When it comes to favourite genres of videogames, I tend to be at the extremes. On the one hand, I love shoot em ups (although I’m generally quite rubbish at them). At the other end of the scale, I’ve always enjoyed the more cerebral approach required by adventure games. For a long time, I was a purist, favouring text adventures, but as point and click adventures matured, I became a convert.
One of the games that won me over was Lure of the Temptress by Revolution Software, a British company fronted by Charles Cecil. Ever since I played it, I’ve been a massive fan of Revolution’s output and – with the exception of In Cold Blood (which I’ve not yet played) – have played (and enjoyed) every single one of their titles.
As I’ve said in previous blog posts, I have always preferred Revolution’s output to the LucasArts adventures. In particular I prefer Broken Sword to Monkey Island. I know that will be seen as heresy by some, but it’s the truth. On the whole, I think that the strong, structured stories and very British humour of the Revolution titles appeals to me more than the zanier LucasArts approach.
Revolution adventures have always been beautifully crafted from a narrative perspective. Basing their adventures around real-world locations and real-life stories they somehow feel more interesting and engaging than their peers. They pull you into the game the way that a good adventure should. The story intrigues and makes you want to explore the environment; talk to other characters to find out what is happening. The characters are all nicely written, too and support the narrative flow well. The main ones feel real and you really identify with George and Nico (Broken Sword) or Rob and Joey (Beneath a Steel Sky), whilst the cast of support characters, although often written for comic effect, feel right and add a lot of gentle humour to the game.
The puzzles in Revolution Games feel more appropriate to the narrative too. For the most part, they are logical and solvable (although they do require a bit of lateral thinking). One of my gripes with the Monkey Island series is that sometimes the solutions to puzzles are utterly bizarre, requiring perverse combinations of inventory items being used in a way that would never occur to most sane people. There were certain puzzles I would never have got past if I didn’t have access to a walkthrough. That’s never been the case with Revolution Games – whilst some of the puzzles might have been quite obscure, required a lot of trial and error and temporarily stumped me I’ve always got past them eventually without resorting to cheats outside help – which I find far more satisfying.
Perhaps because I’m British I also enjoy the underplayed, tongue in cheek humour typical of Revolution Games more than the zany, surreal humour of the Monkey Island games, which can sometimes feel a little forced. Don’t get me wrong, both can be laugh-out-loud funny; but Revolution games appeal to my sense of humour more.
Most importantly, like those LucasArts adventures, the name Revolution Software was pretty much its own seal of quality. When you saw their logo, you could be confident that you would get a good game (providing you liked point and click adventures, of course). Sure, some titles were better than others, but you’d be hard pressed to say they ever released a “bad game”. I know Broken Sword 3 and 4 have their detractors – and they aren’t as good as the earlier titles – but you’d still have to be very mean to dismiss them as “bad”. Whilst they might not be as prolific as many games companies, at least you know the end product will be worth waiting for.
Like Jeff Minter, Revolution have also been amongst the good guys of gaming and not focussed solely on profit. For quite some time, they have declared some versions of their earlier games Abandonware and made them freely downloadable via sites like GOG. There are not many companies that have done that with their back catalogue and Revolution should be commended for taking a lead.
And it’s for these reasons – and the many, many hours of fun their games have given me – that Revolution Software become the third inductee into RetroReactiv8’s Hall of Gaming Heroes.
If like me, you are a fan of Revolution’s output, then you really want to get hold of their 25th Anniversary Collection which brings together all their games in one package. Packed with loads of other goodies it originally retailed at just £30 and was fantastic value for money. Sadly, some people are taking advantage of the fact that it (presumably) had a pretty limited print run, and are now selling it for at least double its original price on Amazon.