Verbs and Adventure Games

Jan 11, 2020

I was chatting with a friend the other day and the conversation turned to modern point-and-click adventure games and there was much lamenting on how the UI (the way you interact with the game) hasn't changed that much.

I'll be the first to admit I don't play a lot of adventure games these days. It's an occupational hazard. I usually rage quit or eye-roll quit within 20 minutes. I spend too much time analyzing puzzle structure.

While I love making adventure games, I love playing RPGs (I use this term loosely). If I have free time I'll go slaughter enemies in some dungeon or log onto Wow Classic and... go slaughter enemies in some dungeon.

I do quickly look at new adventure games but as soon as I realize they aren't doing anything new or interesting I'll bounce off. Occupational hazard.

Thimbleweed Park used the maniac mansion/monkey island style verb interface mostly because of nostalgia reasons (see Kickstarter), but I'd never use that for a new game. It's a very functional interface and there is a lot I like about it, but it looks old and dated and a simple screenshot can turn off a lot of people. It's a problem we had with Thimbleweed Park. I don't regret using it, it was there for a purpose and it served that purpose brilliantly.

It seems like most new point-and-click games op for the "use verb" interface. Maybe you have "Look" and "Pick-up", but after that everything can be done with just a "Use" verb. "Push?" "Pull?" just use "Use". It's probably better called the "Poke" verb. Just poke at everything and see what it does.

Much of the puzzle solving then falls to what is in your inventory. How do I "use" this thing I'm carrying with something in the world? Now the game becomes an exercise in dragging everything in your inventory to everything on a screen to see if it does anything. The only friction is how tedious that is. The "verbs" interface didn't make this any better, so I'm not trying to defend it with regard to using everything with everything in desperate frustration.

So I turn to my esteemed readers and ask the following:

Name a point-and-click adventure game that has come out in the last few years and had a novel and interesting way to interact with the world, your inventory and solve puzzles. Something that really felt new and fresh. Something that made you say "Yeah, that's the way I wish all adventure games worked."

I have a small list of my own, but I'm curious what you've found.

Cecil Jan 11, 2020
I'm not sure there is one. Not in the sense of old school point&click adventure games.

I mean, I kinda enjoyed Unavowed. But that game didn't really have puzzles, so I'm not sure that it counts. It was mainly just about clicking the next pixel in some of the available scenes, that made the game progress.

But, if I expand the view of adventure games a bit, then I think that Firewatch is the best example. That game really showed that the game should have UI that fits the scenario, rather then established view of what fits the genre. Firewatch's use of an interface consisting of a radio, map and compass was absolutely lovely, and was such a great match of the scenario for the protagonist. In the end, they didn't make us of it as much as they could have (like making more routes optional, having different objectives available at the same time, etc), and they said as much themselves. But as an example of a interface suited for a modern game, it was great.

But, if have to only go to point&click adventure games, I would look at Broken Age. It's main flaw was that it didn't have look/interact on all hotspots as default. Which I presume was because of smartphone/tablet considerations. But other then that, I think that look/interact is really the only alternatives you need to have on objects on modern adventure games.

Robert Jan 12, 2020
I remember thinking the note taking mechanism from the first few Blackwell games was clever. Combine various written notes you've taken to make logical connections.

AK Jan 12, 2020
Disco Elysium felt new and fresh to me.

Rohan Smith Jan 12, 2020
It probably didn't quite count as a point'n'click but I thought the most interesting puzzle/adventure game in the last few years is Return of the Obra Dinn. It is more purely investigative than a traditional adventure game, but it was scratched the same itch and was a lot of fun.

Patricio Jan 12, 2020
I am an almost exclusive adventure player (removing the adventures, I only enjoy some soccer games). To be honest, I have not seen anything especially novel and I am worried about this obsession with the novelty. The best adventure since Monkey Island II was Thimbleweed Park, and the next one will be any other that perfectly executes the rules of the genre, not one that subverts them. Not counting TP (which is extraordinary) The last acceptable adventure I've played was Technobabylon.

Steve Brown Jan 12, 2020
There are really only two franchises I've played since TWP that haven't felt like a step backwards:  Whispers of a Machine and the Blackwell games.  Thing is, I don't remember what the interfaces were like (aside from some unique bits).  But I think that's a good sign, since it means I must not have had any complaints about them.

Rado Jan 12, 2020
Loom (happy 30th)

Stemaj Jan 12, 2020
With Kathy Rain I finally had the feeling again that the story is great and no stupid puzzle is going to spoil my mood.

Octavi Jan 12, 2020
Limbo and Inside felt a lot like classic adventure games to me. More linear, perhaps, but the same concept: a series of rooms that follow a narrative arc, and you need to solve puzzles to access the next story beat. All with this physical interaction of jumping, hiding, and pushing and pulling objects. They even had plenty of Sierra style gruesome deaths!

Martijn Jan 12, 2020
I liked the recordings in Tacoma. Although they were mainly used for story, they also were used for some puzzles. I think there's a lot more you can do with that concept.

There's also this game The Low Road, which is mainly a classic point-and-click adventure (and not a great one), but there's one part where you have to make a phone call where you get answered questions you have to figure out the answer to with information in an unsorted folder on your screen. There is a time limit. It's a bit similar to what Papers, Please does.

