harder (but not impossible) for new games to significantly change who I have become, so their impact on me is a minor one.


That, I think, is a big part of what makes them special. I do have a few favourite games from the time when I was a kid, that I can come back to and play and they are still as much fun as they were back then. But I suspect if I were introduced to those games today, my only reaction would be “WTF?”.

Another aspect is when you compare the classic adventure games with other games of their time. I don’t think there were many games that provided this kind of narrative experience. Even in most RPGs of that time you’d have a couple of pages in the manual that provided the background story, and then it was off to the dungeons, slaying monsters. Nowadays, a lot more games feature an extensive storyline, no matter what genre.

Of course, some of the old classics simply were really good games, that would likely get great scores if they came out today. But then, some of today’s P&C adventures are great too. It’s just that they aren’t decidedly better than the old ones. Sometimes, there’s simply no way to improve upon a tried and true formula.

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Thanks for the clarification. I was sure he made a cameo in one of those two movies but had forgotten in which one (he appears at the beginning of Momo, on the train).

I think one of the reasons might be that a lot of time has passed, and time has an outstanding talent in filtering out the irrelevant.

It’s the same as in music. I’m pretty sure there was a lot of crap too, in the 70’s rock universe. But that crap got lost and forgotten with time, while only the classics survived.

It’s like what Ron said about the memories we have about them but not how they really were/are.

But since we are talking about classic point and click adventure games, doesn’t this include TWP too?
Or do we like TWP only because of nostalgic feelings we have for the old classics?

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There are certainly games for which this is true, but if one actually played the classics in recent years again (like I did with MI1, MI2 and Indy4 not so long ago, and with some non-adventure games too), then one totally could be aware of how they are/were.

Sure, you’d likely not be fiddling with stacks of floppies and wouldn’t have to suffer through long loading times (Indy4 on the Amiga emulator was a bit on the slow side, though), so the experience nowadays is certainly a little bit better. You may also remember the solution to that especially unnerving puzzle that might have frustrated you the first time. So yeah, it’s not possible to recreate the exact same experience one had when playing the classics back then.

But to me, the classics aren’t special because “nostalgia”, but because they are still enjoyable today. They set the bar, and none of today’s P&C adventures have managed to raise it in a significant way.

Now, to tell the truth, the humour of MI1 was more appealing to myself as a 12 year old; nowadays I find it a bit naive and perhaps immature. The more mischievous Guybrush of MI2 is a better fit to my current taste.

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I like TWP because it’s a good PnC adventure game. The fact that it has pixel art makes it more interesting for me, not because pixel art reminds me of the classic games but because I like pixel art.

I’m not able to establish if any of the modern PnC adventure games has raised the bar in every sense, but I have played some adventure games developed in the last decade that in my opinion have raised the bar for what concerns the story and the narrative style. One of these games is Gemini Rue, for example.