Nowadays, the genre of (graphic) adventure games is almost forgotten, but it is a huge part of video game history, mainly on personal computers. I think the lack of memory was the biggest problem for 16-bit consoles in respect to adventure games, and that’s why there aren’t many around on these platforms. However, there are some released on the Genesis and Sega CD for those of you who really insist in playing them there. Under “adventure,” I understand games that usually involve quite some clicking, searching, problem solving and sometimes a lot of backtracking. Action parts are very few or non-existent in these games, but the player has more freedom than in a FMV game. Still, there are some overlaps in this article and the excellent article on FMV games by Patrick Wainwright, because I consider some of the titles he mentions for the greater part like adventure games than FMV games. Furthermore, I didn’t include platform games with the main focus on adventuring (like Fantastic Dizzy, Flashback, Out of this World, Prince of Persia, or Puggsy). Also, I had to leave out any Japanese adventure game due to my lack of knowledge of the language and as such of those games.
Adventures of Willy Beamish
The Adventures of Willy Beamish is a very linear adventure which can be quite frustrating due to the main focus on the trial-and-error gameplay. The plot is a little wacky: Willy Beamish, a young preteen kid, wants to join the “Nintari” championships, which somehow involves having a frog jumping competition. Of course, before Willy even manages to join the competition, the pet frog messes up, and it’s up to Willy to set things right again. The loading times in this adventure are horrendous and the game does in no way match other (more adult) Sierra/Dynamix productions like Rise of the Dragon or Heart of China – of which the latter one wasn’t released on the Sega CD. Adventures of Willy Beamish is a nice try for Sega CD adventuring, but overall I regard it to be too childish and too slow.
Cosmic Spacehead is a nice little and colorful alien who’s re-visiting Earth. He has been there before, but now he has to take a picture to prove to his fellow aliens that our planet actually exists. He starts his search for a picture or camera to take one in this game. This Amiga ported game has some charm, but overall it’s too childish and the platform elements between the adventurous parts are too tedious. But the adventure parts are truly, eh, adventuring only. Somehow I really like how this game looks – it’s all really colorful and cute. The sound and especially the music is another story: there are horrible carnival tunes that will drive you insane in no time. A game can be saved by the use of passwords, but overall it isn’t too hard. Probably the first adventure game for the Genesis.
The Ecco the Dolphin series
Are the games of Sega’s famous dolphin actually adventure games? If you consider what I said in the introduction of this article – it’s a game with a lot of searching, problem solving, and backtracking. Action parts are very few or non-existent – I’d definitely say “yes.” You either love or hate Ecco the Dolphin, and I think only those who approach it as an adventure are satisfied. Those who expected another great Sega action game must have felt left down. The developers overplayed their hands with the disappointing sequel on the Dreamcast. The series is quite popular though, and both Genesis titles are currently available for the Wii Virtual Console, while the original game is available on Xbox Live Arcade.
Jurassic Park CD
It’s Jurassic Park! On CD! And there is quite some point-’n-clicking in it! Within twelve hours you have to find some dinosaur eggs on the jurassic island, which is alternated with some classic frustrating FMV sequences. As said by Patrick in his article on FMV games, this game has nothing to do with the same-titled Genesis game. I’d also like to stick with his conclusion: this is not a game for those who look for all-out action (but I guess they aren’t reading an article on adventure games anyway), but Sega CD gamers interested in a cool adventure should really check this out. There’s a lot of exploration and thought required, so those who don’t like their games to make them think too hard should look elsewhere.
Mansion of Hidden Souls
Just like many adventure games of the time, Mansion of Hidden Souls is an on-rail adventure with FMV sequences. It reminded me a lot of The 7th Guest (another early more famous CD-rom adventure) only with easier puzzles. Main thing is that it’s slow. It’s atmospheric and looks okay, but I hear you asking – is it an adventure game? Though this game tends more to be a FMV title, I still think it involves enough storyline and puzzling to label it as an adventure. After all, you are searching in a mansion. A mansion crowded with hidden souls, in which it wouldn’t be too surprising if the kid of the movie Sixth Sense showed up and told you his famous quote: “I see dead people.” But watching that movie will actually take longer than finishing this game, because it isn’t too hard (it takes some time mainly due to the slowness). Overall, a nice attempt but not my cup of tea.
