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Countdown Rebuttal

You've all read enough of my opinions on adventure games over the past month, I'm sure. Now, as promised, here's what the rest of our fine staff of adventure aficianados had to say about the Top 20 Adventure Games of All-Time.

- Evan

Marek Bronstring, Editor-in-Chief

I do not completely agree with Evan's choices for his Top 20, but I can't really comment on the list as a whole, for the simple reason that I have not played all the games. Therefore I'm going to use this rebuttal article to put a spotlight on a game I love very much. I believe Day of the Tentacle is an excellent choice for the number one game of all time, as its puzzle design is simply unrivaled. However, I'd like to make a case for a personal favorite of mine, Grim Fandango.

What makes Grim Fandango the best adventure game of all time? I believe it's because it escapes from the cute and nonchalant (but admittedly charming) stories that were prevalent in the classic nineties graphic adventure. Space Quest: the sci-fi parody. Maniac Mansion: a teenage horror/comedy. King's Quest: an interactive fairy tale. Very well executed games by any standard, and cornerstones of adventure gaming legacy. But in hindsight, it's hard to call their stories very innovating. In the pioneering days, these stories were simply never done as a game before. I personally regard Grim Fandango's high-concept story as the genre's true coming of age.

LucasArts boasted the game as the most ambitious graphic adventure they had ever developed. Grim Fandango is a unique mix of different influences, including the animated film A Nightmare Before Christmas, papier-mache skeletons from Mexican folklore, Aztec, Mayan and Art Deco architecture and many classic film noir movies. The story centers around Manuel Calavera, a travel agent in the Land of the Dead, who gets enveloped in a conspiracy of crime and corruption. Together with his driver Glottis (a demon specifically summoned for this task), Manny embarks on a four year search for redemption. On his journey, Manny becomes part of an underground resistance network and even gets to run a casino in the Casablanca-inspired port town of Rubacava. Grim Fandango is, without a doubt, the most brilliant, stylish and inspired adventure game ever created. A few interface nags are not detriment to the game's originality.

Evan cites Grim Fandango's interface as a misconception, which I strongly disagree with. The concept of the interface is, in fact, very innovative. In Grim Fandango, there are no superimposed interface elements. The protagonist itself is the interface—something the designers of Escape From Monkey Island unfortunately failed to understand. The sense of immersion is incredible. In theory, its the best keyboard interface I've seen for an adventure game. If the technical implementation were a little better, I would even prefer this interface to traditional point-and-click. Sadly, the collision system often has the character sliding past an obstacle or, even worse, slings it off into an opposite direction. This problem can only to be attributed to the programmers. Evan's write-up implies that the interface is a bad idea altogether, which is just not true.

I started this rebuttal by describing Grim Fandango as a high point in adventure gaming. Somewhat ironically, the game was released in 1998—arguably the start of the genre's dry season. Grim Fandango's initial sales results are said to have been dissapointing. It even caused LucasArts to temporarily abandon the graphic adventure. Despite massive critical acclaim, few people knew about the game. Some have blamed this on bad marketing, or the difficulty of pigeon-holing Grim Fandango into a single category. Grim Fandango's sales did come about a little later on, but LucasArts was not without problems at the time. The Grim Fandango team sadly decided to leave. (Whether LucasArts can recover from this huge loss of talent remains to be seen.) If you haven't played Grim Fandango yet, you should rush out and buy it now. I recommend the new Entertainment Pack, which also includes XP-compatible versions of The Dig, Full Throttle and Sam & Max Hit the Road.

Mind you, Day of the Tentacle is an understandable choice for the number one game. I certainly don't mean to bad-mouth other games either. But we're talking about Top 20 of best adventures ever made. In my opinion, Grim Fandango's unique world and characters are something that no other game in any genre has come close to.

Tom Arbour, News Editor

Having played through just over half of the titles on Evan's list, there are nine games remaining that I've either yet to play at all, or only experienced in a short gaming session or two. So that's at least nine spots that I'd have inevitably filled with different games. This is not to say that I disagree with Evan's Top 20—with the possible exception of King's Quest VI (which is a wonderful game in it's own right, but not one that I would have immediately thought of as #3 of all time) my top eight titles would remain virtually identical to his, if not in that precise order.

The only title that instantly comes to mind as being sorely missed is Gabriel Knight 2, which is no doubt my favourite FMV adventure of all time. I apologize to all Texphiles reading this, but although an appealing character, Mr. Murphy just doesn't tickle my fancy like he does for others. The Beast Within was composed of an amazingly intricate story that melded fact with fiction, and included werewolves, ancient evil-battling bloodlines, mad kings, and even German opera. And it was well-acted to boot (a feat that few FMV-based games can claim).

