Whilst it may have been a somewhat rainy, windswept November weekend in London, there was nothing but warmth felt inside the University of Greenwich as AdventureX opened up for another year. The UK narrative gaming convention is now in its 12th outing and showed no signs of slowing down, with a huge range of upcoming games to try out and talks to enjoy for attendees. Whether you wanted to take in the eloquent musings of Revolution Software co-founder’s Charles Cecil, learn more about the Western origins of Japanese detective games, or hear about what it really takes to make it as a solo developer, there were plenty of fascinating discussions to be had and heard.
As for the games, I’ve rounded up a whole bunch of upcoming games I was able to preview over the two-day event, with another one – Heir of the Dog, by Lucy Dreaming creator Tall Story Games – to follow in a special video interview. Many of the same demos are available now on Steam, so settle in, have a read, and download those which take your fancy. Until next year, adventurers!
In this traditional point-and-click adventure game, you play aspiring treasure hunter Murphy McCallan as he explores the mysterious island of Devil’s Rock off the coast of Louisiana in search of the lost riches of Bellemore Manor, where decades ago an entire wedding suddenly and mysteriously vanished.
What first hits you with Foolish Mortals is just how pretty it all looks, with the hand-drawn, HD-resolution visuals of old grand mansions and swampy bayous really evoking the spirit of the American South. Since I last played the demo about a year ago, the interface has also been streamlined and cleaned up a lot more, so things like Murphy’s journal, where his quests and objectives are kept (as well as hints), now come down neatly from a drop-down box when needed.
I spent my time searching for the last of five items needed to create a spell to summon spirits that could point me to where the treasure may be – expect lots of supernatural elements like this throughout the game. With the great success of the game’s Kickstarter, however, developers David and Sophie of Inklingwood Studios tell me this element of Act One will be expanded substantially from five to seven ingredients for the final game, meaning even more puzzling fun for the keen adventurer.
This jump in size will be echoed in other parts of the game like the art, with some of the locations and specific buildings to grow bigger and look more detailed for the final product. A spooky, well-told tale of mystery that looks fabulous is just what the doctor ordered (or summoned?), so let’s all chant our own voodoo incantations in the hope that Foolish Mortals gets released as planned sometime next year.
The Quiet Things
Another successfully crowdfunded adventure, The Quiet Things is based on the developer’s real-life experiences with childhood abuse and trauma, and it doesn’t shy away from tackling big themes. The demo saw me play as Alice, first as a child and then, once several years had lapsed, as a teenager. Presented through “a blend of semi-realism and painterly style,” the gameplay mechanics will feel familiar to those who’ve played Gone Home, as you walk through your house in first person, picking up objects and hearing Alice’s thoughts on them or snippets of her parents or friends talking, along the way getting more of the story of her life and what is happening around her.
It’s all fully voiced, with a child actor doing great work as the younger Alice (developers Silver Script Games assured me of their diligent safeguarding when working with children throughout, due to its heavy subject matter). That attention to detail and authenticity is apparent in the rest of the demo, too, as the diary entries you pick up are the actual thoughts that Alyx the developer wrote herself as a child; a remarkably brave step to take. Called The Quiet Things due to its focus on highlighting the things we might write down but never say out loud, this raw but sensitive story should be coming to PC around the end of 2024.
Death of the Reprobate
The third in the “Immortal John Triptych” series after Four Last Things and The Procession to Calvary, Death of the Reprobate promises more exceedingly ludicrous situations and bawdy (Rabelaisian, if you’re clever) humour stemming from the use of landscapes and characters from portraits of real Renaissance paintings.
Whilst a standalone game in its own right, there’s a loose connection with the previous two titles in the person of Immortal John, who in this game is, perhaps surprisingly, dying. As his son (and more importantly, last surviving heir), you rush to his side only to learn that John isn’t really a great fan of yours, and you’ll need to make it up to him if you want his inheritance. That means completing seven good deeds (as opposed to seven deadly sins), which, knowing developer Joe Richardson, are likely to be full of bizarre, absurd moments.
Expect more of all the good things from the first two games (witty dialogue, quirky animations, unique visuals) but with more detail and interactivity promised in every scene for this one. When pressed, Joe said it might be out next year, but as he said the same thing when asked last year, and 2024 was the answer I got from almost everyone I asked at Adventure X, he jokingly conceded that perhaps they’re all being optimistic – only time will tell!
Actions have consequences in Cabernet, a stylishly hand-painted 2D narrative RPG set in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe where you play as Liza, a recently turned vampire. In the demo I started to come to terms with this sudden transformation and learn new skills along the way. As a roleplaying game there’s lots of variables to dabble with. For example, some dialogue choices or actions you make will affect your morality standing – be cruel and more nihilistic choices will be unlocked, or the opposite if you’re kinder. Gain experience by completing objectives and you can also put points into different knowledge sections such as Medical or Literature & Writing, which will also unlock relative dialogue choices.
