The Evolution of Point-And-Click (Part One)
Okay, okay, I’ll fess up. I’m late to the party. Nearly two decades late, if I’m being honest. But seeing as the game in question also took the longest journey here, I figure it’s forgivable. (Unlike that poor pun I just slipped in.) That’s right, I’d like to finally take a look at the history and evolution of point-and-click adventure games as seen through the eyes of a franchise nearly two decades in the making. And because I think the topic is fascinating, I’m going to release this article in 3 parts, split by era, for easy reading.
Although the point-and-click genre is older than The Longest Journey, and has its origins rooted firmly in text based adventure games, I think it’s a fair starting point. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already intimately familiar with the actual history of the genre. Maybe you lived through it. Maybe it was one of the first video games you ever played. You’re also someone who probably thinks fondly of the Hitchhikers game.
With that out of the way, The Longest Journey, released in 1999 by Funcom for Windows, is a pivotal marker for the genre as a whole. More than that though. I’d argue that every game in the series is hard proof of the direction the genre was going it at the time. Now, more than ever, when every Joe off the street is determined to bring back “the good old days” of point-and-click, it’s obvious that the genre took a turn somewhere, for the better and the worse.
To prove my point, let’s take a look at some other games released in (and around) 1999, to get an idea of what was popular:
- Silent Hill
- Persona 2: Innocent Sin
- Planescape: Torment
- Pokemon Yellow
This is just a few, seeing as the N64 and PS1 were increasing in popularity of their release just a few years prior. What about adventure games of this era?
- Myst (1993)
- Full Throttle (1995)
- Grim Fandango (1998)
- Indiana Jones & The Fate of Atlantis (1992)
- Monkey Island (1990-97, various titles)
A list that doesn’t even compare to the plethora of titles dropped on people’s doorsteps at the time. And among this list sits our heroine, The Longest Journey. By 1999 it was becoming apparent that 3D modeling was the “new future” of games. Prior to the late 90s most games of the genre were flat animations, either hand animated or otherwise, with varying depths of field. Then we start to see more and more games like Grim Fandango, using these new models and environments to create a deeper player experience. More puzzles, more things to click on, more things to clutter your inventory with.
And then it happens.
1999 comes and hands us The Longest Journey, containing one of the most notable female protagonists to ever exist in adventure games (following an era dominated by Lara Croft), intricate puzzles, immersive setting, and a fantastic concept unlike anything I’ve ever seen, to this day. It’s no small matter to call this game a masterpiece of the genre, or even one of the greatest pieces of storytelling to exist at this point. For those who were encouraged to play Dreamfall Chapters without either of the preceding games, I can only say you’ve done yourself a great disservice. Although imperfect and hard to run, the game is still very much playable (just have a book handy for when you need to cross the market in Arcadia ten times in a row. God April can you walk any faster?)
Capturing the magic the 90s has been building up to, The Longest Journey is on the list of most lovers of this genre I’ve ever encountered. Although it doesn’t quite have that “old school” feeling that people try to recreate these days, assumedly based on things like the original Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle, it still speaks volumes about the time period it’s from. A capsule that takes you back in time to the early days.
And although the journey doesn’t end here, this article will. So stay tuned for the next part where we tackle the early 2000s and some of your favorites therein.
What was your favorite point-and-click from the 90s? Let me know in the comments below!