First weekend in November, 2023 and AdventureX rolled round again. For the second year in a row, the convention took place at the Stockwell Street Building of the University of Greenwich. A global crowd of adventure gamers gathered to experience two days of talks by various luminaries of the genre. The fun even went beyond the venue, with some joining a karaoke night on the Friday, where I performed a summary of the Ben Jordan series to the tune of "Paint It, Black".
There were also a wide range of games to play and discuss. With the list of adventures below being an indication, the death of adventure games as a genre still seems a long way off.
In Eastern Europe in the late 19th Century, Elizaveta Morozova's promising career as a doctor has been cut tragically short. As she is laid to rest, her family recalls the young woman she once was, and the promise she showed for the future. It is therefore somewhat surprising for Elizaveta (Liza for short) to later wake up in a dark dungeon. Making her way out of this dingy place, she finds herself in a magnificent manor house, home of the strange Countess. There she learns that she is no longer human, but has become a vampire. Faced with this new existence, and the requirement to drink blood that comes with it, what path will Liza take?
Having exhibited the small game, Thing-in-Itself, at a previous AdventureX, Party for Introverts are promoting something exponentially larger. The presentation is mostly 2D, though some larger areas allow for movement in more than just a flat plane using the keyboard controls. The characters are all well-designed, giving them distinct personalities, from the initially timid Liza to the brash Hussar. The hand-drawn backgrounds evoke a similar variety, from the poorly lit drabness of the dungeons to the magnificently opulent ballroom. RPG elements have been introduced, initially as background knowledge of the lead character. The eulogy at her funeral provides baseline numbers in art, literature, science and history. Quests and other activities earn more points, allowing you to grow your character as you wish. These and other stats, such as relationship status, will determine what options are open to you for dialogue and examining your surroundings, allowing for different playthroughs. This is all topped off with high quality voice acting and music ranging from the melancholy piano of the funeral to the cheerful record album at the ball.
Cabernet - Arseniy Klishin and Laura Gray
Heir of the Dog
Cummerbund Bandersnatch should know better than to mess with things in his mad uncle's laboratory. The formula he found on his uncle's desk promised that it would give him the ability to enjoy a good time at great length. What it actually proved to do was turn him into a half-man, half-dog creature during the hours of darkness. Fortunately the lab also contained a formula that might reverse the effects of the potion. Gathering the ingredients should be a simple task, shouldn't it?
Tall Story Games have taken a game they made for a 2020 Game Jam, and are turning it into a magnificently silly full-blown adventure. The graphics are a retro pixel style, with Cummerbund's hunched and hairy physique a stark contrast to the upright gentleman he really is. As this cursed form only prevails at night, between 8pm and 8am, he can use his pocket watch to switch between forms. The interactions available as a human in daytime London are different from those offered at night in your dog-like framework. The latter includes a sniff action, which resulted in “it smells like ascent” when I used it on a staircase. This is just the surface of the genteel humour on offer as you seek a solution to your problem. You will also early on encounter a louse (part of a louse circus) that joins you as a companion and assistant in your quest. In dog-form you can speak to this and other animals, with all characters being fully voiced to an excellent standard. A jaunty tune also backs up the proceedings.
You can follow developments on the game at the game website - The original Game Jam version is available for free on Steam and other places - You can wishlist the full game for its anticipated 2025 release on Steam as well.
Heir of the Dog - Tom Hardwidge
Murphy McCallan is obsessed with finding the lost treasure of Bellemore Manor. But this Caribbean mansion hides its treasure well. The local witch doctor believes he can raise up the spirits of the manor itself. They are sure to know the location of the treasure. All you have to do is bring him the ingredients he needs to create the spell to summon the spirits. With such a prize at stake, hunting up a few ingredients shouldn't be a problem.
