Even with a recent resurgence of sorts, the time when true adventure gaming was a blockbuster genre is well and truly past. Those interested in re-living that past, or in finding out what all the fuss was about, can check out Hardcore Gaming 101's Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures.
The book sets out to catalogue the most important graphic adventure games of all time, specifically those released during the genre's "glory years" of 1984-2000 (though more contemporary games also feature). All the big names like Sierra and Lucasarts are there, as well as practically everyone else you've ever heard of, with other games featured ranging from Kojima's Snatcher to Simon the Sorcerer to the game that started it all, Zork.
The authors and editors are up-front in saying that not every game or developer is covered, but honestly, I couldn't think of a title I'd heard of/played that wasn't there.
What We Liked
Being written by a large group of contributors, there's no constant "voice" throughout the book, and as such the quality varies from piece to piece, but at the very least you'll learn a lot from each entry not just about what the game is about, but what (if anything) makes it worth looking at years or even decades down the line. Especially since most have been written as retrospective reviews, which can be helpful if you haven't played the game in question before.
It's comprehensiveness is also to be applauded. Coming in at over 750 pages, and featuring around 150 games, there's not much about the genre, its developers, franchises and games you won't be able to learn (or be reminded of) from this book.
What We Didn't Like
Call us spoiled, but the presentation here is a little sparse. While the information is appreciated, this would have been nice as a glorious, hardcover coffee table book, really showing off a lot of the art that made these games special. A good-looking book would also have been a great way go convince people to pay for it, since much of the content is already available on Hardcore Gaming 101's site (though obviously not all of it, and not collected or edited like this).
What you get instead is a book with only the most basic formatting and some black & white images (though it should be noted, a Kindle version is available that is in colour).
The Bottom Line
If you're after something to really show off the games, like a big art book, this isn't for you. What it is, and this seems somewhat fitting for the genre, is a book forgoing flash and visuals for substance, favouring text and information over all, and on that count this book's a great read for fans of the genre (or would-be fans!).
The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures was compiled and edited by Kurt Kalata, featuring reviews and features written for Hardcoregaming101.net. Retails for USD$27 on Amazon. A digital copy of the book was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes.