Whatever Happened To Platform Adventuring?

Hello everybody! Yup, there’s been a brief hiatus (that will hopefully remain brief) as the weather’s gotten worse, I’ve been more tired, and insert another pathetic excuse here. However! One series I’d been meaning to revive for a while was my “Whatever Happened To” series. Now originally in this series, I would try to answer where certain game series went, not just where certain types of games went, but I think this will be an easy enough one to get into.

So what exactly do I mean by platform adventuring? Well to be fair, I’m not entirely sure it’s even called that. It’s really better if I throw out some examples. Oddworld, Flashback, Out of This World, Blackthorne, Heart of Darkness…any of those sound familiar? Well man, I hope so, but again, I’ll attempt my very best to explain exactly what those games were just in case.

So in a platforming game, you often have varying elements such as timed jumps, sometimes tossing/shooting mechanics, possibly stealth, and usually a fair amount of action and adventure. Ah, so what’s an adventure game? Well, adventure gaming has kind of lost its meaning over time, but effectively it’s supposed to be a type of game that forces you to think about various ways to solve puzzles all the while taking you on a grand adventure.

Okay, so platform games would be things like Mario, Sonic, Bubsy the Bobcat, Jak & Daxter, and so on. Adventure games would be stuff like Space Quest, Monkey Island, Sam & Max, and so on. So what the hell is a platform adventure game? Well, effectively it’s a platformer that has a lot of different puzzles to solve, much in the vein of a standard adventure game, but with lots of platforming elements.

The most basic platform adventuring game that is technically still around (and I believe may have been the first) is Prince of Persia. For those that don’t know, PoP was not originally about parkour. It was about well executed and timed platforming mixed with puzzle elements and a little bit of intelligent swordplay. In a way I can see the transition to parkour, but again, it had less to do with wall running and more to do with moving quickly through stages to get better and better times so you could actually rescue the princess.

Games like Blackthorne and Oddworld forced you to use a lot of stealth and in general have a good understanding of different puzzle and platforming elements in order to get through them. Overall, I don’t think there’s even one platform adventuring game I’ve not enjoyed…so what happened to them? Well, lemme just pull out my soapbox here for a sec.

With the rise of 3D gaming we saw the fall of many of our favorite types of games. Adventure games, traditional platforming, platform adventures, traditional shooters, beat em ups…a lot of these games we started seeing less and less of and some we started seeing…well, nothing at all from. But the one I never thought would outright disappear was that of the platform adventuring titles.

Now mainstream studios will often say something stupid like oh well, they’re still around, they’re just mixed in with other elements! How often do we hear this, though? And honestly, how often do you believe it? Personally, I don’t and here’s why. This was the same argument provided when we started asking about traditional adventure and survival horror gaming.

Okay, no. Resident Evil 4 and upwards is not scary. I repeat, IT IS NOT SCARY. It doesn’t even attempt to be. And don’t try to tell me it never really was. Fuck you, it was scary. Sure, it wasn’t creepy like Silent Hill, but yes, it was scary. “Oh, well the gaming medium doesn’t really want games like that.” You sure about that? Is that why Amnesia – The Dark Descent isn’t doing well?

Oh wait, it totally fucking is. And you don’t even get to fight anything in that one! On Steam Greenlight alone we have multiple games trying to bring us back Resident Evil style games and many that are attempting to ride the coattails of Amnesia. Now, come on. If games like Amnesia weren’t doing well and weren’t what people wanted, nobody would give a shit.

Again, people obviously DO give a shit, but the studios are turning their noses up at them. And of course, adventure gaming is no exception either. Hell, a bunch of studios spent more of their time making GTA clones and bad movie tie-ins rather than listening to the fucking public and look what happened: indie adventure games have started dominating the market even when they’re not that fucking great.

But whatever, “there’s no market for it.” Right. But again, this brings me back to platform adventuring. The last one I played was an indie title made by, of all people, Yahtzee. Yes, the same Yahtzee that’s super harsh on many games at a rapid fire pace has made a surprising number of games that a lot of people don’t know about…and they’re all pretty damn good, actually.

And free. Yes, that’s right, 100% free. But you know, I don’t believe there’s been another platforming adventure since. At least, not to my knowledge. This is disheartening because, again, it’s another genre left by the wayside that’s actually really fun. Folks, nowadays we’re losing a lot of genres because…

– It worked in the arcade, but for some reason developers think it doesn’t work at home.
– Developers are scared about breaking traditional rules to provide new and innovative experiences because they believe it’s not something we want or we “won’t get it.”
– Developers believe said genres are discarded old pieces of trash that appeal to nobody.

And honestly, that’s a short list. Why can’t we have another text-parser adventure game? Why can’t we have another arcade style, casual experience? Why do they think we don’t want to see well drawn and animated sprites complete with jaggies? What’s so wrong with tradition? And for that matter, what’s so wrong about testing our limits as gamers?

Especially with the indie scene taking center stage more and more, I honestly don’t see any reason for any genre that has ever existed to be left in the dust. Further, let’s make some new genres. Survival horror dating sim? Why not? Rail shooter RPG? Go for it. FPS sim city complete with tower defense and samurai that turn into dragons by fucking each other? I don’t see why not.

The funny thing about progress is there will always be people like me that yearn for “the good old days,” but don’t necessarily want everything to feel old at the same time. I don’t yearn for the days that everything goes back to NES style stuff, but I like the look and feel. What I like is smart ideas that make great games and really, if it’s a good idea, there’s a good chance it’s going to be a good game regardless.


Filed under Retro, Videogames

4 responses to “Whatever Happened To Platform Adventuring?

  1. I think this is the first post you’ve written where I’ve played every game you’ve shown. Because this has always been one of my favorite genres. So easy to get into and play, you were never lost like 3D games, yet still felt like progressing through a grand adventure.

    Metroidvania games get a lot more attention nowadays, and I can see why, because they’re good, but to use your coined term, “Adventure platformers” always struck the perfect pace to allow you to actually complete a game.

    They were also the one genre that wasn’t riddled with sequels!

    Good memories. If you ever get time, can you do one on isometric action adventure games (Aka, Little Big Adventure/Relentless). Because that was another fav genre of mine that appears to have died a death.

    • To clarify, I wasn’t saying Metroidvania games and ‘Adventure platformers’ are the same thing, because I agree that they’re not.

      Just incase I caused confusion!

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