Inklingwood Studios have created an adventure that carries on in the spirit of both the Monkey Island and Broken Sword games. It uses a standard point-and-click interface, with the default cursor resembling a Ouija board planchette. The cursor changes to another voodoo-related shape over a hotspot, such as a skull for talking or a the lined palm of a hand for useage. Initially, the locations on the map appear as question marks, with names filled in as you visit them. The main setting for the demo was the town of Deadnettle. Here I encountered a fisherman with wild tales of spectacular catches and a no-nonsense lady newspaper editor hoping I had interesting scoops. The graphics are a detailed cartoon style reminiscent of the later entries in the original Monkey Island and Broken Sword series. The game is voiced to a worthy standard, with the contempt of the Maitre D' turning me away from the Captain's Club a particular highlight for me. It's chapter-based, with the collection of ingredients intended to be just the first chapter.
Foolish Mortals - Sophie and David Younger
Plot of the Druid
Young Jase is on the verge of graduating from Druid school. There is just one part of the final test that eludes his skills. He has not got the hang of healing magic. With the final test in the morning, he only sees one way he can succeed. It is said that in the Dean's office, there is a healing potion which will cure everything. If he can steal that before the morning, then his graduation is assured. Just how dangerous could it be to root around the study of a master of druidic magic, after all?
Whilst world events prevented them attending in person, Adventure4Life's demo was available through Steam. The graphics are a detailed fantasy style, with irregular stones forming the walls and a giant chandelier hung from the ceiling. The plan to be in and out is thwarted by the fiendishly trapped chest that your prize is stored in. Control is point-and-click, with a simple coin interface when multiple interactions are possible. There are also keyboard shortcuts for inventory or Jase's journal, where he notes things he has discovered. At a later point in the game, you will also gain the ability to transform into an animal. This will allow you to see things your feeble human eyes cannot in the low light, but will limit other things you can do. The whole adventure is very tongue-in-cheek with plenty of comedic references to other games throughout. The single room of the demo includes a wide variety of puzzling, which bodes well for the full experience. The game is fully and competently voiced, with a jaunty horns-and-lute tune backing the proceedings.
Plot of the Druid - Yakir Israel (sent from his home office)
On an abandoned underground station, you meet a woman with a baby, and you are asked to take care of the little one. Thus starts your journey through the world of Underground Blossom by Rusty Lake. From here you will travel through all stages of this young girl's life, facing many strange and fabulous things along the way. Who is the mysterious stranger and what is the creature the mother fears? When darkness rises, will you be able to save young Laura in the end?
Each level of the game is an underground station, presented in a first-person slideshow style. The stations contain a wide variety of challenges, from retrieving keys under grates to guiding flies through holes. Control is mainly point-and-click, though there are some items you will need to drag as well. Most notable of these is the clock in each station, which you must set to the right time for departure to the next stop. Finding and then correctly using objects is the main means of advancement, with some objects carried over to later stations. A variety of stand-alone puzzles also tests your brainpower. The art style is semi-realistic, with limited but effective animation throughout. Whilst there are not many characters to speak to, the voicework for those that you do meet is first-rate. The action is also backed up by a haunting string melody that effectively creates the atmosphere of the gloomy underground. Other music appears in other stations; some especially lively music is triggered by player action.
Underground Blossom can be purchased on Steam
Underground Blossom - Andreea Bosgan
Paws of Coal
All is not well in the coal mine of Rabbit Burrows. Miners have been falling prey to a mysterious illness, and even the mine's doctor has been unable to find the source. Unrest is growing amongst the workers, as they feel the company is not doing enough to protect their welfare. Into this situation steps Charles Quill, a hedgehog scholar sent by the Crown. With his knowledge and ability to work with both management and miners, can he solve the mystery before the mine is closed down forever?
Action is presented as a sideways view of the mine, with ladders and staircases between levels. Doorways allow you to travel forward and backward into different areas, giving the map a 3D element that defies the 2D graphics. Using keyboard controls, young Charles can stroll along or, if you wish to move faster, curl into a ball to roll down the corridors instead. He will meet various characters along the way, and dialogue with them forms a major part of gameplay. Clues gained from one conversation can create further prompts in other conversations, unravelling the mystery more each time. Examining various objects will also produce information relevant to your goal. The extensive dialogue is not voiced, but a soaring orchestral soundtrack provides a fine backdrop to the rural mining setting. The interior walls are presented as rough coal befitting the location, with the furniture and machinery providing a wealth of detail. A small outside balcony promises a beautiful, wider world beyond.
Paws of Coal can be purchased on Steam.
Paws of Coal - Aleksandar Gavrilovic
The year is 1853 and the scholar and translator Hemlock has been summoned to Castle Dornstein. Its current owner, Lord Fiodor Dornstein III, hopes that he will be able to translate an ancient Latin text that his family has held for years. The Deorum Historia Orbis Terrarum, also known as The Devil's Diary, was said to be written by a monk possessed by the devil. The old castle, whilst remote, is steeped in history and a fascinating place for a scholar to visit. But is translating this cursed text a good idea?
As befits the gothic setting, your arrival at Digital Mosaic Games' titular castle takes place during a torrential downpour. The art style is traditional pixel art, featuring sufficient detail to identify both characters and objects. Character portraits appear during dialogues, giving you more detailed views of both Hemlock and those he is speaking to. Control is through a traditional point-and-click interface, with left-click interacting and right-click examining. Hotspot location is assisted by interactive objects, which highlight when when the cursor passes over them. You will explore your own quarters, the castle dining room and the library. The latter is not only home to the book at the centre of the story, but also a chest belonging to the lord's late wife who passed away from a strange illness. Solving the lock on this chest was the most significant puzzle I faced, with exploration and background dialogue forming the main part of the demo. The demo did not have any voice acting, though the developers plan to include it in the final product. For now, the dramatic orchestral soundtrack, together with suitable sound effects, make up the audio portion of the game.
Castle Dornstein - Daragh Carroll and David Brocek
On their own, little mementoes might not appear to be worth much. To most people they may not seem valuable enough to keep. To the right person though, even the smallest of items can be the key to great memories. Such is the case with the objects stored in a jewelry box in Miniatures. Four disparate items lead to detailed stories of how each came to be saved. When you open the box, which memory will you choose to play again?
Other Tales Interactive's previous game involved cooperation between two devices. Miniatures focuses on the experiences of a single person. From the four options available, I chose to pick up the lizard. This elicited a tale about having such a pet lizard as a young child. The artistic presentation is a minimalist isometric view, with only key items presented with any detail. Interactive objects are also coloured differently than the background. Using a standard point-and-click interface, you will move from scene to scene and engage in simple tasks. This includes clear-cut puzzles, such as needing to restore a picture. Exits are identified by a light which bleeds into the edge of the scene. On occasion, exits only appear after you perform certain actions. The game also takes a surreal turn in later parts, as the house fills with plants. Slow, melancholy music fits the setting well, with relevant sound effects such as TV programs and ringing phones to round out the experience.
Miniatures - Gianfranco Dbeis and Balazs Ronyai
A roughly hewn sack puppet is left to moulder in a dingy basement. Then one day a voice from above calls him out of his slumber, ordering him to acquire examples of various attributes, like beauty and loyalty. Searching the apparently abandoned house above his subterranean home, will he finally find his rightful place in the world?
Having previously exhibited Agatha Knife at AdventureX, developer Mango Protocol returned with a tale of a sad protagonist. The playable character is a distorted shape, with an overly large head and only one button eye. Despite his warped features, he moves fairly smoothly through an environment rendered in a semi-realistic cartoon style, with some exaggerations. Players can choose either controller or keyboard to move their little friend through the third-person 3D world. When you approach an interactive object, a prompt appears with the suggested interaction. Collected objects are stored in the zippered compartment on the back of the protagonist's head. With some hotspots, the interaction will call up your inventory, allowing you to select items to use on them. Early in the demo, you pick up a notebook. This not only gives you information relevant to the game, such as what could be considered "beauty", but also adds notes as you examine things. Whilst dialogues are limited, the game is fully voiced and backed up by a haunting piece of music that fits the downbeat setting.
CLeM - Jordi Garcia, Javier Galvez and Mariona Valls
Death of the Reprobate
Malcolm the Terrible is enjoying his usual pastime in court: passing terrible punishments on minor lawbreakers. Suddenly, in the queue of criminals comes a messenger with portentous news. Malcolm's father, Immortal John, is dying. Seeing a chance to inherit his father's massive kingdom, Malcolm immediately rushes to his side. But he will not inherit that easily. Immortal John charges him with doing seven good deeds before sundown if he wishes to claim his prize. But how will he know who to help? The Lord will guide.