All in all, I can't imagine the amount of work it must have taken Evan to compile this list and its accompanying articles (personally, I doubt I could settle on my top five breakfast cereals, let alone a list of twenty adventure games), and I can't see how anyone could say the effort was anything but a success.

Josh Roberts, Underground Co-Editor

Having read Evan's Top 20 list and discussed all of his choices with him before its publication, I can honestly say that he and I were on the same wavelength for many of the games he selected. Would I have switched things around a little? Absolutely. The top spot of my list would have been a toss up between Quest for Glory 2: Trial by Fire, Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars, and Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. But Day of the Tentacle is right up there too, and certainly makes a strong case for itself as the number one game.

What else would I have done differently? I might have replaced a game like Pepper's Adventures in Time with the equally under-appreciated Conquests of the Longbow by Sierra On-Line. I would have dropped Beneath a Steel Sky (sorry, I really can't stand that robot sidekick) and given stronger consideration to possibly the best FMV game ever made, Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within. And I certainly wouldn't have put the first King's Quest game on this list, no matter the historical significance.

Still, in looking over Evan's list one final time, I can't fault the hard work, research, and sheer effort it must have taken to put together this monstrous compilation of the best of the best. And like all of these games, Evan himself has proven himself to be at the top of the heap as well.

Kevin Hoelscher, staff writer

During the scant months that I’ve been a member of the AG staff, I’ve come to know and respect Evan and his opinions. Thus I find myself faced with the daunting task of constructing a tactful means of telling him that his Top 20 adventure games list is complete and total crap.

Actually, I admire Evan for having the courage to undertake what has to be one of the more unenviable writing tasks that one could be charged with. Creating the Top 20 list (or any best-of list for that matter) is always a no-win situation, as this is a traditionally a passionate subject for most gamers, and any list, however thorough or even-handed, will always open one up to scores of derision and criticism from readers who seem to be personally offended that their favorite game(s) didn’t make the list or didn’t rank high enough.

Myself, I have a hard time critiquing such a list as I haven’t had the opportunity to play some of these yet (embarrassingly enough TLJ numbers among these even though it’s been gathering dust in the closet for some time) and don’t want to criticize their inclusion without having done so. Others I haven’t played in such a long time that I fear I may have fallen prey to the “rose-colored glasses” syndrome I diagnosed myself with in a previous article.

Ultimately, however, my hesitation boils down to simple indecision. Out of all of the adventure games that I’ve played and enjoyed over the years, I’m not entirely certain that I’m capable of choosing one that I’ve enjoyed above all others, let alone choose and rank 20 of them. Just as with my list of favorite books, movies, or female celebrities I would like to have a torrid affair with, my list of favorite games is constantly morphing and evolving.

I could say that I felt Gabriel Knight 2 was superior to the first installment, disagree with the inclusion of King’s Quest I (which I have played), or cry foul at the exclusion of Buried in Time, but what the hell do I know.

What I do know is that Evan and I share many favorites and have differing opinions of others. As for those that I haven’t had the opportunity to play yet, knowing that someone prizes these games so highly, I see this as an opportunity to fill in the gaps in my adventure gaming pedigree and perhaps discover a few overlooked adventures that I might one day add to my list.

By the way, Evan, I was just kidding about the total crap comment…it was only partial crap.

Claire Wood, staff writer

Firstly, may I commend Evan on his choice to exclude Myst from the top 20 countdown. Hurrah. Finally someone who appreciates that a game that lacks engaging characters or indeed any semblance of a plotline, is nothing short of tedious. Very, very T-E-D-I-O-U-S. While its historical impact on the genre cannot be understated, the critical ‘fun’ factor was fatally lacking. Many have cited the superb graphics as an important redeeming feature. My answer? Give me Maniac Mansion any day--sure, the characters heads may have been disproportionately large, and if you stared at the colours too long your eyes went blurry, but what the heck?! At least I didn’t feel that I’d rather chew off my own arm rather than replay it!

Enough of what didn’t make the list--now for what did. Evan’s article was certainly very persuasive and caused me to mentally revise my own top 20. I do however have some quibbles…

It appears something of a travesty that Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templar surpasses not only the epic Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, but also the truly excellent Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. Although Broken Sword has aged well visually, and is nothing less than charming to play, it lacks the maturity and suspenseful storyline of Gabriel Knight. The level to which one is immersed in the game is frightening--as is the plot, making Gabriel Knight only the second game ever to be relegated to the safety of my freezer.

Perhaps my only other criticism would be the position of 18 for Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. For laugh-out-loud humour, this game is beaten only by Sam & Max and is consistently excellent in terms of challenges, plot and musical score. As a (closet) sequel junkie, I relished the chance to re-enter Monkey Island’s world and wasn’t disappointed, even by the heavily criticised ending. Although controversial, it’s what got everyone talking about Monkey Island and inspired legions of fans to go out and buy the sequel (perhaps Ron Gilbert’s intention all along!)

