Lucasarts Adventure Series Retrospective
Written By Stephen Heller
Adventure Games dominated PC gaming during the late 1980’s and early 90’s with many of these games still showing up in the top PC games of all time lists across the internet. Lucasarts aren’t exactly known for much more than Star Wars titles these days, but back in the Golden Age of PC Gaming they were a major player in the Adventure Game field.
Lucasfilm Games developed their first Adventure Game called Labrynth in 1986 that was based on the movie of the same name. It was a rather average game, but it gave Lucasfilm Games a foothold in the industry. A year later and a name change to Lucasarts saw the release of Maniac Mansion, which also introduced the SCUMM engine, the scripting engine that was used for most of the company’s adventure series from that moment on. Maniac Mansion received a decent reception and got the company noticed a little as an upcoming developer in the then booming genre.
It was in 1990 that Lucasarts hit the ground running with the release of the critically-acclaimed The Secret Of Monkey Island which set a standard for the genre. Critics claimed it was the first truly accessible adventure game out there, with memorable characters and a charming story. It has been cited as a favourite game for Director Steven Spielberg and actor Elijah Wood.
Lucasarts dominated their main competitor Sierra On-line with a slew of popular and accessible titles in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (1991), Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992) and the sequel to Maniac Mansion, the classic Day of the Tentacle in 1993.
With the release of home consoles with impressive graphics, PC gamers expected more from their computers to show off their new and expensive hardware. Adventure games became less and less common as the years moved on. 1997 saw the release of Lucasarts final 2D Point and Click Adventure with The Curse of Monkey Island to a warm, yet un-enthusiastic reception.
It was in 1998 that they delivered Grim Fandango, a truly unique adventure title that once again set the standard in the genre. With highly stylized visuals, smart and witty writing, characters that are forever memorable and some of the best voice acting you are likely to find, it has found a place in cult gaming history. It received Gamespot’s Game of the Year award, yet sales let the title down and closed down all avenues for a planned sequel.
The poor sales of Grim Fandango seemed to outline the place for Adventure Games in these times. Lucasarts had one more attempt up their sleeve with Escape from Monkey Island in 2000, and once again it was generally well received. Poor sales let the title down, and it was the last adventure game released by the studio to date.
Chronological Release Dates for Lucasarts Adventure Games
• Labyrinth (1986)
• Maniac Mansion * (1987)
• Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders * (1988)
• Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure * (1989)
• Loom * ** (1990)
• The Secret of Monkey Island * (1990)
• Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (1991)
• Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992)
• Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle (1993)
• Sam & Max Hit the Road (1993)
• Full Throttle (1995)
• The Dig (1995)
• The Curse of Monkey Island (1997)
• Grim Fandango (1998)
• Escape from Monkey Island (2000)
Heller’s Top 3
3- Day Of The Tentacle
The sequel to Maniac Mansion will always have a place in my heart as the first Adventure Game I truly loved. It featured smart, witty dialogue with enough jokes that a kid could understand and find funny, yet an adult would pickup on all that hidden humor. Good puzzles, well presented and one of the most memorable of a memorable bunch
2- Grim Fandango
I never got a chance to play this game until 2007, long after the release and long after hearing from a lot of sources that it was such an amazing title. I went in expecting greatness, and I was still gobsmacked by what I was playing. Grim Fandango was ahead of it’s time, story telling that rivals most of the games coming out today, characters that are some of the most memorable ever to be put into a video game, and visuals that even today look great. If you can get your hands on this game, do yourself a favour and get lost in Manny’s world, it’s worth your time.
1- Sam and Max Hit The Road
Sam and Max is by far the zaniest and out there of the bunch, but that’s what makes it so damn cool. Sam and Max are voiced to perfection as the bumble across the US causing confusion and mayhem. This is a title that will keep you laughing days after you finish it.