Joe Richardson is no stranger to AdventureX, having exhibited several times before. In this latest game he has brought more of his irreverent use of classical art and music to create a surreal adventure. Both backgrounds and characters are culled from Renaissance works of art, with simple paper doll animations to bring them to life. The Lord truly guides the player (he asks you to pretend he's not there if you interact with him). He holds an arrow on a fishing rod over a character claiming to be a fisherman who doesn't know the first thing about fishing, having bought the fish he holds in a back-alley. This incompetent will just be the first to seek your aid, as you walk through a bizarre world full of peculiar vignettes. Interaction is simple point-and-click, with right-click dedicated to your character doing a backflip. Parents should be aware that there is some adult humour amongst the silliness. Wacky sound effects and the music of Eduardo Antonelli back up the proceedings.
Death of the Reprobate - Joe Richardson
Horror Stories: Harvest Hunt
The remote village of Luna Nova has long been under a curse. The fields surrounding the village are home to The Devourer, a vicious monster invisible to mortal sight. Fortunately the village has the Warden Mask, a relic that can grant an individual the temporary ability to see the foul beast. The task of Warden has now passed to you. You must venture out into the fields with naught but the mask and a few hand-crafted tools to aid you. Will you bring back the Ambrosia the village needs to survive, or just become another victim of The Devourer?
Having exhibited the grim but slow-paced Please Comply last year, Villainous Games have taken on a different sort of horror this year. You walk into an admirably rendered, first-person 3D world, initially only armed with the mask and a lantern. The power of the mask is limited, so most of the time your only indication of the creature's presence is the sound of its growls as it draws near. Following the paths is easier going, but walking through the corn makes you more difficult to spot. You cannot afford to take things slowly either, as The Devourer corrupts any Ambrosia it comes across, preventing you from fulfilling your quota if you take too long. My foray did not go well. Crouching in corn most of the time led to me going in circles more often than not. I faced the creature twice. Its appearance was truly horrific, and I barely escaped the first encounter with my life. I subsequently managed to get enough Ambrosia, but a dash into the open, heading toward the safety of the village proved my undoing.
Horror Stories: Harvest Hunt - Mark Drew
HRO: Adventures of a Humanoid Resources Officer
A placement on an illustrious spacecraft like the Endeavor was supposed to be a dream. However, your new position as a Junior Humanoid Resources Officer is proving more of a nightmare. The top crew of the ship seem to be a bunch of gung-ho idiots, leading you all into danger without a second thought. As they request that you provide assistance for their crazy plans, it is up to you to decide how far you will go to support them. With so many different agendas, keeping everyone happy and alive is going to be a tough job.
Worthing & Moncrieff have created a comedy space adventure with more than a passing nod to the Star Trek universe. The art style is minimalistic, with rectangular human heads in solid blocks of colour and minimal facial features. However, the animators have expertly enlivened the available features, with the feelings of characters you speak to made all too plain by their expressions. After a fully voiced cutscene introducing the latest cuckoo plan (to take the ship into the non-partisan area) you will be presented with a console. From here you will have video calls with other members of the crew, and can access other systems as they unlock for you. Your first task, given to you by the captain, is to alter the navigation system to show the ship has not breached the non-partisan area. Accessing this system involves research on a colleague with poor password protocols. Throughout the game there will be alternative ways of addressing problems, creating replayability with different stories that open up as a result.
HRO - Marc Harpin
Octopus City Blues
Kaf Kafkaryan does not have a happy life. He lives with his mother in Octopus City, a place where tentacles that pierce the walls and floor are a normal occurrence. Daydreaming about a world even more strange than the one he lives in, Kaf snaps out of it in time to complete a job interview with Crust Foods. Initially he thinks he is just going to be a tentacle trimmer, but his boss has other plans. Is getting involved in the underworld of Octoblood really a sensible idea?