Dirk Krause Jan 12, 2020

efthimios Jan 12, 2020
i really liked the interaction on "truberbrook". i also liked "guard duty" because dialogues went fast and didn't have to read for hours.

dusoft Jan 12, 2020
The SIlent Age (due to innovative time travel logics and scene switching)

dusoft Jan 12, 2020
Also Sunless Sea, but that got tiring fast as you had to manage survival of the ship all the time and it was hard. But it could be defined as RPG as well.

Zak Phoenix McKracken Jan 12, 2020
Well, I state that the best interface is still the classic verb interface. VERB + NOUN = ACTION or, in a more "complicated" form, VERB + NOUN + NOUN = ACTION.
it's easy.
Anyway, one of the latest adventure games I liked is Machinarium. The interface is object on object, but even the configuration of the main character (The robot) is important. And there are mostly funny and clever puzzles.

Ulmo Jan 12, 2020
I think that the Amanita games do a very good job with the UI. It's minimalistic, you basically just click on things to interact. Simple and works fine, stays out of your way. Their most recent game Pilgrims also brings something new with the 'cards' that you play, among other things to switch between characters.

Mareek Jan 12, 2020
I think VR games have a lot of potential in that regard. I just finished Red Matter and a lot of puzzle that would be tedious in a classic point'n'click felt natural. Other puzzle that involved looking at an object from every angle or handling objects carefully would have been impossible in a non VR game without creating a mini game just for this puzzle.

Foo Jan 12, 2020
I'm just testing the commenting interface. When I'm asked "what is two + one", it turns out "three" is not accepted as an answer.

Frenzie Jan 12, 2020
Oxenfree and Life is Strange. They felt clever and natural.

Besides that there are some games that are interesting more than anything, like Tacoma. I've also heard good things about Return of the Obra Dinn but I haven't checked it out yet.

The new Tomb Raider games also still have some good puzzles in the "optional" challenge tombs. Basically you don't have much inventory there, but you just deal with a self-contained set of objects in the world that you rearrange to some goal. It appeals to me in a similar way. (This isn't fundamentally different from classic Tomb Raider, of course.)

Eric Francois Jan 12, 2020
I cannot think of a single point and click adventure game that does it much differently than it has always been done. Obviously the interface that allowed me to be most creative was Bob Bates' Thaumistry—but I wouldn't exactly call that new ... ;-)
Still I wish more adventure games would go back to text parsers.

Delores (not that one) Jan 12, 2020
I don't know if I agree that the lack in UI change is a bad thing. Why does something good, something that works, need to change? Chess has been the same for a long time, but that doesn't make it any worse. It would be silly (to me anyway) to suggest that chess needs to change because you're still gripping the pieces with your hands just like you did a century ago. The same is, in essence, true for adventure games.

I think the focus on the specifics of UI mechanics is misplaced anyway. Classic adventures games like Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones III, Monkey Island etc. had this interface for a reason: it was a straightforward way of mapping what happened in-universe to ex-universe actions that the player could take. You wanted Guybrush to open a cupboard and pick up a box of cornflakes? The UI allowed you to tell him to do precisely that. The game would have been considerably less rich if all interactions had been reduced to "use", or "poke at": much more tedious, too, since *now* all you'd be doing was clicking "poke at" until something fit.

With the classic verb system playing the game felt closer to telling a story. IMO this made those games more immersive, more relatable, and more fun. You could get into them more, you would feel for the characters more; you'd suspend disbelief for a while and interact with the in-game world, rather than being  a person in a chair in front of a computer moving a computer mouse or hitting keys on a computer keyboard.

What I found vexing - frustrating, even - in classic adventure games wasn't so much the UI but rather the difficulty. Adventure games are wonderful - until you get stuck, then they suck. It's like reading a book, and coming to a page that, no matter how you try, you find yourself unable to turn, so you can't see how the story continues. That's no fun.

Quite a few classic games had moments like that. Sometimes these were due to untranslatable puns (like the "red herring" in Monkey Island, or the "monkey wrench" in Monkey Island II), sometimes they were just due to the game requiring a very particular and non-obvious solution to a puzzle that the player might well be unable to come up with. Balancing the difficulty of an adventure game so it's neither all-obvious nor too hard is tough, but it's not impossible.

What I think I'm trying to say, in any case, is that the "old" verb-oriented UI isn't bad, and a new game isn't made better solely by replacing it with a generic "poke at" or so. Whether a game is enjoyable or not is due to factors that are largely unrelated to its UI. (I say largely because a poorly-implemented UI that impedes gameplay will still make a game stink, of course.)

I thought Thimbleweed Park was a great game, FWIW: carefully modernized, with a lot of "lessons learned" implemented, while staying true to the spirit of the classics instead of trying to reinvent adventure games as something entirely *new*.

(I don't mind games doing *that* either BTW. But quite a few titles called adventure games these days aren't that in my book, anymore than a newly-created board game could reasonably be called "chess".)

Dave Jan 12, 2020
I played TP with verbs on and voice acting off. Call me old fashioned but i gave all the options a go and still felt that was the best way to play for me.

Thomas Jan 12, 2020
The last innovation i felt in an adventure game was in the "Book of unwritten tales". Every Hotspot, not neccesary for the solution of a puzzle, vanished after you intereacted twice with it. This minimized the phase of trial and error. I really liked the flow of BouT Part one

Groboclown Jan 12, 2020
I thought that the newish Sherlock Holmes (Crimes and Punishment) had an interesting take, especially with the making conclusions tree, along with tge multiple solutions option.

Frenzie Jan 12, 2020
> Every Hotspot, not necessary for the solution of a puzzle, vanished after you interacted twice with it. This minimized the phase of trial and error.

I prefer the way this works in Phoenix Wright, where the hotspot itself doesn't disappear but it shows you a checkmark on hover so you know you've been there. That way you aren't arbitrarily locked out of reading the text again. This could easily be applied to a MM/MI/TWP-like interface as well.

Guran Jan 12, 2020
West of Loathing was innovative I think! Possible interactions (including any items) automatically shows up when the character is close to the hotspot. Conversations are quick and fun!

Arthur Jan 12, 2020
On the front of the level of your basic, fundamental interactions with the game, I am personally drawing a blank. I think the graphical adventure field has failed to come up with an interaction scheme which simultaneously solves two problems:

- Being vulnerable to repetitive, brute force puzzle solutions, which means you end up getting to advance in the game without understanding *why* what you did was the right thing to do.

- Being resistant to brute-force attacks, at the cost of potentially blocking progress even if the player has worked out the right thing to do because they didn't guess on the right way to express that.

The former issue is what happens with the "just reduce everything to use" system, and which as you point out the verb systems tend to be similarly vulnerable to. The latter issue is the Sierra Syndrome, and is a problem inherited from text adventures, where because you are using a text parser you are less vulnerable to brute force attack, but unless the text parser is very clever it might not recognise a perfectly valid puzzle solution just because the user phrased it in a way the designers didn't expect.

It then comes down to a matter of gatekeeping progress, and how important you consider that to be. There's an argument that given a choice between blocking someone from progressing in a game and allowing them to get progress despite not having "earned" it through puzzling things out, it's better to just allow them to progress - then at least they get to see more of the content and the story and aren't turned back by a bottleneck. I'd say that's particularly true for adventure games putting a very strong emphasis on storytelling and character decision-making as opposed to puzzles for puzzles's sake.

I have seen more promising game mechanics arise away from the immediate sphere of the character interacting with the environment, and more in the realm of what to do with the information they get from the environment.  The Sinking City, whilst it is largely not an adventure game, had an interesting mechanic in here which could very easily be applied to adventure games. As you investigated a case, you'd gather clues about it, and from those clues derive information about what is going on. Then you had a screen where you could take the facts you have uncovered and combine them in different ways to come to different conclusions about what is going on and what you should do about it.

This was a neat way of both flagging what the potential major decision branches were, and also gatekeepimg them (you aren't told a particular option is a viable way to end a case if your character has not encountered the information necessary to come to that conclusion).

But what I thought was really interesting, and the game could perhaps have done more with, is that the process also flagged what you/your character consider to be the important factors in making a decision.. Often (perhaps always, it's been a while since I played) there was no one optimum conclusion to an investigation which gave equal weight to all the facts - instead, arriving at a conclusion required you to decide that some particular factors had more weight than others. Then, when you as the player enact that course of action which led you to that conclusion, you're doubling down on that decision. That strikes me as a really nice storytelling tool.

Xabaras Jan 12, 2020
Deponia has a nice system of using inventory items with the game world. The game itself was an okay adventure, but its inventory system albeit very traditional was upgraded in a way that made interaction very easy and convenient and quick. Also, space bar highlighted all the objects on the screen so no pixel hunting or missing a vital object. That's when I went "Why hasn't this been done before!". I felt SO relaxed while playing. Every time I got stuck I knew I didn't miss any objects. I am ashamed to admit I did try-everything-with-everything a couple of times but because of easy inventory access that was a breeze.

Barbera Jan 12, 2020
In Thimbleweed Park you can hold down the tab key and see all the objects.  At first I felt this was going to ruin the game, but it didn't.

Sheshbazzar Jan 12, 2020
Broken Sword, 1996.

Christian Jan 12, 2020
When I was young and adventures were still big, the interface was irrelevant: The fascination was with seeing great graphics and animations and the world that was built in the game. It really did not matter whether I was able to play it or had to look up things in walkthroughs.
It was important to experience a great world, with many hidden details and layers of stuff to find out. Like in TP.

TP was absolutely great, but what would also be cool would be an adventure like Maniac Mansion, Zak or Indy 3 again: One where you can get stuck and where there are lots of different ways of solving it. Lots of redundancy, dead ends and stuff to play with. Dead ends can be very funny and interessting: What exactly happens later if you let the edsel go to space early? What happens if you kill the plant?
A great adventure should present me an interessting world with many twists and possibilities.

In the TP blog it was written that the elevator was very complicated and should have been simplified or how difficult the bus in Zak was.
Elsewhere you wrote that it was a bad idea to have so many characters for Maniac Mansion and that you almost could not complete it.
TP might have had more people walking around the town, didn't it?
But these things are the best parts! Playing with that world, with characters, manipulating them, etc.

Have you played Hitman and Hitman 2? For me this is in some way even a new form of adventure game (the interface is of course more the one of a 3D shooter...)
This game has an incredible amount of replayability. It has a few adventure like elements with inventory and manipulating things, but it also has >200 NPC in each world all walking around, interacting, being manipulated.
It's so great to set something off, place an object, let chain reactions emerge, or follow the many challenges and prepared actions.
If you miss ceratain events or kill certain people, some solutions become unavailable until you restart.

The game has ton of alternate paths and you should replay each level many many times, always trying something new, but this way uncovering more story, more characters, more hidden elements.