Commendations on the placement of Full Throttle. I bought Full Throttle on special offer in combination with The Dig, and in all honesty felt that I would find little to appeal in a game that is essentially about motorbikes. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised, as despite the tiresome action sequences, Full Throttle had an essential saving grace--Maureen. Maureen quickly became one of my favourite female characters due to her failure to conform to the ‘damsel-in-distress’ stereotypes of games such as Kings Quest VI. Although I wouldn’t have placed it higher than 20, I’m pleased it made the list.

Finally, I was glad to see Day of the Tentacle retain its crown as the greatest adventure game of all time. As well as all the excellent reasons Evan has listed for making this game #1, for me, it was the brave step LucasArts took with their central protagonist Bernard. Sure he may not have been as handsome as Gabriel Knight or as suave as Indy, but he struck a blow for nerds everywhere, who could brandish their pocket protectors and high-waisted trousers with pride! Way to go Bernard! And way to go Evan on an excellent series.

Eivind Hagerup, news updater

When I got Evan's list of the Top 20 Adventure Games of All-Time in my inbox at the beginning of December, I was glad to see that I've played almost every game on the list (haven't played The Last Express yet, but it is still #1 on my priority list), and also completed most of them. Even so, the list gave me a few surprises at first. Sure, Pepper's Adventure in Time is a nice title, but does it really deserve a place in the Top 20? Although I acknowledge the game as a successful “edutainment” game, and understand that the game might have higher interest to American adventure gamers than to European (because of its bias to American history), I would rather have placed another adventure game on that spot. Like Syberia or Blade Runner. What about King's Quest 1? Even though I personally like the game, and I'm a fan of the series, King's Quest 1 just isn't interesting to most adventure gamers today. If you compare the game to newer adventures, many adventurers will say that it just didn't stand the test of time. Lastly, I was surprised that Monkey Island 2 didn't receive a higher spot on the list, and that The Secret of Monkey Island was rated higher than its sequel.

Although, after a short while of hard thinking, it became apparent to me that you can't judge this kind of list without paying close attention to each game's historical significance. King's Quest 1 wasn't just a revolutionary adventure game. It was a technical advancement never before seen in computer graphics. It was the first game to actually let you move the character around the screen, and to let the player explore the game's world in a entirely new perspective. Also, if you compare the game's story to other games at the time, you'll see that it's equally good (or bad) as its peers. It is clear that King's Quest surely belongs in the Top 20 Adventure Games of All Time.

Let's go back to Monkey Island 2. Obviously one of the best adventure games ever made, and personally, I rate this title higher than Monkey Island 1. On my list, I would have placed Monkey Island 2 a bit higher than #18, but neither of the two titles would belong in the Top 10. To me, this becomes more apparent when I compare them to games that, without a doubt, belong in the upper half of the list; such brilliant masterpieces as Grim Fandango, King's Quest 6, Gabriel Knight 1 and Broken Sword.

As a conclusion, I would like to state that Evan did a great job on the Top 20, and that I agree with the greater part of the list. I would personally have great trouble in creating such a list, as I never could've agreed with myself on which games were the best.. But I admire those who can.

Tom King, staff writer

In my opinion, when it comes to reviews, it is not completely fair to expect or demand untainted objectivity within the final analysis. We are, after all, only human. However, it is fair and completely justifiable to expect that said analysis be based on the principles that we have all come to know and love; the current conventions that define the adventure genus. One of the problems with reviewing an older game though, is consideration of the technology available at the time of release. When comparing old with new then, what is the common tangent where all great games intersect?

Having raised that question, the Top-20 adventure games of all time that our senior editor has labored over and which is one of the forum's hot topics, is a good example of trying to walk that fine line of comparisons within a genre of ever-changing quality. I’ll not plot a specific year, or span of time, but as to the adventure game, seems that either leaps in quality are made, or long periods of time go by with minimal change.

For someone such as I, who have only played three or four of the games reviewed out of the total 20, I cannot add my voice to the din of those stating ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’, nor can I seem to eek out a decent rebuttal. I can comment in generalities, for what it’s worth, and possibly help to diffuse (or infuse) some of the thoughts born of this series.

For purposes of this brief outline, I’ve placed in brackets what the majority seem to think, and in parentheses what I, and subsequently other outside influences--such as print magazines and/or other resources, are inclined; as a sort of article ‘key’. In many cases, the results are the same. Historicity notwithstanding, here are some common tangents that should be considered.