Ghost in a Bottle have created a game for which surreal seems an inadequate description. The game has a retro top-down RPG look to it, with the player character having blue skin and bright green hair. Movement through the game is by controller or keyboard. Hotspots highlight as you walk close to them, allowing you to talk or interact as appropriate. After the initial scene when you get the job, things take a nasty turn, and a digitial assistant is grafted to your stomach. This then forms the main interface for the game, keeping track of objects and dialogue. Your initial task involves finding out some information about Octoblood. This and other assignments are tracked, so you can always check what your current tasks are. The background music was surprisingly jaunty, somewhat at odds with the grim, forbidding cityscape.
The Quiet Things
A lonely motorway footbridge on a dark and rainy night. A man seeking someone who has left a disturbing message. But this isn't a random happening that has led to this place and time. The origins of this event are buried deep in the past. Had things gone differently then, would we still be where we are now?
Silver Script Games' new offering comes with warnings about the content which are not to be ignored. The game covers themes of depression, self-harm and suicide. The opening includes an alarming set of statistics about the above to really push the point home. You are then presented with a first-person view, navigating using the keyboard to move, and the mouse to look and interact. The ambience is extremely realistic, with the pouring rain setting the scene. The game is also fully voiced, with two mobile phone conversations in the opening section showing how dire the situation is. An action at the end of the bridge establishes you as a young girl living in the past. Thoroughly exploring a residence fills out her back-story, with complete exploration bringing you forward to her teen years. This is not a light-hearted tale, and many playing it, including myself, were profoundly affected.
You can find out more about the game from the developer's website - The game can also be wishlisted for its planned late 2024 release on Steam.
The Quite Things - Kevin Davey and Alyx Jones
In a prehistoric jungle, Zid discovers an abandoned egg. The egg cracks open and delivers a little hatchling that is definitely going to need care and attention. The best thing that Zid can do is try to find the little tyke's parents. But they don't seem to be in the jungle on this side of the lake. It looks like Zid is going to have to travel some distance if he wants to reunite this family.
Following on from their previous title, Zniw Adventure, Azure Mountain have produced a game suitable for even young adventurers. The graphics are a bright cartoony style and the various characters are smoothly animated. The demo takes place in a small jungle area near the sea, with a gentle xylophone tune backed by the buzz of insects as the aural backdrop. Movement involves simple pointing and clicking, with a coin interface for interacting with people and objects. Areas you can access will cause the cursor to turn green and a large arrow appears when you are pointing at an exit leading to a new area. A journal tracks both story-relevant details and facts about the various dinosaurs you encounter on your journey. Your little companion normally stays hidden in your backpack. You can pet the young dinosaur in the inventory screen and use items on it, normally generating a small hint. There is also a brief section where you play as the hatchling, with its small size limiting its capabilities.
Zid Journey - Karolina Twardosz and Lukasz Mikolajczyk
In 1948, the HMT Empire Windrush brought the first wave of Caribbean immigrants to the UK. At that time the Caribbean was part of the British Empire, so those coming across were automatically granted citizenship. Putting together a scrapbook of that time, memories of when Rose and her brother Vernon first settled in London are examined. But the promise of a new life under UK citizenship did not fulfill the expected dream. Not all these memories are happy ones, filled with many struggles to make the UK their new home.
3-Fold Games previously exhibited Before I Forget, a tough tale about memory loss, at AdventureX. In their new game, they deal with a part of British history that some may prefer to forget. The gameplay largely consists of taking photos and putting them in the scrapbook. Each photo evokes a specific memory, playing out as a small text story of the past. In these tales, highlighted words allow for more detail about specific items, whilst choices are offered as to how events went in the past. These choices alter the narrative to varying degrees, changing the story you experience. There are also other items to collect, such as stickers and labels, which will go on the same page as the photo. The text of the stories is nicely backed by simple line drawings of areas of London, with the real-world desk you are using behind them. Befitting the origin of the characters, a pleasant Jamaican soundtrack rounds off the tale.
Windrush Tales - Corey Brotherson
Captain Typhil and his crew are returning home with the unicorn they have found when they are waylaid by space pirates. With their ship crippled and hopelessly outgunned, things look dire. However, this crew didn't get where they are today by giving up at the first hurdle. A bit of creative thinking and sorting through the oddments of the ship's stores and Typhil and his crew will soon have those pirates on the run.