Maybe at one point we could have an adventure with maybe ultra low production value (like Manian mansion would be today), but endless alternative solutions and hidden puzzles, easter eggs, characters with their own agenda and scenes which can fail, e.g. missing Weird Ed's parcel.

Sandmage Jan 12, 2020
When I think of adventure games that I really got into the last years, besides TWP, I have to think of Lorelai and its predecessor The Cat Lady. The limitation of only walking left and right removes one thing from adventure games that I wish I would like. The feeling of having missed something. And it's playable with the keyboard while keeping the concept of verbs.

Estranged Jan 12, 2020
To add to what Octavi Navarro said, Little Nightmares also had interesting interactions with the world. But that's not new. Back in the 90s there was the emerging genre of the action-adventure, represented by games like Another World, Little Big Adventure, etc. What Limbo and INSIDE do is an echo of that largely unexplored area.

Regarding RPGs, I really liked Disco Elyisium's gameplay and narrative and the lack of murdering enemies in a dungeon in this game.

Harald Jan 13, 2020
The Portal gun, though obviously that doesn't work as a generalised interface. For more traditional I'm enjoying Lamplight City. It only uses context sensitive actions, included the few times you use items. It also uses hand movements with the mouse a few times.

Daniel Jan 13, 2020
I think it ist more the Story and the atmosphere that makes an adventure great. In SVGA 3D Generation I liked The longest Journey aber Syberia. However, best Interface for me was in Return to Zork.

DieSkaarj Jan 13, 2020
I can't. Because it all plays like a context animation mapped to a button press. Which turns the game into a kinetic novel and not an adventure where exploration is the key to resolution. And a lot of the fun in adventure games is exploring what I can do.

On further thought Bill Tillers' A Vampyre Story was innovative because it let you encapsulate ideas as inventory objects. And to a lesser extent Wadjet Eyes' The Blackwell series of that let you create dialogue options from components was neat too. Neither of these games are recent however.

There's a new AGI based game called The Crimson Diamond that looks really intuitive though. It makes me think that it's kind of a shame that no one has created a voice interface for those old games, that you could use with something like Alexa; ScummDM-- The Scumm Dictaphone Machine. It'd be the best party game yet!

Ping Jan 13, 2020
Wow, this is exactly what I was thinking for sometimes now.
I can't find a new game with real new interface but the crimson diamond has a text parser, which isn't a perfect solution nor is it a new UI, but I liked to have a game with no dead ends that use this method and was light on inventory.
The best system I can think of was the magic spell in loom which replaced both verbs and inventory and I really liked it but it is still an old game and spells required memorization.
I was trying to make my on ideal UI (just for the fun of it) but the best I got was to replace the verb system with a text parser that only serves for verbs but you can click on anything else to interact with it. Now days we can make better text parser but I think it is best to limit it to where it is needed - to give you the ability to use deferent operations without the need of 100 of inventory objects and the challenge of figuring out what to do and not just what to use.
I really hope for more modern and refreshing system because I am getting tried of use.

Nor Treblig Jan 13, 2020
If you want something hardcore like MM check out 'The Castle':

Sushi Jan 13, 2020
The most innovative one is
It started after a long and inconclusive discussion on the forum about how many verbs for "use" you should have in the verb grid... or on a coin interface.

Sushi Jan 13, 2020

sclpls Jan 13, 2020
I liked Mutazione quite a bit. It does the modern adventure thing of really stripping away a lot of things. You basically just talk to people, observe things, and pick up seeds for a gardening mini-game. You could imagine a more complex version of the gardening mini-game, where there are all these rules for how you plant things (this plant likes to be next to x, but hates being to the right of y, etc.) but really who needs all that? As a super simple puzzle, it ends up just being a nice exercise in self-expression for the player, and meanwhile you get to just soak in the nice world, characters, and writing. I could think of a lot worse games for future adventure games to mimic.

Liakos Jan 13, 2020
Resonance had a long-term / short-term memory system. It was unique and intuitive. I felt that it had a lot of potential but unfortunately no other game has done something similar (as far as I know).

JEffry Houser Jan 13, 2020
I didn't see anyone mention Cognition yet.  It was a standard point and click, but primarily you are using physic powers to interact with the environment to learn things; which makes it slightly different than the click every inventory item on every hotspot.  I loved the way they put that mechanic together.

Sushi Jan 13, 2020
Letters - a written adventure (by 5am games) also has a very innovative interface.  It isn't out yet, but you can play a demo.

Someone Jan 13, 2020
Beside the titles mentioned above I would add the remakes of the Magnetic Scrolls adventures, for example Jinxter:
They were text adventures, but with the new interface they feel (and behave) like point and click adventures. The interesting thing is, that I (as a player) still have more possibilities and more freedom compared to the old "look/pick up/use" point and click interface. And I really like that. The old Legend text adventure games used a similar approach but they are not that intuitive like the new Magnetic Scrolls interface (IMHO).

Aaron Jan 13, 2020
Not exactly point and click, but I have to mention Outer Wilds.  The only "verb" you really have in that game is to learn... everything else is baked into the way the world works and how you navigate through it.  For a game with no inventory and very little in the way of affecting the game world, it captured the FEELING of a great adventure game puzzle, over and over again, in what felt like an entirely novel way.

Someone already mentioned Return of the Obra Dinn, which worked in a similar space for me.

Evan Jan 13, 2020
Honestly,  I think MI3 did a pretty OK job with their UI.  Opening the chest to look at your items was a bit clunky but being able to just use a few simple, different clicks with the mouse to do most anything was great.

