When Neanderthal’s grazed the earth and carved their first computer shaped boulder from ancient lime stone, there was probably a click and point adventure game pre-installed on it. I agree that’s a vastly exaggerated way of saying ‘Click and Point adventure games have been around since the dawn of the modern home computer’, which in itself is greatly exaggerated, but it’s true. I assume it’s because they’re cheap to make, easy to build, and, unless you want to compete against the likes of the Monkey Island franchise, originality isn’t a necessity. So imagine my surprise upon firing up this one, a paranormal investigator looking into the occult that not only sounded like it was lifted from a Broken Sword game, but played like one, enough to stack it up against it as an, in my opinion, an instant classic for the genre. All this from episode 1!
Adam Wolfe is a series of episodic click and point adventures from the team at Mad Head Studios, releasing as a 4-part season on Steam. The series revolves from renowned paranormal investigator Adam Wolfe, a cool confident dude who tackles the unexplainable and bewildering cases that the cops can’t handle. In episode 1, entitled The Ancient Flame, we are introduced to Adam, who is chasing a perp suspected of arson, who upon taking a bullet to the face is revealed to have had a powerful fire demon possessing him. Adam Wolfe’s investigation later takes him to the local museum which is showcasing an ancient dagger, a dagger which seems to house one particular pissed off fire demon. Armed with a magical watch capable of allowing him to see past events unfold before him, Adam must use his unique link to the spirit world to solve the case and unravel the mysterious disappearance of his sister, which he believes is somehow connected. The Ancient Flame is a heart pounding, bewildering, pacey adventure narratively speaking, but how does it score as a playable experience?
From the first option to click on a hidden object, I knew I was on to something great. The click and point adventure genre may be simplistic in almost every form of the word, but it’s what you do with it that makes it a rip roaring success, and Adam Wolfe has been pulled off superbly. Its strong paranormal story pulls no punches, and within the first 5 minutes I was hooked on it’s bizarre, compelling premise. Adam Wolfe as a character isn’t completely plausible, he’s a little too cool and calm despite dabbling in the other realm, oh and having a magical time travelling watch doesn’t completely bowl him over; he sounds like Sly Cooper if he was a detective … in fact they could be the same chap. Of course this impression is only from the first episode, so hopefully like a slow burning box set we get to explore the real Adam Wolfe, but for now he’s a little too mysterious, collected and lazy for me to be totally invested in him. The other cast members are what you’d expect them to be, A-grade wack-jobs that have been lifted from an episode of a sort of Midsummer Murders meets Dan Brown evening drama. The Ancient Flame was a narratively strong start to a series I hope only gets better and better, especially with a few underlining sub stories that seem to carry on throughout, confirming that this should be a pretty remarkable experience. I for one am confident solely based on this single episode. Adam Wolfe adopts a visual style similar to that of a graphic novel. The story is told through a variety of well-paced story boards that keep the player asking questions and eager to find out what happens next. The game’s visuals perfectly illustrate the unfolding events, summarising peculiar goings on and eccentric characters with a couple of brush strokes and flapping jaws.
If you’ve ever played any of these sorts of games you know how they work. You’re plonked into a new location and tasked with rooting through it to find a key piece of evidence, a puzzle to complete or a way out of peril. Each of the game’s puzzles range from cryptic & intricate to daft and unexplainable. At their best the puzzles are deep and require a genuine level of intellect & thought, in similar fashion to some puzzle models from my favourite Professor Layton titles, and at their worst they’re … still fun, just I fail to see how they’re being carried out in the game. Many of the puzzles are story driven, Adam, or a narrator, will be telling a story and it’s up to you to select the right corresponding image or item to carry on the tale. At times each location is a little vague, and the solution to solve some puzzles is a little farfetched, but luckily there’s a hint option to offer some assistance, which again at times can be a little vague. Ultimately every puzzle I was challenged with was greatly enjoyable and thought provoking, even if some of them were a little weird and seemingly out of place.
I, for one, have very high hopes for how Adam Wolfe will pan out. With such a strong and compelling first episode I cannot wait to begin playing through the next chapter, a feeling which I haven’t felt for an episodic game series since the first Walking Dead season. With such an enjoyable, chilling roller coaster ride kicking things straight into top gear, I only hope that the rich level of narrative and puzzle solving from Episode 1 continues into Episode 2, and of course Episodes 3 & 4. If there’s ever one click and point adventure game you should at least investigate, then Adam Wolfe has everything you could ask for, especially for those that cherish the phenomenal Broken Sword franchise.
To be continued … Episode 2: The Devil You Know, coming soon.