Whilst they haven't exhibited at AdventureX before, Stand Off Software did take part in the 2020 Game Jam when the show couldn't run. This game forms part of an ongoing series of adventures, with both fantasy and sci-fi taking their place in various parts. Initially the presentation is visual novel style, with the pirate captain looking like he belongs in the Caribbean instead of space. This sets the surreal tone for the rest of the game. After this opening sequence, you are able to travel around the 3D rendered ship using a point-and-click interface. From the bridge you can travel to other areas of the spacecraft, including engineering and your quarters, where the unicorn is stabled. Your crew are varying degrees of helpful, with the engineer blinding you with gobbledygook to explain why they are too busy to assist you. Right-click allows you to cycle your cursor through actions other than the default. The game is fully and commendably voiced and also includes piano music and pertinent sound effects.
Vagabond Starship - Vance Baryn and Will de Renzy-Martin (voice actor)
A group of astronauts have the job of scanning the universe to record the music of the spheres. Their task will take them across both time and space as they try to recover music that has been lost. At the centre of their research is the mysterious phenomenon dubbed the "Chaos Drifter". As you journey far and wide in search of answers, will you find out something about yourself?
Claire Morwood's space adventure has a beautiful hand-crafted aesthetic. The astronaut characters are all hand-sewn puppets and the settings are mostly made up of cardboard models. There is extensive use of origami in the design as well, especially for the strange planets you encounter along the way. Mixed in with some digital elements, this creates an overall pleasing look that I found soothing. The interludes involve moving down a corridor and having brief conversations with fellow astronauts. There is also object interaction, such as using a telescope to locate various stellar entities. The real centrepiece of the game is the music, with the developer describing it as an interactive album. Pieces range from mellow guitar to discordant rock, with a semi-interactive music video playing behind each piece as you download the song for a new planet.
Asterism - Claire Morwood
In our dreams we can learn more about ourselves. Only by examining our internal worlds can we truly understand what drives us. As the hero of a journey through the mystic land of In-Between, you have the chance to explore those inner worlds. What will you find there?
Mind Monsters Games have created an app that is part game and part therapy tool. The gameplay is presented in text only, though there are some fine pieces of minimalist art as backgrounds for the text. You start by finding yourself standing in a blizzard, and you can hear the wind whistle around you. A voice, represented by boxed text in the display, calls out to you explaining something of where you are and what you can do there. Multiple choice options are presented as you progress, including the option to enter your own text when none of those offered fit you. There is no winning or losing as you progress through the game, as it is all about working out what is important to you and what may be stopping you from achieving what you desire. The game was designed by people who have worked as therapists or mental health professionals in the past. In creating it, they have tried to apply their experiences to help people through this unusual method.
Betwixt is available as a free download on various platforms, including Android and iOS. There is a download link on the game website.
Betwixt - Ellie Dee and Hazel Gale
The year is 1927. The place is New York City. You are an eager young man hoping to start out a new career as an intern at the DACVector recording company. The timing of your arrival could not be better for the company. The Vectrola motor has broken, and Hilda Voxpop is all set to record her new album today. If the recording is to go ahead, someone will have to crank manually to maintain the correct speed, and you are just the man for the job.
The DACVector developers have made this game exclusively for the playdate console. This monochrome console comes with a crank on the side, a vital component for this particular game. The story is presented on the console's little screen in the style of an old silent movie, with dialogue displayed on black cards. Once the introduction has been made, the crank pops out of the side and your job begins. A professional singer starts on the first song, and you have to wind the crank at just the right speed. The bottom half of the screen shows the record you are playing, with an indicator of where the needle needs to be. The top half has an animation of the singer, who will also indicate if they think the song is running too fast or slow. Spend too long at the wrong speed and you fail. The game also features a story mode, where players can enjoy the story and music without the hard crank work.
Direct Drive - Chris Mandra
Another successful year, with the convention going from strength to strength. Any fear that it would lose its friendly nature as it grew has been robustly dispelled by the camaraderie of this year's event. I look forward to reporting on AdventureX for many years to come.