Rise of the Dragon
William – “Blade” – Hunter, private investigator (though often referred to by less kind persons as “private dick”) is on a quest to disclose a drug syndicate. Rise of the Dragon has a truly involving atmosphere mainly due to the excellent music and dialogue. There are some frustrating moments because, just like in the classic Sierra games, it’s very easy to die in this Sierra/Dynamix production which will lead you directly to the game over screen. This game was actually censored by Sega of America of a ‘French kissing scene’ which implied that William had made out with his girlfriend. Though it’s still an excellent game this Amiga/DOS port clearly shows some drawbacks of the Sega CD: the lack of colors and, of course, loading times. Luckily the great noir sci-fi atmosphere inspired by movies like Blade Runner still makes this game stand out.
One of the only real point-’n-click adventure game on the Genesis, Scooby Doo Mystery actually offers two mysteries, all 100% designed in classic graphic adventure style, something you haven’t seen before on the Genesis except for the perhaps adventure parts in Cosmic Spacehead. You control Shaggy and Scooby and the humor of the now worn-out series has been integrated quite nicely. It looks pretty good too, but the audio is awful. The two mysteries aren’t too hard, but just for the sake of playing a graphic adventure on the Genesis this game is worth checking out. However, just like many of the other games on this list it has become a rather expensive business to require a copy of Scooby Doo Mystery. The game isn’t worth such large sums of money, but just keep sure to keep your eyes open on flee markets or other places where you think you can find it by chance for a reasonable price.
Secret of Monkey Island
Guybrush Threepwood – it’s a running gag across characters in the game to misspell his name – has a dream: he wants to become a pirate. For this he has to face the legendary ghost pirate LeChuck. Secret of Monkey Island is just another classic Amiga title ported to the Sega CD with a great storyline, cool characters and funny jokes (“look behind you! a three-headed monkey!”), but now with the advantage of CD sound and music. The story is divided into different parts and it’s a pretty long adventure which can be quite difficult at times. Only letdown compared to the original Amiga version are the occasionally loading times. If you dig adventure games this is a must-own, but not worth so much tracking down as Snatcher because it’s a lot easier to get on other platforms. Oh yeah, and this is probably the adventure that most needs a mouse to enjoy it perfectly.
The Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective series
The Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective games are cheap ports of already cheap Turbo Grafx-16 CD games. Plainly put, they suck. If the famous detective really went about solving crimes in the tedious and tiresome slowness of this half-assed FMV adventures, then Arthur Doyle was on opium. They both play out kind like the famous board game Clue, because they mainly involve the asking of questions (besides the waiting) and searching for well, clues. Unfortunately, due to gray video and horrible loading times, these two games only succeed in revealing the less enjoyable sides of the Sega CD gaming universe. Maybe there are some redeeming qualities – there is still a case to be solved – but I don’t think this adventure would have gotten Dr. Watson out of his comfy chair.
Snatcher, ported from the PC Engine exclusively for the Sega CD is easily the best adventure of all the adventures on the Genesis and its CD extension and probably even the best Sega CD game around. It’s so good it has become quite rare and you have to dig deep into your wallet if you’re looking for a copy. Like Rise of the Dragon, this adventure is also inspired by noir sci-fi movies like Blade Runner. This time you’re a detective called Gillian Seed with amnesia who has to stand up against the “Snatchers” – some kind of creatures who murder people and assume their identities. If you have a Sega CD this is truly the must-own title. Unfortunately, it wasn’t released on many other systems. The game was released on the Saturn and Playstation but regrettably only in Japanese. They were rumors a Nintendo DS was to be released sometime and we can only hope this will happen one day.
THE SEGA CD ADVENTURE THAT NEVER WAS: MYST
No matter what you think of this slow-moving adventure, Myst made a huge impact on the gaming industry. It was one of the first games that showed the possibilities of CD-ROM technology. The game was announced in 1996 on the Sega CD but cancelled in the same year. It is said that Sunsoft had the game ready up to the beta testing phase, but never put it through because the Sega CD was at the end of its life span. It is also said that mysterious developer’s copies exist in various forms and in various forms of completion. If you really want to play it, however, you won’t have to search for one of those Myst-ifiying copies, because the game is available on almost every other console and computer around.