I also got to try out a few of the vampiric powers Liza has acquired, including being able to fly around as a bat, and enchanting people (humans, not other vampires!) to alter their subconscious and potentially do your bidding. You’ll need to keep your “blood counter” (that rich red human “cabernet” of the title) topped up, though, to keep living your best vampiric life, which will introduce questions of addiction and alcoholism as well. You’ll be able to take a bite out of this adventure full of succulent choices sometime next year.
This illustrated narrative adventure from 3-Fold Games, the makers of Before I Forget, sees you follow the story of two Caribbean immigrants in post-war Britain, using the branching narrative mechanic of an interactive photo album to progress the story.
The Windrush generation was so named after the HMT Empire Windrush, a ship that carried many people from the Caribbean to the UK in search of a new life, becoming a symbol of the wider mass-migration movement of the time. You’ll delve back into two such lives as the present-day descendant of Rose and her brother Vernon, and the decisions you make will shape their story. Once you’ve chosen a photo to stick into the album, you’ll read through that scene in an interactive novel style, with certain words able to be clicked on to add extra illustration to the page (e.g. “bus” reveals a hand-drawn replication of an old London bus ticket). A special shout-out is owed to the game’s music, which I thoroughly enjoyed in the demo, evoking Caribbean culture through Calypso-style rhythms without ever feeling forced. There’s no set date for Windrush Tales yet, but fingers crossed for next year.
From the makers of Zniw Adventure comes this follow-up (but not direct sequel). Azure Mountain’s Zid Journey is from the same world and era as Zniw so there are a few similarities – it’s still set in the age of dinosaurs, retains the same charming hand-drawn Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic, and it’s still a traditional point-and-click adventure game mechanically.
What’s changed? Well, you’re playing as a different dino protagonist, Zid, and this time you’ve got a small hatchling friend along for the ride. During specific segments you’ll need to swap to your tiny pal to solve things – e.g. only your friend is light enough to climb up a vine to reach some fruit on a cliff. The hatchling, much like Liam Neeson in the action film Taken, also has a very particular set of skills – his hands (paws? claws?) are very small so he can only carry one item at a time, and he can’t talk but he can sniff. It’ll be interesting to see the kind of new puzzle opportunities this will open up when it comes to PC at – you guessed it – some point in 2024.
A whimsical and just a little bit silly third-person point-and-click space adventure, Vagabond Starship is the fifth game in the series by developers Stand Off Software, which continues the overarching story of former knight and now space captain Sir Typhil of Creulor, along with the crew of the starship Spearhead. Players who aren’t familiar with the previous games (Unicorn Dungeon, Poltergeist Treasure, Leprechaun Shadow, Alien Function) needn’t fear, however, as it’s also a standalone game in its own right.
This time you’re following the fully voiced-up gang in their quest for more rutabagas to power their ship after an unfortunate run-in with space pirates has decimated their supply. In the demo I was exploring the ship in the lead-up to this point, with puzzles mostly of the traditional combining-items-in-inventory variety, although there was also a mathematical challenge involving square roots and a fun Pong-style mini game. I’m told there’ll be more “retro arcade” mini games peppered throughout the full version, as you freely travel between three distinct alien planets in search of more fleshy tubers. Plus you’ll be able to choose your landing party for each planet you dock at, opening up more choices and no doubt much more absurdity. Prepare for Vagabond Starship to land at some point early next year.
In this gothic mystery adventure by Digital Mosaic Games, you’ll play as Hemlock, a scholar in the nineteenth-century Czech Republic tasked with travelling to the titular castle to translate an enigmatic medieval text known as “The Devil’s Diary.” Given the text’s title, it’s perhaps no huge surprise that things don’t go to plan – the book ends up going missing on Hemlock’s first night there, and with everyone a suspect you’ll have to explore the many rooms of the keep and unravel what’s really going on. In the AdventureX demo I mainly discovered the background of the castle by speaking to its slightly peculiar residents, but I also solved a locked chest puzzle by searching for possible passwords in the extensive book collection. The detailed pixel art and eerie atmosphere of this retro-styled point-and-click game gave me flashes of the equally foreboding The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow. Let’s hope it can tell a similarly captivating tale when it comes to PC in 2024.
Octopus City Blues
Octopus City Blues is an eccentric, dreamlike point-and-click pixel art adventure from Ghost in a Bottle that follows the life of Kaf Kafkaryan, a tentacle trimmer who lives on a giant octopus (naturally!). There’s a retro EGA resemblance to the game’s psychedelic colour palette, which appropriately suits the out-of-place feeling of this strange world. In the demo I was tasked as Kaf to complete a job interview and then try to learn more about where I could find “octoblood,” which used the game’s intriguing “gossip” mechanic. To discover things about your environment and the people who inhabit it, you can listen for rumours about particular topics of interest. In the full game you’ll be able to spread your own gossip – even if it’s false – which will affect the world and certain events in the story, making rumours a kind of currency to use at your desire or peril. You’ll be able to step into this surreal adventure at some point next year.