I have a weird relationship with adventure games. I should like them. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I believe that video games can tell compelling stories. And, for the most part, the best (or at least best-regarded) stories in games have been told in adventure games. The Longest Journey. The Walking Dead. Grim Fandango. And so on.
There’s only one problem: many adventure games are incredibly unpleasant to actually play. Because games are supposed to have gameplay of some sort, adventure games are saddled with the idea that they have to be challenging. Instead of just allowing the player to experience the story, these games throw up tedious minigames or, worse, unintuitive puzzles.
Recently I played through the remastered version of Grim Fandango and found myself aghast at the game’s bizarre expectations. Everything else about Grim Fandango–the writing, the art, the voice acting–is fantastic. But it’s shackled to a series of incredibly arbitrary gameplay sections. I hesitate to even call them puzzles. You run around the environment, collecting items and then using those items in a specific order in specific parts of the environment. Some of these make a certain amount of sense, like luring birds with bread and then scaring them when they pop a balloon underneath. But others, like the bizarre shit with betting stubs at the cat racing track, is even more difficult to describe than it is to figure out. I played through the entire game with a guide and, while it made me feel a bit like a loser, I think I enjoyed my time with it way more than if I went in legit.