Adventure games have been around since the dawn of time, probably. Whether they were in picture books or point-and-click PC games, adventure games have always been with us. Video games evolved them, and in the past decade, they've gotten even more ambitious.
The latest in the Choose Your Own Adventure game trend stems from Detroit: Become Human, the new project from the creators behind Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. It's an interesting game from a presentation and structural perspective, letting players hop around their flowchart timelines at their leisure unlike past games, although its writing leaves a lot to be desired. You can read Mike's review on Detroit: Become Human if you're curious.
In the meantime, our community question this week is this: What's your favorite Choose Your Own Adventure-like game? Visual novels, dating sims, Twine games, Telltale games—they're all fair game!
Caty took my first choice with Until Dawn. So, I'm going with another option that most players haven't touched upon. It's a game that actually came out this year and many haven't talked about or remarked upon. I wanted to talk about it, but it got lost in the review scrum and didn't make it out alive. My choice is Batman: The Enemy Within, the second season of Batman: The Telltale Series.
While the basic story involves Batman yet again stopping a host of criminals that are descending upon Gotham City, while also dealing with the legal authorities, that's not the real point of the season. Instead, you're re-introduced to John Doe, a character that Bruce Wayne met during his brief time in Arkham Asylum during the first season. And it's clear to anyone who's spent anytime with the Batman mythos that this character will eventually become The Joker, the biggest villain in Batman's considerable stable.
Based upon your choices, Batman: The Enemy Within offers you a unique vision of the Joker. The Telltale Series' strength was always in its reinterprets of Batman and his Rogues Gallery, but crafting your own Joker is such a wonderful centerpiece that I'm surprised more narrative games don't go this route. The extreme ends of your choices lead to a Joker who's more like the classic Clown Prince of Crime, or one that operates more like vigilante, but there's a nice narrative gradient in-between those poles. Regardless, it was a wonderful choice on Telltale's part and an illustration of the studio perhaps trying something new within its standard formula.
Oh, shucks, maybe The Wolf Among Us. It was my first Telltale game, and still my favorite. I love its graphics: All those grimy pinks and purples. Plus, is there any other game that lets you shut the elevator door in the face of the storybook Beast just because you want to avoid a conversation about whether or not Belle is screwing around on him? BEAST WILL REMEMBER THAT.
I'd also like to give a shout-out to Dragon's Den, my favorite actual Choose Your Own Adventure book. You play a medieval peasant and learn the bad guy controlling the dragons was a time-traveller from a mysterious land that turns out to be our world and our time. That's not a bad twist for a kids' book. Most Choose Your Own Adventure books had OK plots, actually. It's a shame teachers didn't let us use them to write book reports.
While I don't know if I can call it my favorite, Life is Strange is probably one of the best ones I've played in recent memory. A lot of people wrote it off for its cringey dialogue (which gets much better as the season progresses) but that's just part of its appeal. It was an earnest mix of Degrassi and X-Files with a lot of geeky love for pop culture thrown in. I still haven't played the Before the Storm season, but I'll probably dive back into the series in earnest when the second season is revealed.
Nadia already lay claim to the best Telltale game The Wolf Among Us, so I guess I have to go with something else. Now bear with me on this one, the following isn't necessarily my favorite multi-path adventure game (there are many: Long Live the Queen if we want to include life management simulators, Heavy Rain for comedic purposes, the first season of The Walking Dead, 80 Days for being a phenomenal interactive fiction adventure, plus about a billion Twine games that I am probably forgetting).
I'm going to go with a semi-recent game: Until Dawn. Until Dawn follows a similar formula of Quantic Dream's own games, only it's better, because it wholly embraces the campiness of slasher movies, and later even horror too. It's kind of a mixture of both those things. While narratively it goes a little bit too off the rails (the monsters are pretty dumb), I found myself really caring about the group of young adults alone in the woods. When some died, I was legitimately bummed out. I even accidentally killed nearly everyone during my first playthrough at the very end of the game, and it was hilarious.
I hope the developers behind Until Dawn are given the chance to make another ambitious cinematic adventure game at Until Dawn's scale. One of their latest games, Hidden Agenda, kind of hits that, but it's still a far-duller murder mystery drama that's only made better by the fact that you play it with friends as part of Sony's PlayLink initiative. As it stands though, Until Dawn is worth checking out if you get the chance.