As a rather precocious child, I had taught myself to read before I even started school. It was therefore the decision of the small little village school I attended all those years ago, to pop me on the computer and let me play a few simple, educational games (or whatever the teachers could find) and free reign of the school library while the other children learnt the alphabet.
Between playing Granny’s Garden, an odd Tudor themed game, and reading ‘choose your own adventure’ books, I soon became quite fascinated with the idea of an adventure where you were the decision maker. A vivid imagination always helps, especially when I got my hands on my first text only adventure in the very early ‘90’s.
‘Humbug!’, by Graham Cluley, kept me occupied for the longest time. I didn’t have much skill for things like the platformer games that had started to emerge on consoles (I tried…if you have ever seen my try on my live streams you will understand!). By the mid ‘90’s, the point and click adventure had become a fully established staple of my gaming library and repertoire. A new world opened up to me when we got our first home computer with a floppy disk drive and a stack of cover games, some old and some new. Maniac Mansion, Myst and other increasingly sophisticated games that had not just choice and interactivity, but improving graphics and sound. With the advent of the CD Rom, some of the protagonists began to have spoken soundtracks and starred in stunning cut scenes. Alongside simulation games, point and click and text games remain to this day, my favourite genre.
With all that nostalgia in mind, I was extremely excited to be offered the opportunity to review Bitmap Books newest fare, The Art of Point and Click Adventure Games. What you first notice when your parcel arrives is the care that has been taken just to package the thing. It has its corners protected with little plastic covers and is carefully and lovingly wrapped in special spongy foam and cardboard. Its a good job too as this really is a thing of beauty before you even delve inside. Its a top quality hardback with sliver foil lettering to the front and back, and a handy ribbon bookmark. Enclosed in my version was a set of high quality artwork postcards which depict scenes from some of the games discussed in the book. The pages themselves are of a good quality, perfect for many hours of thumbing through and robust enough for when my 4 year old decided that it was the most fascinating book he had seen in a while. The collectors version, which was a limited, pre-order only version, is simply exquisite, with a box that recreates the aesthetic of an MS-DOS boxed game, including a code wheel (remember those?) and other goodies. This, as you would expect, sold out very quickly.
I’ve always loved @bitmap_books products, but they’ve really outdone themselves with “The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games”. Featuring the likes of @TimOfLegend, @DavidBFox, @grumpygamer, @CharlesCecil, @allowe and so many more, this is a must purchase for adventure fans pic.twitter.com/mCuxysXGBv
— Lord Arse! (@Lord_Arse) 17 September 2018
The book is an absolute cornucopia of information, colour, and vivid page spreads of scenes that I had forgotten about. The book takes you on a chronological journey where you can see games listed by year. There is also a handy contents page that allows you to explore by interview and feature as well as an index for you to look up a specific game. As you turn each page, you are treated to clear and very well captured scenes from games such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, Kings Quest, Simon the Sorcerer and modern classics such as Thimbleweed Park and The Walking Dead. Beginning in 1984 and concluding in 2017, the book really is a journey of reminiscence and, for my part, a marker for (just over) every year of my life and the computing advances that ran alongside each one. The visual saturation in the book means that you can see the development in the tools and graphics capability with a turn of the page, even if you have a layman understanding of the intricacies behind their development. My son commented that the early pages ‘looked like pixels or Minecraft pictures’ and that the later pages ‘looked like photos from a camera’ which I thought was rather sweet. The fact that it is as accessible and a source of fascination for a 4 year old as well as a 33 year old, is testament to the way in which the book has been produced.
Intermittent interviews with top industry players such as Ron Gilbert, Brian Moriarty, Josh Mandek and Natalia Figueroa add a layer of interest for those who are interested in the historic value of the genre and the way in which the games were developed and new coding frameworks were created. The structure of the book also means that you are able to ‘dip in and out’ – maybe a particular interview or game is of interest to one person and not another; this book is arranged with that eventuality in mind.
As well as a great retro gaming retrospective, the book is also of interest to indie developers who may be interested in developing games in this genre. With the very sad demise of Telltale Games in the past few days, the genre is back in the limelight and this book is an excellent resource in terms of inspiration, history, analysis of development tools, and the journey to creating a point and click title. I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes from the interviewees and some of the stories behind the games, their concept, or their creation. Original concept drawings can be found dotted in the pages as well as stunning pixel art creations of the interviewees themselves created by the talented Craig Stevenson (I NEED to grab permission to sew some of them as they would look great!).
I cannot praise this book enough. I had heard wonderful things about Bitmap Books in the past, and what a treat that this first book of theirs that I have reviewed was one that gave me such delightful hours of nostalgia, happiness and joy. I’ve had to seek out many of the games to have a go; again or just for the first time. The book leaves you with a longing to delve back in the archives and play some of these mighty classics. A triumph by all of the contributors and Bitmap Books themselves.
You can purchase your own copy here from 24th September 2018 for the very reasonable price of £29.99. Tracked delivery within the UK is free and globally for a postage charge.
With many thanks to Bitmap Books.
Photography by Chris Daw and used with kind permission.