The adventure game genre has, for a long time, seemed like a dead one – but it’s seen a resurgence. Games like Telltale’s interactive dramas, Double Fine’s original and resurrected LucasArts adventure IP’s, Wadjet Eye Games’ Resonance and the Kings Quest reboot have put the focus pack on adventure games.
Classic ones have always featured well-defined characters, imaginative worlds, and often illogical puzzles. When they’re done right, they’re funny, charming and engaging. They’re a genre of games I grew up with – having spent much of my youth stuck in Sierra and LucasArts’ brilliantly inventive worlds.
And I’m not alone. Two South African gamers are making the sort of game they grew up with, the sort of game they wish was still around. It’s a point and click adventure that – at first glance – looks like it could have come from LucasArts themselves.
We chatted to Louis Du Pisani and Graeme Selvan from Robot Wizard, developers of a new South African made adventure game called Jengo.
To me, it looks like it’s more than just inspired by LucasArts – to the point where it possibly crosses past homage. (The protagonist’s name is also spelled completely wrong)
Creative Lead Louis says that’s not quite the case, though they do harbour a great deal of love for the genre, and for one of its biggest masters.
They’re not just trying to crib what made those games so good though.
And though it’s got more than just nostalgia driving it, it does aim at to bring that old adventure game feeling back.
It may look like a classic Point and click adventure in stills, but it won’t really look or feel like one when you actually play it.
So it’s a game made with old adventure game sensibilities – blending a worthwhile narrative with sometime illogical, mind-bending puzzles. That, however, may not really resonate too well with modern audiences who didn’t grow up with these types of games. The game, however, isn’t really being made for those people.
Like the games that inspired it, it’ll feature comedic writing, which is a tricky thing to pull off. It’s very easy for things said in the name of comedy to come off as offensive, or to use cheap and nasty jokes. That’s not the intent here, obviously – but it’s something its developers are aware of.
We won’t aim to offend nor will we dilute the content. Our content is not about making jokes about dead babies, it’s a game about an old-school gamer in a gaming world that pokes fun at retro gaming tropes, so we’ll go about it as such. “
One thing that struck me is that in the game’s marketing material, there’s a poster that features scantily clad women, which seems to, perhaps aptly, borne of the lad culture that was so prevalent in the 90’s. It was something I had to ask about; if the team is perhaps worried that the art sends the wrong message.
It doesn’t just exist so that they can have a picture of a woman with her tits out, assures Louis.
“I think it all comes down to context,” he says. “The woman in the poster is meant to be a ‘bombshell’ character that forms part of our game’s folklore, who is the ‘object’ (and we use that term with a sense irony) of admiration of one of our other NPC characters. Was her character made purely for marketing? No. She’s integral to the story. What would Roger Rabbit be without Jessica Rabbit? A character without motivation.
It often speaks more to the weakness of men than that of women. In a world where Kim Kardashian’s naked selfies are ’empowering’ to women it’s easy to see how this question is the subject of a much larger debate, especially in gaming where it’s so taboo yet violence is glorified. But, for the sake of variety, we’ve got an alternative version of the design.”
It’s still quite a while out, but it’s shaping up nicely. Because of how the team is structured, and the burdens of horrible things like day jobs, the game will be released in episodes.
Yes, like many local developers, they’re in this for the love of games. Though it’s a relatively young industry at the moment, that’s very rapidly changing, and Robot Wizard wants to be a part of that change.
I also had to wonder what the hell a Jengo is.
Ethics disclosure: I have known and worked with Graeme, one half of Robot Wizard for years – as he works in video game PR locally. He’s also a bit of a knob.