#9: Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures
You have no idea how much work claymation takes – no, not even if you did a stop-motion project in your final year at college. Aardman Animation does incredible work, the old school way, and capturing that in a video game was quite a task.
Did Telltale come through? Well, the game’s look great, that’s for sure. But the Wallace & Gromit world, which seem a perfect fit for the frequently bonkers logic of adventure games, somehow didn’t quuuuuuuite succeed. They’re decent games, yes, but the feeling isn’t quite there. Is the pace too ponderous? Are the jokes to twee? I don’t know. It’s better than Law & Order, though, for sure.
#8: Back to the Future: The Game
Since everyone had forgotten about CSI by the time this one came around, Back to the Future is often hailed as Telltale’s first big license. It’s also notable as the last really old school adventurey-adventure the developer produced (so far).
What really makes Back to the Future stand out is that Telltale took a really well-known property and told a new story with it, showing us new sides to familiar characters. It didn’t have the impact that it deserved, really – it wasn’t until The Walking Dead that Telltale broke into the big leagues – but if you’re tracking the studio’s development, it’s definitely a turning point.
#7: Jurassic Park: The Game
I love dinosaurs and especially Jurassic Park so much that I almost put this at number one just on principle, but this series was made by a Telltale experimenting with a new kind of adventure game, and it hasn’t quite found its feet. If it weren’t for the dinosaurs I’d drop this down about four spaces, so your mileage will vary considerably.
The characters aren’t in the same league as the film’s, and neither is the set. You don’t get any of the sense of consequential choice found in other Telltale games. This was also the first Telltale game to experiment with more action-oriented sequences, and although they’re not terrible they lack the impact of later titles; it’s a bit like watching a direct-to-video Jurassic Park sequel movie on Netflix and having to press the resume button more frequently than usual.
#6: Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People
If you are under the age of 20 you might not be that familiar with Homestar Runner. An intermittently-updated collection of flash video series dating back to 2000, Homestar Runner went on hiatus for four years only to return quite recently. Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People is based on the adventures of Strong Bad, Homestar Runner’s primary enemy, whose popularity probably outranks his opposite number’s thanks to his willingness to answer fan mail.
The series started okay but got particularly good in later episodes, but doesn’t have much draw outside the Homestar Runner fanbase. The world of Homestar Runner is a perfect fit for the randomness of adventure game conventions, but if you’re not already keen on it there’s not much reason to check out a pretty low-risk adventure offering. If you are a fan you’ll probably love this, as it’s basically more Homestar Runner with extra clicking. Not Telltale’s strongest effort, then; in other titles it has done an excellent job of creating games that appeal to total newcomers, too.
#5: Tales from Monkey Island
This is one of those instances of a really good idea running flat into the jaded cynicism of the grumpiest corners of the Internet. Monkey Island: one of the most important and beloved adventure franchises of all time. Telltale: even in 2009 already one of the most recognised modern adventure developers. A match made in heaven, right? Sadly, it turns out the same nostalgia card that makes us rush to drop our cash on Kickstarters also makes us pretty ornery about people messing with our favourite IPs, so you’ll hear a lot of whinging about it.
In fact it’s actually a pretty damn good series. No, nobody will ever match the LucasArts originals – but as a love letter to Guybrush, it certainly worked. Again, Telltale showed it could put together a satisfying extension of a story we know and love, and to take familiar characters in new directions. Give it a chance; it’s worth it.