Lucas Jan 13, 2020
Monkey Island 3 has a nice way of doing it, holding the click presents a coin and user chooses what to do, hand, mouth, eyes. It keeps the last selected as default.

DieSkaarj Jan 13, 2020
@ping From a game design perspective my major problem with having a single interact button is that it's too intuitive. The player blunders through a succession of events not because they formulated a solution to the puzzles but because the game told them to Press Here (cue song and dance.) And because of this interactivity games are just playing themselves.

Imagine in MI1 when you're trying to get the note of credit from the shopkeeper that instead of watching the combination, you just had to press Action after you've got rid of the shopkeeper.  It seems trivial but removing that creates a far less engaging scene. Guybrush knows what the combination is whereas you technically don't. I'm going to stop here before I write an essay on Player Agency.

Loom was like a big inventory [vocabulary?] puzzle that you could similarly just try every new spell on every new problem. I think that its composition was too concise as each room or area held a spell to proceed. But that's a different discussion entirely.

The text parser was/is pedantic at times but it is expressive. SCUMM in at least its first iteration was a gui of the text parser. Where the verbosity added in describing the would from the main characters perspective; EAT Chuck The Plant? With a one button context action I wouldn't know why that's not a good idea.

I really can't think of any recent games that let the characters live outside of a per-determined context action or encourage the player to think outside of an interact key. But I'm heckuva happy that there's such a strong revival for the old ways.

Dipper Jan 13, 2020
Thinking of it, not all has been bad during the last couple of years. Broken Age, The Inner World, Kelvin and the Infamous Machine, Bertram Fiddle and Darkside Detective were some of the genre titles I enjoyed, had good stories and in parts a good sense of humour. To me though, Thimbleweed was just a notch better and has easily entered my all time top five - not despite its UI looking "old" and "dated" but because of it. Gotta admit here tho, I'm a 79er, German, played MI aged 11, it has been my favourite game since then.

Uriel Jan 14, 2020
The verb interface does the job very well. It dilutes the 'poke' at everything mechanic, while creating the illusion that the possibilities are endless. Innovation for the sake of it is the downfall of most contemporary adventure games in my opinion. I hope that if Ron creates an adventure game again he entertains the idea of having a classic/new UI option... just follow the toilet paper roll experiment, it worked like a charm!

Ben Jan 14, 2020
I've always found indirect control games a bit interesting - such as when you are influencing a character to take actions instead of directly making them yourself. The Last Guardian did this well with the large creature you directed.
Similar but not the same, there was an indie game called Mushroom 11 that had a control style I had never seen before - You deleted part of a blob and it grew in the other direction, and that is how you went through all the puzzles. Brilliantly clever and innovative in a way I haven't seen much in the game world.
And I second the Baba Is You comment above. Also innovative controls.
None of those are point-and-clicks, but I could see those controls being incorporated into a point-and-click.

Bobby Jan 14, 2020
Hi Ron!

I thought the radio in Oxenfree was pretty cool! You tune to different frequencies near objects and it causes them to engage with the player. Doors open, portals rip open in spacetime, etc.

I also like how Life Is Strange does it. Instead of the verb wheel you just walk up to objects and they highlight, and the appropriate action happens when you click. Your character looks at something, or picks it up, or whatever the appropriate action might be. It's a simplified UI but it makes for really smooth gameplay.

They didn't do anything new but I also think Deponia does a great job of modernizing the adventure game, check it out if you haven't already!

Scott Jan 14, 2020
I have been designing a small adventure game and I settled on using shortcut keys (or buttons for a console port) to represent/select a part of the body before clicking on an item, A for brain, W for eyes, D for mouth and C for pick up/kick (natural hand placement for FPS, and left-to-right descending position on the body).

I'm sure it's nothing new, but it's very fluid and quick to interact with the world once you learn it!

I'm sure it's nothing new, but it makes the game fluid

Björn Tantau Jan 14, 2020
I never played it, but Zack and Wiki on the Wii was supposed to have a pretty unique interface. Of course that was due to the utilisation of the Wii remote.
One example was that you had to turn the remote around to be able to fit a key somewhere.

Lucas Jan 14, 2020
All of these made me want to replay MI1

Eric Jan 14, 2020
Just want to jump in and say that the "push, pull, use, talk, etc" interface was my favorite (I preferred it a lot more than just "click") because it reduced the spamming all over the screen for solutions.

I'd rather have a "pick up" on an item than to be able to just click it and have the character pick it up. I know on paper it sounds better to make it simpler however then the game just ends up being a click-fest where I just click on everything. I prefer having to think about my actions even if it's a bit more tedious.

I don't know of any game with a better interface because it's my favorite one! I disliked the interface in Life In Strange... while that game was well executed, it felt clunky.

Maybe simplying the interface would work. Picking up stuff, using things, interacting / talking to people... but I like the idea of being able to push people. I like the idea of pushing something on a wall, etc.

Frenzie Jan 14, 2020
> I'm sure it's nothing new, but it makes the game fluid

Quite the opposite in fact, since Maniac Mansion already had that. I think it's rather annoying when games don't implement such basic UX niceties and stick to just the cursor. I think the MM/TWP-style QWE/ASD/ZXC is actually slightly nicer to use than shortcuts based on names though.. Some LucasArts games used P for pick up, S for shove (push), U for use, etc. instead.

> I disliked the interface in Life In Strange... while that game was well executed, it felt clunky.