All ‘good’, and in this case ‘great’ adventure games should have a complex/well-told story--(agreed)[true]. All great adventure games should have passable (not detracting from other stellar qualities) graphics (agreed) [varying consensus]. The end of a great adventure game should leave you forgiving of game bugs, glitches, or other lapses (dependent upon intensity of problem)[generally, yes – unless the problem in question is glaring or asks too much of the player]. The game play of a great adventure begs for a return, or has some form of replay value (for the same reasons you would want to read a great book again)[varying consensus – but generally yes].

With but these few criteria, and your own gaming needs, create or compare your own top-20 games. Whether your list differs from Adventure Gamers list or not, the guiding principles should be similar.

Christina Gmiterko, staff writer

When Evan set out to create his Top 20 Adventure Games of all-time list, he knew that he was opening himself up to criticism and debate. And boy, did he ever receive it. Doing a Top 20 list of this nature is ostentatious in and of itself, but putting it out there for the masses to see must have been truly daunting. Evan has handled this arduous task with considerable aplomb and I applaud him for that. He set out to create a list that was as objective as he could possibly make it, which in my opinion he succeeded at. I, myself have trouble putting my subjectivity away when trying to view something objectively. To illustrate this, some of his favorite games of all-time were nowhere to be found in the Top 20 because of this. He truly did stay objective and did his best to keep his personal bias off of the list. Personally, I don't know if I could do that. If being objective meant keeping one of my favorite games off of my list, I think I would just prefer to make my list purely subjective.

I have played 14 of the 20 games on Evan's list and I admit to never having played his #1 choice, Day of the Tentacle, not because I am not interested but because of technical problems. I hope to one day finally be able to play it. For the most part, he did a pretty good job with the choices that he made. There were a few games that I thought should have been one or two spots higher or lower but very rarely did I feel the urge to yell out, "What was he thinking?!"

The only major changes that I would have liked to have seen were: a much higher placement of The Pandora Directive, a lower placement of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, the inclusion of the little known underplayed gem, The Dark Eye, and all three Gabriel Knight games should have been included somehow. I know, I know, it's probably a bit much to put an entire series of games on a Top 20 list, but in my mind all three games are perfect and no game deserves a spot on the list more than they do.

Heidi Fournier, staff writer

Having played only 2 out of the 20 game's on Evan list, I sort of felt at first like I was the weird friend who still wears parachute pants. I am not a member of the club who started playing adventure games in the glory days. In fact, I came in quite late to this party. Therefore, I hadn't even heard of a couple of the games on Evan's list; and I hadn't played a majority of them for the following reasons: technology problems, difficuluties in finding the games, and a lack of interest in games with antiquated graphics. For those purists out there hissing at me for that last comment, I'll tell you something else--I'm not the only one.

Now I will freely admit to being a Myst-loving neophite. Knowing this, most of the games on Evan's list would not be games I would have sought out. In fact, I would argue any day of the week that Amber: Journey's Beyond is the single best game I have ever played and it didn't even make it onto the list! It seems that first person perspective games were persona non gratis on this countdown. I may be in the miniority here, but just because these games lack character interaction doesn't mean they aren't wonderful games with first-class stories and exciting challenges. A lack of character interaction should not relegate a whole group of games to non-contender status. A adventure like Morpheus is a great game with an interesting story to unravel, but with no character interaction. This fact didn't mar my enjoyment of the game's excellent graphics or make the puzzles I faced any easier to solve. So I say, come on--share the love.

Angella Mooney, staff writer

Not many game journalists would undertake something a daunting as ranking the top 20 adventures of all time. Even if the top 20 is a collective opinion, it is still an opinion and open for heated debate. I have to admire Evan for signing himself to such a behemoth task. For the most part I agree with the rankings of the games I have played that made it onto the list. I have 3 points of disagreement. The first point is that there really isn't a good representation of first-person adventures on the list. I don't really go googly eyed over Myst, but I feel the staunch supporters of first-person titles sort of got snubbed. My second gripe is kinda personal. Where is Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within? I love this game, and in a completely subjective context think my comrade Evan made a dire mistake in leaving it out. I will forgive him this. It will be hard, but I think I can find it within myself.

My third point of disagreement is more focused on a technical aspect of the Top 20 Adventure Games of All Time series. The "time factor" is a flawed criteria even though it is interesting and adds depth to the series. The reason I think this is flawed is the fact that how well a game title stands up over time is a fully subjective experience. For example, some players will enjoy playing an older title such as Full Throttle and not find its antiquated graphics an issue. Obviously, someone else might have a radically different opinion. The point of all this is to explain that the "time factor" is a bit alienating to everyone who perhaps remembers the game differently or hasn't been playing adventure titles very long. Even with this sort of larger issue, I still think the Top 20 Adventure Games of All Time is pretty much as good as anyone could hope to get from a person who loves adventure games.

 

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