What do you get when you take an RPG but remove all the grinding through random battles and character building micromanagement? An adventure game– a game where story trumps gameplay, though with a skilled developer, the puzzles that make adventure games actual games (rather than read-straight-through books) can be just as rewarding as trouncing a difficult level in New Super Mario Bros. But gamers flock to adventure games less for challenging gameplay and more for story, and DS, remarkably, was flush with plenty of choices in the once-dormant genre that seemed a relic of ’90s PC gaming. And rather than take the rote hidden object game design that bogs down most of the $10 “adventure” games available at online stores, our three favorites below use clever wordplay, logic puzzles and the occasional microphone gimmick to keep gamers engaged. Last, in addition to great, twist-filled stories, each game also features strong, detailed artistic design and striking animations that will be remembered long after story’s end.
DS gamers were welcome to train their brains, pet their Nintendogs, grind their random battles and skip across floating platforms, but when they were ready for something smoother, more cerebral and engaging, games like the ones below were tops.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
The team behind the Ace Attorney franchise is perhaps the golden children of adventure games these last 8 years. From unpredictable storylines to vivid characters, fantastic scripts and excellent character design and animation, fans of the runaway hit series always knew to expect quality with each sequel. Yet this team needed a break– not from telling a great story with novel gameplay– but from the courtroom. And in Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, that Capcom team took a headlong dive into the supernatural and paired it with its best gameplay design yet. If you’ve ever enjoyed The Incredible Machine. the Mouse Trap board game or any Rube Goldberg-ian contraption, Ghost Trick‘s amusing yet also unexpectedly dark storyline is irrelevant. You’ll enjoy the game just to hop from one inanimate object to the next, briefly causing machines to turn on, chairs to fold and wrecking balls to drop. Yet sticking through to enjoy the best overall cast since the original Phoenix Wright games and an engrossing story doubles your fun. The catchy soundtrack and silky animation wraps an ideal adventure game experience together. While it seldom becomes very challenging and ends sooner than you’d like (especially if you relentlessly play it as I did), it’s also seldom nonsensical in its solutions (unlike most adventure games) and you’ll immediately want a new adventure in this world when done. And that’s the best outcome an adventure game can offer.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 initially drew us in with its wiggling charcoal and paper sketches of its characters, animated over a 3D environment. Yet we stuck around for the double-layered story that had protagonist Kyle Hyde trying to solve a mystery in present day 1979 while simultaneously figuring out a series of correlated events that occurred in secrecy twenty years prior. Aside from requiring the DS be held like a book, a film noir vibe and tricky (if occasionally nonsensical) puzzles, Hotel Dusk also differentiated itself with secondary characters who would shut down if upset by your line of questioning and, yes, multi-question pop quizzes at the end of each of the game’s chapters.If you hadn’t paid attention, you could get kicked to the Game Over screen by incorrectly answering multiple choice questions concerning small details of the just-finished chapter. All this combined with some novel uses of DS for gameplay– to include shutting the system with the game running– made this a sleeper adventure many of us still reference today. What’s a shame is the game’s developer, Cing, which also created several other adventure games for DS, has since gone out of business.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
For many, this is the game that started the adventure game craze on DS. Initially selling out after Capcom underestimated how many copies to publish of its enhanced port of a four-year-old GBA game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney would go on to charm and bedevil new legions of fans around the globe for years to come. As titular Phoenix Wright, a plucky and at times melodramatic defense attorney, gamers would be challenged to to prove clients innocent after they had been accused of a violent murder. Essential to each case would be near-impossible odds of winning, but somehow Phoenix would always be capable of a “turnabout” in fortunes, not only proving his clients innocent but also exposing the real criminal(s) at the same time.
Each case would have discrete investigation and interrogation sequences at the scene of the crime and other correlated areas, as well as climactic, tense courtroom arguments with formidable (and even more melodramatic and eccentric) prosecution attorneys. Enhanced with a little supernatural powers, gamers would have to decipher intricate conversations, forcing plot twists and grand reveals by presenting key pieces of evidence against specific one-or-two-sentence statements nestled within interviews and cross-examination sequences. Charming characters with engaging maturation and development appeal even more thanks to an overarching storyline that ties all the cases together and carries on into later sequels. Honestly, we could have picked nearly any game in the Ace Attorney series as a “best adventure game,” as each has its charms, jaw-dropping twists and emotional moments. Yet as the game that started the craze for Ace Attorney and adventure games on DS in general, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has earned its position in the top tier.
Are you an Ace Attorney fan boy or fan girl? Or is there another title, like Trace Memory, you have to praise? Tell us in the comments below.