To be clear, Oxenfree and LiS (the two games I explicitly mentioned) probably play better on a controller with a stick because that's an environment where those circular motions feel very natural. This is actually a rather important point I completely forgot to mention. Depending on how it's implemented it might feel more gimmicky or even clunky with a normal mouse.

Daniele Spadoni Jan 15, 2020
The answer does not lie in games but in the energy that a person expresses to transmit joy and love.

V. Jan 15, 2020
Just a rather obvious suggestion supporting touch devices too:
click - look at
click and hold - use (gently)
click and drag - push/pull (using force - you can apply different direction and distance/force)
double click - pick up
dragging from inventory - use X with ...

There is no special "talk" action, but that could be differentiated by the target (i.e. you could "feel",  "push" or even "smack" someone by clicking on his/her body and "talk" by clicking on the head).

Maritza Jan 17, 2020
Untitled Goose Game used puzzles but no inventory and for that matter no hands. I thought it was an extremely interesting take, although I'm  not sure if it can be classified as an "adventure game". Firewatch was pretty good too. Donut County used holes, your only tool to solve the puzzle was a hole and how the world interacted with the hole, also interesting because you didn't have an inventory but whatever fell in the hole could be considered it. I feel like nowadays "hidden object" games have substituted adventure games, but honestly adventure games are better

K. Jan 18, 2020
The Sexy Brutale. Not sure if you'd count it as an adventure game, but oh boy that was really original.

rsn8887 Jan 20, 2020
Tardy on the Switch is super innovative and fun! A must play in my opinion. It has great pixel graphics, too. You can drag these giant inventory items around on the screen. They are always on the screen. You can do things like overlap two objects to look through the cut out holes in one piece of paper to see the letters underneath on a different piece shine through etc.


Luca Jan 23, 2020
So, I'm late to the party as always but I want to share a small game still in development called Tobin's Tale. The game is a 3d pixellated adventure games where you literally throw the verbs at the objects  in order to interact with the game world. I've found it very refreshing and at the same time linked to the past and foundation of adventure games.
I also think that it could have a lot of potential in VR.

If you want to check it out here a link (I'm not the developer, I'm just following him on twitter):

@Ron what are the games on your list? I'm very curious!!!

beeper Jan 25, 2020

Sammy Jan 30, 2020
Of the ones I've played, I think Machinarium is the best adventure game in the last 20 years. I'm pretty sure I've seen you mention it on Twitter, but maybe not. It has tons of mini games and mechanical puzzles that you have to figure out through trial and error. There's dragging and dropping, pushing, pulling, twisting, turning, etc. Sure, it's just "clicking", but as the player, you have a sense you're interacting with something. It doesn't feel like a "use" verb. I'm tired of verbs. And it does all this without any spoken or written language. Just little thought bubbles or symbols that virtually anyone in the world can understand. No weird translations or badly spoken dialog. And it takes place in a vibrant world that you're actually interested in exploring. You can't wait to see what the next screen is going to be. If I'm going to play a game with a mouse or touch, I want it to be like a toddler toy. I guess I just want more interactivity. I don't want to just "use radio". Let me actually see a close-up and figure out how to turn it on. The "head of the navigator" puzzle in SoMI is an interface where you have to punch in the correct sequence, basically. I think stuff like that works well. It's an interface, but it's not.

Beau Jarfi Jan 31, 2020
No Escape: 4 Days To Survive

Beau Jarfi Jan 31, 2020
The Dream Machine

Beau Jarfi Jan 31, 2020
The (latest) King's Quest

Aylin Feb 01, 2020
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout. You can use basically use every item on everything and the protagonist actually responds with some very funny lines instead of using the typical "I don't think this will work"excuse. You can even use the "talk" function on basically anything and the protagonist obeys. This increases replayability and the player will discover something new every time he plays the game.

Roben Feb 05, 2020
I just finished Don't Escape 4 and I must say it's one of the best adventures in the last 20 years. Random events and situations even provide replayability, almost like the different paths in the fate of Atlantis. As for the UI, there's only left clicking and right clicking and your inventory, nothing more.

Livio Cherubini Feb 18, 2020
Hi Ron, how are you?
I state that, in my opinion, the classic interface with verbs is always the best, I prefer it regardless!
It is no coincidence that I loved and also love Thimbleweed Park very very much!!!
Personally, I also liked Tim Schafer's Broken Age UI, although I believe that a similar interface is likely to "facilitate" the actions to be performed. However, I also liked the Broken Age interface. This is to stay on topic and to try to give you my opinion on what you asked for.
My favourite game of all time is and always will be Monkey Island 2, LeChuck's Revenge!
Keep it up Ron, you're the best! Thank you very much! Thanks for everything!
Have a nice day!

Scott Feb 19, 2020
I still think the click-wheel interface used in Full Throttle/Curse Of Monkey Island was great. Something notable in a room is highlighted by the cursor when you move over it, you hold left click and can pick how you want to interact with it. It's fast and yet you have complete control of the game using mostly mouse.

Winfried Maus Feb 21, 2020

At first glimpse, STASIS looks like the old Fallout games, but it's not an RPG, it really is a classic point & click adventure game.

umemai Feb 28, 2020
DROPSY and Kentucky Route Zero :)
and what's your list, Ron ?

