Cary’s Favorite Point & Click Adventures

Sam & Max: Season One was recently released for the Nintendo Wii. It’s a point and click adventure based on the madcap underground comic strip of the same name. In honor of its release, I’m going to ramble about my favorite point and click adventures I’ve had fun with!


When I think of point and click adventure games and want to go back to the very first early ones, Zork always sticks out in my mind. Granted, it’s not really a point and click adventure, it’s a text adventure. But I like to think of it as the prototype of what the point and click adventure would become. Back before computers could reproduce recognizable graphics in games, game makers and even amateur programmers would make text adventures that would describe where you were and what to do, and you’d have to type in commands to tell the game what to do and where to go. Granted it was sometimes clunky to know exactly what you could type. When Zork came out, I was a little too young to appreciate it. But I do have respect for it. I’m not sure it was the first text adventure, but it was certainly one of the first commercially successful ones. Another reason why I never really got into text adventures on the PC is because I’m a more visual person. Back then, a little yellow circle eating dots and chasing colored ghosts garnered more of my interest (and still does). Much later on, when point and click adventures like the Myst series were popular, they made a new game called Return to Zork. I played it for a little bit and appreciated its humor and depth, but I was in college at the time and didn’t have the time or money to play it.

Mickey’s Space Adventure
When we got our first computer, it was an Apple][+ (see, I even used the brackets, I’m hardcore). I don’t even think I was in kindergarten yet, so while we had tons of arcade games on the old computer, a lot of the games we had were educational ones for little kids. Because well, at the time, I was a little kid! One of the games like this was Mickey’s Space Adventure. Actually I’m not sure that’s the EXACT name, but close to it. Like Zork, this wasn’t a complete point and click adventure. Mouses hadn’t been invented yet, so you still had to type words. But there were graphics showing Mickey and friends in whatever place you had them at. I think there were also words next to pictures of things you could interact with, and a list of commands you could type, too. My memory’s a little fuzzy so I’m not sure.

In the game, you had to collect crystals from the planets in our solar system to help a stranded alien get back home. Mickey Mouse is the star of the game and you help him travel around the planets, trading and using items to progress in the game and get crystals. I don’t remember much about the game, but two things stick out in my mind. On the alien spaceship, you could open a cabinet and there would be a muffin inside. If you typed, “EAT MUFFIN,” the text said that Mickey took a bite and said, “Hmmm, not bad.” You could do this endlessly. I found it humorous, even as a kid, that Mickey would be willing to eat a mysterious regenerating muffin on an alien ship. The other thing I remember is that on Pluto, the residents of that planet were green versions of, you guessed it, Mickey’s dog Pluto. You had to give them a bone to get their crystal.

Mickey’s Space Adventure was a very important game to me because it was the first game that I actually ‘finished’ to the end all by myself. No help or advice from anyone. I felt a real sense of accomplishment and that’s why today I still support and review good games for kids that they can enjoy.

Humongous Adventures (Putt-Putt, Spy Fox, Freddie Fish, Pajama Sam, etc.)
Speaking of kid friendly point and click adventures, much, much, MUCH later Humongous Entertainment made a series of point and click PC adventures geared for very young kids. By the time these came out, I was WAY too old to play them, but my little brothers were at the right age. They LOVED them, and I enjoyed watching them play and see the same kind of accomplishment they felt like I did when I played that Mickey game so long ago. These games had very high quality and production values as well. Hand drawn animation, good voice acting, adventures that change each time you play, and easy to understand gameplay made these games feel like Nick Jr. cartoons you could interact with. Actually, at one point, I read they were thinking of making cartoons for Nick Jr. featuring characters like Putt-Putt and Pajama Sam, but I guess that fell through. But how could you not like characters like these? They were polite and friendly and always eager to help each other. My favorite was Putt-Putt the car and his dog Pep.

Back when I was writing for The Dallas Morning News and would go to E3 every year, one of the highlights of the trip was meeting with the folks at Humongous. This was back when a lot of educational game companies would be at E3, too. Now, I guess today they don’t think these kinds of trade shows are as marketable to go to because I don’t see them much anymore. But back then, when I would visit Humongous’ booth, they would always invite me to eat lunch with them in their back room and we would have fun relaxing and talking about games and stuff. I really enjoyed it.

The great thing about these Humongous games is that a few of them you can now play on the Wii! They’re a little dated by today’s standards, but they’re only 20 bucks a pop, not bad for a Wii game. So if you own a Wii and have young children in your life, get these games for them!

