Am I The Only One Thinking Adventure Games Should Be Using 2D?

I tested the new Monkey Island game demo, and after finished the demo I started to look a place to purchase a Monkey Island game. No, not the one I tested (which uses 3D) but the special edition (that’s 2D).

I feel that 3D just adds extra layer on a system that doesn’t need one. In 2D, it has everything that there’s needed, and 3D does not bring (in my opinion) anything that would make the game any better. And, as a bonus, I somehow like the (handdrawn) 2D art over 3D in adventure games. Always have.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel adventure games should use 2D rather than 3D.

What you think?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Day of the Tentacle… Maniac Mansion, that was superb. I think I managed to solve that game without walkthroughs. I might want to play this game again.

    Hmm, adding one more in the mix: Full Throttle. I absolutely loved that game. Some blamed it to be “too short” and “too easy”, but frankly… I loved it. The main character had attitude and solving puzzles didn’t cause gray hairs or anything… so it was fun. Get it if you can find it.

  2. Yes, Broken Sword is a must, I played 1+2 and I think they’re both great games. But my absolute favorite will always be Day Of The Tentacle :)

  3. Yeh, Gabriel Knight 1 is excellent (bloody difficult, and there’s one place where you can get stuck if you don’t know what to do – If I remember correctly, it’s some police station part). Very spookie experience. Totally recommend.

    GK 2 I bought, and it’s those “recorded real life actors” stuff, but I really liked it back then. It was also easier, but very nice in my opinion. I know a bit of German language, so it was cool to put some of that in use as well.

    GOG indeed is great, and I totally support them (voting with your wallet works…)

  4. Yeah, I’ve got to check out Gabriel Knight, as for Broken Sword 2, don’t feel shy to use a walk-through / FAQ on the places you get stuck, I find that happens with almost every adventure game. :)

    Gotta love GOG, I hope their making a good living from such a great niche business idea and great execution!

  5. Runaway: (I remember reading about this game, wanting to play it but some reason never did)

    Broken Sword 2 (I think I played this a bit, got stuck… and eventually stopped. :))

    I have to add also Gabriel Knights (pre-3d ;) those were simply great experience. Tough as hell, but with walkthrough guide & patience they were great stuff:

  6. I think Keith’s probably right, so I stand corrected, assume that the list I gave is non-hand drawn as opposed to actual realtime 3d.

    @Juuso You’ll love Broken Sword pre-3d, not sure you’ll like it as much afterwards.

    I’d also recommend Runaway for a modern example of a new game in the classic handrawn art style. (It’s an experience, just wait to you meet Lulu and the girl-boys, oh boy)!

    I guess point ‘n’ click adventure games aren’t dying, but handrawn point ‘n’ click adventure games, those may be more a rare species these days.

  7. @ZeHa: eh… I said that in the most positive way. Heavy Rain does it properly. It’s sort of better than games or movies ;)

    @Keith: your comment make me thinking that perhaps 3D in adventure games has the issue of camera/controls: it’s so easy to make them bad. Maybe that’s what bothering me in 3D adventure games.

  8. quote: To me it’s some sort of – hmmm – “game movie”

    to me, sadly, almost every modern game is some sort of game movie…

  9. You might be confusing a 3d engine verses pre-generated 3d. I believe Syberia uses a 2d engine, but it’s sprites and environments are pre-rendered 3d. The problem is they’re not thinking of 3d in the sense of 2d. They try to make these ultra-realistic graphics, rather than trying to make really nice looking graphics. It’s the difference between technicolor pre-50’s and color now. The old technicolor looks closer to a beautiful painting, rather than harsh realism. Or it’s like film-to-video, people like film because it looks nice, video is harsh, but more like we actually see.

    As far as actual 3d engines are concerned Monkey Island 4 really was ruined by a bad control scheme, because they weren’t really using the medium correctly. While I prefer 2D to 3D in look, as far as whether it works or not is really a control issue not a look issue. What you want is a third person perspective over somewhat static backgrounds. If scrolling backgrounds are to be employed then you need to treat them like you would 2d, you build them up in 3D, and move a camera along them still at a third-person perspective. It would still work correctly since adventure games were really meant to be in the third-person, not right in the action like a first-person shooter. That said, you can even have a first-person adventure game (technically text-adventures are first-person, as the feedback is directly to you, as you are the one doing it).

    Also you can get any visual style you want in 3D just as in 2D although maybe a bit different. Personally I like 2D better because the art style is defined by the artist (or whoever is producing/directing/etc), whereas in 3D it’s more defined by the technical aspects. “How many polygons can we get away with. Can we use shaders?” etc.

  10. @biovf: sorry, read badly :) got the point now (in these times, it makes a great excuse to say “I’m a Finnish” – when in reality I just read it in too hastily ;))

    Anyway. Perhaps my own thinking about “adventure games” is somewhat limited to point’n’click. In fact… my mind almost thinks that “adventure = point’n’click”. Certainly all these Alan Wake, Silent Hill, Penumbra (horror games all by the way) stretch the limits of genre definition. Same goes for Heavy Rain which is almost like a movie feeling in that game.