Romano Valerio Mar 12, 2020
The Room series. That felt new and fresh at the time, though I've no idea how old the original is. The fact you can look at the inventory in close up and muck about with it to find new things in boxes, change the shape of keys etc, is great. Pushing + pulling is done with dragging your finger on things so you are (sort of) literally pushing and pulling, meaning no need for verbs.

I can't say I wish all adventure games were made like this. For one thing, there's loads of substandard copycats of The Room out there now. Also, still praying for another Monkey Island, and The Room's interaction style is very close up, which I think makes the theatre-like comedy of the classics tricky.

Beau Jarfi Mar 22, 2020
So...I just got evacuated from Peace Corps, Zambia (Africa), but at least I am reunited with my adventure games!
Seems like the theme is that there haven't been any crazy UI revolutions in P&C gaming...Ron, can you send us your freaking list of games already?

Happy quarantine

Bob Mar 26, 2020

Wint Sterling May 03, 2020
Return of the Obra Dinn comes to mind.. though that is not strictly a "point and click" more a first person puzzle game

I do think though the 3D first person/third person view-point is maybe the place that "point and click" style should graduate to, keep all the great writing, puzzle solving and point and click genre structure. But bring it to a more open 3rd dimensional space...

I see VR as a possible place for graduating the style to, games like "Job Simulator" and "Accounting" could be considered a step in the new "point and click" style. A more hands on approach,  you are in the world.

Accounting did great characters and writing.. but had none of the puzzles, and not enough of the locations were freely explorable.

Portal is an obvious touch point in the puzzle solving first person that I would also point to, but that definitely requires more skill at moving and looking than many "casual" gamers or people who never or don't often play games would have. Then turning them off the game.

That is why I see the slower, maybe VR style as the possible way forward in the "Point and Click" UI method... if you understand my meaning.

Just imagine being in VR and entering the SCUMM bar for the first time, with all the wacky characters you can interact with and the ambience of the room, so much going on, so much to look at. Would be a very interesting way to experience a point and click game.

Alex May 07, 2020
Another vote for Machinarium. Minimalist and intuitive interface.

Oli May 11, 2020
I played Yesterday Origins not so long ago and found the way they handled puzzles 'fresh'. Not as fleshed out as I would have liked it to be, but better than many others are doing it.

Phil Cobley May 11, 2020
Doki Doki Literature Club ( ) is a free visual novel adventure that does a great job of subverting expectations and has some really interesting ways of 'solving' the game (including messing with the game files) as well as playing the player. I was actually reminded of it while playing Delores due to the game restarting with new/different content on completion and the meta aspects of the story (It's about the same length too).

Joe Arax May 12, 2020
I believe the greatest point-n'-click adventure game that came out in 1992 was Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis! I bought this with my mom at the Malloch Elementary School Book Fair in 1997 (I was seven), and I got it to work on my dad's Windows 95 IBM computer! The puzzle structure in Fate of Atlantis is incredible, along with the IQ Point system. Noah Falstein and Hal Barwood were two geniuses in that regard.

Yotam Barnoy May 13, 2020
Even though it was a below-average game, I think Return To Zork had a promising interface: when you click to interact on something, it gives you a bunch of possible verbs. I think this kind of modal interface is probably the most powerful. Why keep the same 9 or 12 verbs for everything? The user is looking at items first, so why not make a system where you have a standard set of 30 verbs for single items and 20 verbs for item-on-item interaction. Each item defines its possible verbs, as well as responses for the red herrings. When selecting an item, the verb list shows the top X verbs, including the useful ones. This makes the combinatorial explosion far too large for random poking and comes very close to the parser experience. You could even have 'self' as an item, allowing for basic actions just on yourself.

Voxel May 26, 2020
The Neverhood and the more recent Armikrog

Steven Stanton Jun 09, 2020
I kind of wish interfaces would get more verbose - include verbs, nouns, adverbs, adjectives, exclamations, prepositions...

Gerontius Jun 18, 2020
Very late to the party having just found and finished Delores. Thank you, Ron!

There are two interface ideas I really like: item-based conversation trees and interactive notepads. Notepads are something that I think hasn't been used to full effect and is an idea still waiting for a game to do it right.

The first-item based conversation system I remember was "Sam and Max". I always liked it as an idea because you know before you speak to someone whether you've got something new to talk about. I think it's a particularly great fit for detective games.

And it works really well combined with notepads that keep track of the non-physical information and that can be used as yet more conversation topics. I thought Whispers of the Machine did this well, updating the notepad during a conversation if you learn something new so that the conversation can be developed.

Then there's the option of using a notepad for a deduction mechanic, so pieces of information can be combined just like inventory items.  There's a free game series called Zombie Detective which uses a notepad to enable you to link clues to make a final deduction. I don't think the games are written well enough to really nail it, but it's a fantastic graphical representation.

I'm sure there must be some good ways of using notepads interactively to help with safe cracking or code breaking as well.

Are we still waiting for Ron to bestow us with his thoughts? I've enjoyed some of the comments above and would like to hear from the professional as well!

Pangol Jun 19, 2020
Not at all a point & click adventure, but this makes me think about games like Breath of the Wild. Every pixel on the screen is beholden to the physics of the game engine, and so you solve its puzzles not by any artificial limitation of what is or isn't clickable but by direct interaction with the environment. Your inventory of tools grows throughout the game, which enables you to solve puzzles you couldn't at first. Perhaps too far afield from the genre of P&C adventure to be a contender, but it was a fully immersive world brimming with storyline and puzzles.