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders
Normally when I make blogs like this, I save my all-time favorite game for last. But not this time! Back when LucasArts (then known as LucasFilm Games) was making point and click adventures with their own easy to use game engine, these titles caused me to be more of a PC gamer at the time. Which is strange since I mostly prefer console games. While their most popular and well known of these games was Maniac Mansion, my favorite was one that came out right at the same time: Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. These games shared the same game engine, so that you could move your mouse over a list of word commands and also on items on screen to interact and progress the adventure.

In Zak McKracken, it’s the not-too-distant-future and you play as the title character, a tabloid reporter for the National Inquisitor. Through a strange dream and a work assignment to interview a two headed squirrel, you’ll be caught up in a quest to stop aliens from emitting a ‘stupidity ray’ to the Earthlings while guised as The Phone Company. Obviously, you can tell this game has a lot of humor, and it spoofed a lot of “New Age” references as you visited paranormal ‘hot spots’ like Stonehenge, the Pyramids, and the face on Mars. Zak McKracken was doing X-Files way before X-Files was cool.

One of the hooks of these LucasFilm games is they made it hard for you to ‘die’ and have to start the game over. This was the case with Zak’s game, but you still had to be careful. While it was hard to make Zak run out of air in his makeshift spacesuit while you were on Mars, the easiest way to lose the game was to make the two college co-eds vacationing on Mars for Spring Break leave the planet by blasting off in their rocket powered Volkswagen van! You couldn’t complete the game if they were stuck on their LONG trip home! I found that out the hard way!

Another thing that made Zak McKracken special was the extra stuff that came with the game. This was before way before special edition pre-sell bonuses and strategy guides! So, Zak’s game came with a mock issue of the National Inquisitor, the tabloid that Zak writes for in the game. Each of the funny articles had subtle hints on what to do in the game and how to use the different items. Another ‘cool’ thing they had in the game was a passport book with codes that you had to use to get on the airplanes. Of course, this was just a clever way to have some semblance of copyright protection. Back then, a lot of PC games would ask that you would type a certain word from a page in the instruction manual. And the passport book was how they did it in Zak’s game. And the passport book had brown pages, so it was hard to photocopy. Even though it sounds like a pain, as a kid I thought it was cool to use a secret code book for a game.

So there you have it. My favorite point and click adventure is Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. I read that recently, some folks made a fan sequel in Germany called Zak McKracken 2: Between Time and Space. I’d like to try it sometime if it was legal. And since I took German in high school and college, I might be able to understand some of it!

Maniac Mansion
After playing and loving the McKracken game, I went back and tried some of the other LucasFilm point and click adventures. While Maniac Mansion was fun, it somehow didn’t gel with me like Zak McKracken did. I preferred Zak’s globetrotting adventure, even though it was no different than going through all the rooms in the mansion. Later on, when the sequel, Day of the Tentacle was released, I couldn’t play it because by then, my computer was too outdated! I’m still kicking myself to this day for not playing Day of the Tentacle!

Anyone remember the Maniac Mansion TV sitcom that ran on the Family Channel on cable back then? Aside from the main character being named Dr. Fred, it had NOTHING to do with the game. And the show was one of the WORST things I’ve ever seen on TV. And they had the gall to call it ‘the Addams Family for the 90’s.”

Other LucasFilm Games
I played other LucasFilm games around this time, too, but for some reason, they don’t stick out in my mind as much as Zak McKracken did. The Monkey Island games were humorous pirate adventures. And for the longest time, when I heard a rumor about a new Indiana Jones movie, I was sure they would base it off of the Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis game.

While I remember playing Sam & Max Hit the Road, my memories of Sam & Max are stronger in printed form. More specifically, in the LucasFilm newsletter they mailed out to fans at the time. This was back before the Internet, so many companies advertised and gave tips for their new games with newsletters they mailed out. I love all the great things the Internet offers, but I hate it that it killed off all those cool newsletters. I loved getting these newsletters, and LucasFilm Games’ newsletter, called “The Adventurer,” was one of the best. In each issue was a Sam & Max comic where they had an adventure in one of LucasFilm’s popular games. For instance, for the flight simulator game “Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe,” in the comic, Max bit Hitler’s head and said it tasted like chicken! Another game they talked about in The Adventurer but I never played was a PC action game called Night Shift. In the game, you supposedly worked at an action figure toy factory making Star Wars and Zak McKracken toys (another reason why I wanted to try it). But I never got a chance to play it. Anyone know what Night Shift was like?

Another much later LucasArts game I’m still kicking myself for not playing is Grim Fandango. It’s a point and click detective adventure except all the characters are based off the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday. At the time, I couldn’t play it on my computer because the 3-D graphics were too advanced, and I was a poor college student anyway. But I still wish I could’ve played it!