    @Leroy: Perhaps I’m also hating the Guybrush art. It can never compete with this:

    Broken Sword… I wanted to play that as a kid. Perhaps I’ll need to check gog.com for those games.

    Is Syberia 3d? It does a fine job hiding it…

  11. I agree with the Monkey Island 3d assesment, I don’t like the new 3d style as I think it has less charm about it compared to the old handrawn method (I think they do it because of time / cost).

    As far as general adventure games go, I’ve played many in 3d where in most cases the results work well and in some cases are quite beautiful and / or charming such as Syberia, Mysterious Island and Tunguska Secret files.

    I think Broken Sword 3 is example where the 3d transition lacks the charm of the old as other example too.

  12. I used “C” as an example of the pattern that you could put in the sentence, like “…should be using sprites instead of 3D models” (and that would be visual) :-)

    Anyway, 2D vs 3D, it might be visible but it doesn’t affect the ‘Quality’ of the game per se, only affects the visual perception that you have from the game.
    Picking up this point, I would say that point’n’click don’t specially demand for 2D, it’s just that the formula for 2D is more refined than for 3D and is yet to come that revolutionary game in 3D that’ll be an awesome adventure and you’ll love to play :-)

  13. P.S. And I think “should be done using C++” is different comparision: one cannot see if a game was done using C++ or not, but 2D vs 3D is certainly visible.

  14. I feel that those point’n’click adventure games sort of demand for 2D. 3D sort of changes the pattern, usually for the worse. Or indeed your option (b) just isn’t done.

  15. Eh probably is just me but… I don’t think that having 2 or 3 dimensions dictates “a priori” if the game is good or bad.
    I mean, switch the sentence for “Am I The Only One Thinking Adventure Games Should Be Using (insert-word-here)”, as an example, “C” or any other language where the old good adventure games were made off…

    If the new monkey island is not as good for you as the first ones, I guess that’s because:
    a) personal preference
    b) the guys from Telltale are yet to tune even more their formula for the 3D

    Just look at Mario’s games, they could have been catastrophic but the designers really worked it out…now look at the Sonic case…
    From my point of view, it’s not the dimensions that really matter but how you create the games.

  16. lonestarr: yeh, in Heavy Rain it works.. but then again, strangely I don’t somehow put that into an adventure game category. To me it’s some sort of – hmmm – “game movie” :D I did like playing the demo.

    But yeh, I get the point.

  17. In my opinion, 2D would be better for a lot of games. Or at least some kind of hybrid, like “Dodge that Anvil” does (it uses 3D environments, but 2D sprites mapped to billboard polygons or something like that).

    I was very disappointed when I saw screenshots of a Spongebob point’n’click adventure. The series is 2D. With today’s monitor resolutions, it would have been possible to create a very great adventure game that looks and feels exactly like the series.
    But… they use prerendered 3D backgrounds instead of painted ones, which is not THAT bad, but they also use 3D mesh characters instead of plain 2D sprites, which look totally crappy! I just don’t understand that.

  18. Amusing, I just told that (adventure games are better in 2D) to a game producer here in France a few days ago. Answer: “it wouldn’t sell anymore”. Bad world…
    Juuso: 3D works perfects in Heavy Rain (but guess what: I still prefer those clumsy pixels of Space Quest).

  19. @Ilya: I don’t consider Penumbra to be a “typical” adventure game. I feel it’s it’s more of a horror game with some puzzles. (I guess this also makes my own definition bit bad if I automatically don’t even categorize certain 3D games into adventure games ;))

    @Sebastian: in which (adventure) game 3D works?

  20. I cannot really tell if 2D or 3D is better. I know I like both. I also know that I’m a little nostalgic of those retro 2D games. They remind me of a good era. 3D is natural, but sometimes 2D is better. If you have an adventure game with a lot of text (like a book), probably the story will be more important than the graphic aspect. I also think that 3D can kill the mood in an adventure game’s context where text and story dominate. The reason is simply because words sometimes will stimulate your imagination and create better images than the 3D graphics trying to create the most realistic image (very often it looks fake). The 3D era tends to impose the graphic style, which leaves less space for your imagination.

  21. Forgot to add: LCD scaling will distort all your pixel-perfect sharp sprites. Older games was not concerned with this problem at all (back then monitors had much lower resolution variety and CRT has no scale distortion).

    Vector image format can help somewhat (check Little Wheel – a very nice free flash game), but it can only apply to a limited set of art styles and drawing techniques.

    Yet, saying all that, I can’t imagine anything of the above in a game like Samorost (also nice free flash).

    Overall, adventure games seem to be one of these genres where 2D vs 3D debate does not have a clear winner.

  22. It totally depends on the chosen style. Some games are really better in 2D, some others will not work in 2D at all (e.g. Penumbra).

    It is possible to make 3D look like 2D drawings, but with smoother animation. So Blonde mixes 2D and 3D almost seamlessly. Also, producing all the animations by actually drawing them frame by frame would probably cost a lot more.

  23. Hi,

    Did you see the new rayman? Michel Ancel’s team is building a pipeline tool to produce this kind of game with a little team.



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