Matias Kindermann Jun 22, 2020
Hey Ron! We just made our second adventure game, Shikon-X, and we got rid of all the verbs or interface really. If you interact with an object you either grab it or say something about it. If you have another item that works in some way with something else, they just do what they have to do when you interact. So for example, we have a coffee machine, a sink and a coffee jar, if you interact with the sink, the character washes her hands, if you interact with the coffee machine it tells you that it's empty and it needs water, if you grab the coffee jar and then interact with the sink, it gets filled with water, if you then go to the coffee machine, it starts brewing coffee... you have an inventory to watch the items and read about them, maybe get clues of what they do, but you don't need to use it at all. We have a free demo up on Steam you can download and try out if you want.

trinimac Jul 16, 2020
Playing T.P. on iPad made me realize that having the verbs on the bottom was not ideal. I would much prefer a wheel of options appearing over an object I click. Like MI3 I guess to some extent.  I would keep the same verbs though just make them appear where I click/push rather than on the bottom.

Gus Aug 14, 2020
I don't think game mechanics are soooo much important for an adventure game. As long as there's beautiful storytelling and ambience, i'm 100% in. To me, a good adventure game is just a beautiful story, if it's just required to click-click-click, to play the game, to me that's not an issue (ok i'm exaggerating a little bit here, it's ok to have some good puzzles too).

To answer the question, all of the Wadjeteye games make more or less use of some innovative ways of interacting with the characters.

Bern Oct 19, 2020
Return of the obra dinn was a masterpiece in Puzzle solving. Think it's one of the most challenging games of the last years and I love absolutely everthing about it

tea Dec 01, 2020
Definitely "The Shivah"! Its search engine mechanic really needs you to understand and piece together the evidence you have instead of feeling like you're banging rocks together.

lubmir2k Jan 01, 2021
The Council.

Pamela Jan 08, 2021
I think that the games on the TEAM&click platform ( are fairly innovative, because they extend classical point-and-click with a multiplayer dimension (think of the different characters in Thimbleweed Park, but now all can be controlled simultaneously by different players).

Harry Feb 22, 2021
All you need are 4 verbs: look, go, use, apply n1 to n2. If there's more, I will see it as burden. Full Throttle does use 2 uses: hand + feet. But if you do so, better make sure that more than half of puzzles has significance of the difference.

charmywoo Dec 08, 2021
the 7th guest and 11th hour are the only two games that only slightly quenched my thirst for decent point and clicks since Money Island. they a masterpiece.
please tell me you're making more games... i hope so!
i've just finished twp it was amazing i thoroughly enjoyed it! we need more of your gaming wisdom, Ron! thank you for hours and hours of brain tickling fun 🥰

boss211 Feb 06, 2022
i dont know boys i cant play quest games

Lisha Mar 08, 2022
Pajama Sam!

Javi de prado Apr 04, 2022
Well...Thinking about this, I really think you can find special games but I also think you are looking for something really fresh so here I send some ideas I haven't seen anywhere...

Thinking about Maniac Mansion, where you have multiple characters to choose at the begining...It could be fun to have multiple verbs to choose at the begining of the game and you have to play the whole game with those verbs, some will be easier and some will be more complex of course...The design work would be also complex but I think can be done.

Another option would be that every object you can interact with has its own verbs. So if you point to a door a small menu appears and gives you obvious, not obvious and strange options...That would be surely interesting for the scripting part of the process as you can make extremely IMPORTANT to scratch a door instead of opening it, or you could have as an option to kiss a three lemonheaded monkey...
That of course would also work with the inventory items...

In Loom it was a prety nice the idea learn the verbs. It can be fun to craft the verbs somehow and then having them in your inventory.

It can also start with a few basic verbs and then learn new pirate verbs and words along the way so at the end you have strange complex verbs that you need to use all the time, so along the game the vocabulary of the game turns more and more piratey.
but that probalby will make the game more complex when you want a fresh but simple approach I guess...

Then if you really want to get rid of the verbs and also you want to get rid of the tedious try everything with everything in your inventory mechanic, you can make an automated system that simplifies that autoselecting and showing on screen the inventory objects that can interact with the screen objects, but that would look like Monkey Island 3a zero fat...for hardcore Point and Click gamers I would prefer less automation and more explore the posibilities of every item.
Think about The Room game series and all the mechanical gadgets...some objects have an small puzzle inside the item.

Talking about crafting, In clasic games a lot of times you have a recipe and you need to find alternate ingredients to obtain something that then you need to use to unlock next part....It can be fun to have a system that makes you craft items in multiple ways. If you follow the recipe (getting the correct but harder to obtain ingredientes) you will have an Item that works in a way and if you solve it other way somehow you might have an item that works but not as good as the "correct" maner...even though you can make the player need to make them both as later in the game might need that other one for something Craft correct and you can use that item to solve puzzles A and B and solve in a crappy maner and you can solve puzzles B and C so at the end you need both...

Just some ideas... If you want more just ask :)

Aylin May 07, 2022
So did the fan suggestions help?

Aylin May 09, 2022
Oh I forgot to add something to my old Edna & Harvey comment! One interesting gameplay feature was that you could learn some talents that were added to your inventory like forging signatures for example. You could combine that talent like a normal item with objects like the signature you wanted to learn. The learned signature is then added too. Aside from using that for puzzles you could even write the signature for fun on various backround objects (also there is even a "bite off toenail" talent that logically generates a toenail item wtf). Also I think there was something similar in the third Sam and Max telltale game?