The Adventures of Willy Beamish
I played other point and click adventures besides ones from LucasFilm, though. My favorite non-LucasFilm point and click adventure game at the time was The Adventures of Willy Beamish. In the game, you play as the title character, a nine year old boy who loves video games and lives with his neurotic yuppie parents and older and younger sisters. He also gets advice from the family’s beloved yet dearly departed grandfather who haunts the attic.

Two things were unique about Willy Beamish’s game. One, it was hand drawn and animated and felt like an interactive cartoon. In fact, I think they even advertised that Disney animators worked on it. However, a lot of the humor in the game was a little more adult oriented, kind of like a tamer version of The Simpsons. Willy’s pet frog is named “Horny” for instance. And while Willy is a seemingly normal boy who wants to enter a video game competition by the end of the summer, he encounters some strange adventures on the way, like dealing with a vampire babysitter!

The other unique thing about the game is that since you played as a nine year old boy, you had to play by kids’ rules. In most adventure games, you can do anything you want at any time, but in this one, you had to think like a kid and obey adults’ rules, so no running around late at night and forgetting to do your chores. If you got into too much trouble and filled up the “Trouble Meter,” you’d be sent off to military school and the game would end. Luckily this gimmick wasn’t too annoying and you could save your game at any time if you messed up.

Like Zork, Myst really isn’t one of my favorites, but I have to give it a mention here because it’s so popular and well-known. When I first played Myst, I was amazed by it, but I soon realized that it was nothing more than a slide show and then I lost interest. But one thing that Myst succeeded in was creating a mood. You were all alone on a mysterious island and a lot was left to the imagination. It sometimes created a scary mood, and that’s pretty good for an early CD-ROM game.

Another reason why I have to mention Myst is my dad LOVES the Myst series of games. He’s played and beaten them all, and every time I take him to E3 or PAX, he asks if we can visit the booth of who makes Myst games to see what they’re doing next. For a while, we could do that, but lately I don’t think anyone is making Myst games anymore, much to my dad’s disappointment. Even though I don’t like Myst games, I have to respect them because my dad likes them. And I love my dad a lot and respect his decisions, so there must be something good about the Myst games, right?

Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures
The next couple of games on my list aren’t really point and click adventures, but they do share many similarities. Pac-Man 2, or Hello Pac-Man in Japan was a 16-bit Genesis and SNES game starring Pac-Man. But this wasn’t a maze game. It was also like an interactive cartoon. You couldn’t control Pac-Man directly, but you could direct his attention left and right, and you could shoot a slingshot to get Pac-Man’s attention to look and pick up various items. If Pac ran into the ghosts, you could shoot a power pellet with the slingshot and Pac-Man would turn into Super Pac-Man and eat the ghosts. It’s not the best Pac-Man game in the world, but it was VERY creative at the time, and there are not very many creative Pac-Man games out there!

There were a few action sequences involving mine carts and hang gliders, but most of what you did was walk around Pac-Land, helping people and collecting items to progress. I also loved Pac-Man’s personality in the game. As expected, he was obsessed with food. He’d get all excited if he saw apples from a tree or a hot dog stand, and became mesmerized when walking around a fast food billboard! Pac-Man was also very moody in this game, and you had to keep him happy (and sometimes angry) to bypass certain obstacles. So you had to keep him safe from harm with the slingshot mostly. If Pac-Man 2 ever made it to the Wii Virtual Console, I would download it instantly just to show little brothers and friends who haven’t seen that game yet!

Here’s another game that’s not really a point and click adventure, but has elements of that genre. It’s really a 3-D platformer, but the heavy use of collecting items to use somewhere else makes much of the game seem like a point and click adventure with the mobility of a platformer. In fact, in my opinion, one of the levels (the Milkman one), is a spoof of point and click adventures period. And the last level probably seems so hard because most of the game prior had more point and click elements while the last level is all precise timed platform jumps! At any rate, if you haven’t played Psychonauts yet, you really need to. You can even download the full game on the Xbox 360. I named it my Game of the Year for, um…2005 I think. I dunno, I’m getting old!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Who would’ve ever thought I would like a game about being a boring old lawyer! But this game is anything but boring! Even though point and click is replaced by stylus tapping on the DS, this game still plays like a point and click adventure. The Phoenix Wright games do have a lot more reading, it’s almost like an interactive manga comic. But you still use items and clues to progress like a game in the adventure genre. But what really makes the games are the memorable characters and engaging story. Which is surprising because Capcom usually can’t write their way out of a paper bag (look at the Street Fighter and Mega Man X storylines for proof of that). At any rate, the Phoenix Wright games are one of my favorite series of games on the DS. And if you have a DS and haven’t played these games yet, GET THEM!

Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People
This point and click episodic series for PC and WiiWare is made by TellTale games, the same folks who do the Sam & Max PC games. Reviewers said you wouldn’t get any of the jokes if you don’t watch the Homestar Runner Web cartoon it’s based on. But I don’t watch it and I understood all the funny gags and humor just fine! The humor and themes are a bit raunchier than SpongeBob, but tamer than The Simpsons, so I’d let most any kid play these even though it’s rated T for Teen.

At first, the game’s goals didn’t make much sense to me until I started to try and think through the game like how Strong Bad would. Kind of like how thinking like a kid would help you get around Willy Beamish’s world. Strong Bad is kind of a loveable bad guy, so at first I was stumped on how to win the race in the first episode. Until I realized that Strong Bad would probably cheat, so my next goal in the game was to figure out how I could cheat in the race to win!

Even though the Strong Bad games are REALLY fun, I probably won’t download any more after the first. While the episodes are only ten bucks a pop, it does add up. I’d like to see them put all the episodes on one Wii disc when they’re done, kind of like how they’re doing the Sam & Max Wii game.

Sam & Max Season One (Wii)
I don’t have this game yet, but I’m hoping to get it soon! And you should get it, too! It’s only 30 bucks, which is a great price for a new Wii game (granted the game’s been out on PC for a while). But if it’s half as good as the Strong Bad game, I think I’ll really like it anyway.  I imagine it might not be quite as family friendly since some of Sam & Max’s humor is a bit off color, though.

I really can’t wait for TellTale’s next project. They’re going to make a point and click adventure game based on Wallace and Gromit! That right there looks to be right up my alley, and it may just make me play games on my PC again!

Do you like point and click adventure games? Which ones are YOUR favorites? –Cary

9 Responses to “Cary’s Favorite Point & Click Adventures”

  1. i r old … my Apple ][+ was my college computer … but I loved Castle Wolfenstein back in ~’80

    In terms of adventures, I played Myst and Journeyman Project back on the Mac in early 90’s, but it has never been my genre of choice. I avoided most of them until recently.

    – I love Sam & Max Season 1 and 2 for the PC …. absolutely wonderful stuff!
    – Other PC games such as Keepsake and Safecracker and a myriad other Adventure Company things have been fun, but nothing I will replay.
    – Hotel Dusk for the DS … absolutely wonderful.

  2. Hey, my dad’s older than that. His first computer in college was a slide rule! (Ooohh, he’s gonna KILL me if he reads this)

    I need to try that Hotel Dusk game.

    And Mike, YOU need to try the Phoenix Wright games! –Cary

  3. I have played the Phoenix Wright games, they are very good but I am not totally into them the same way as Hotel Dusk.

  4. i always loved the Gabriel Knight games, or broken sword. It saddens me that people no longer seem to make these games when we all know they would likely do very well given todays stop and go lifestyle.

  5. You failed to mention Grim Fandango, which, along with the lack of the just-noted Gabriel Knight games means you are still lacking some fundamental adventure gaming experiences. I still recall having real emotional reactions to parts of the first Gabriel Knight game.

    Psychonauts, a great game I agree, really does not belong in this list. It’s no more of an adventure game than the Tomb Raider game are.

    My computer gaming started with Zork and Adventure on Unix systems in college. I never really got into the arcade side of gaming, or arcades in general. I never liked the way those places rapidly consumed money. I was out of gaming (beyond PnP and board) until nearly 2000 when I put together a PC. It was then that I got back into the newer adventure games like Myst, although these days I put much more time into RPGs.

  6. I actually first encountered Broken Sword on the GBA version … really nice games!

  7. croaker, I did mention Grim Fandango in this paragraph:

    “Another much later LucasArts game I’m still kicking myself for not playing is Grim Fandango. It’s a point and click detective adventure except all the characters are based off the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday. At the time, I couldn’t play it on my computer because the 3-D graphics were too advanced, and I was a poor college student anyway. But I still wish I could’ve played it!”

  8. Cary wrote “I did mention Grim Fandango”

    Sorry. My bad. I must have skimmed over that bit.

    Strictly speaking, though, Grim Fandango isn’t a point-and-click adventure. It uses keyboard controls for movement, inventory, and even environment object interaction. This aspect was the main complaint levelled against the game, as you couldn’t, for example, do something with an object on a desk, unless Manny was moved adjacent to the desk and placed so that his head was focused on that object. So, it had its own version of the pixel hunt.

    Regardless, the story it tells is well worth the difficulties in the interface.

  9. I loved loved loved, Obsidian!
    Also Shivers, 7th guest, Bad mojo and to a lesser extent Phantasmagoria, lighthouse and daedalus encounter

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