Adventurous Quests
February 19, 2010 2:37 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend has been playing Psychonauts for the past couple of weeks and I like the concept of different worlds with different challenges, skills, and puzzles. I also enjoyed playing Myst. What other adventurous quests are there?

Here's what I liked about Psychonauts and Myst:
* The puzzles/challenges are direct manipulations of the environment (so not some random vaguely-related puzzle game like Puzzle Pirates - it's fun but not what I'm after)
* Part of the puzzle is working out what skills you need to solve it
* Aspects of other games (such as Psychonauts' beating up Censors to collect energy)
* The environment is fun, expansive, good for exploring
* You're not just pointing&clicking OR whacking bad guys OR playing mini're doing a mix of things
* Everything you do contributes to a larger story

My boyfriend suggested Jazz Jackrabbit, which I loved as a kid but isn't quite the same thing - it's a side scroller with limited controls and interaction. Rayman comes close. He also suggested Assassin's Creed (though he didn't like it much) and Half-Life (but I'm not a fan of gore). Something like MIT's The Game would be a good real-life equivalent.

Ideally it would be free and playable online, since I'm on an Ubuntu netbook, but I know that's rather reaching. We do have a desktop with Windows XP that's used for gaming, and my boyfriend buys games off Steam. Thanks!
posted by divabat to Computers & Internet (31 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Although it doesn't meet all your criteria, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is full of puzzles of different types with a story involving several mysteries.
posted by royalsong at 2:41 PM on February 19, 2010

Starship Titanic was one of my favorites. It's Myst-ish with a sense of humor.

Monkey Island series also fits your criteria.
posted by kirstk at 2:50 PM on February 19, 2010

posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:00 PM on February 19, 2010

Nethack more or less fits these criteria, is available through Ubuntu's default repositories (universe), and would run just fine on a netbook.
posted by Zed at 3:01 PM on February 19, 2010

Ratchet and Clank.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:09 PM on February 19, 2010

Nethack? Really, nethack?

Psychonauts has about as much in common with Madden as it does with Nethack.
posted by Oktober at 3:15 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

The following two games are available through Good Old Games (, are playable on Windows XP, and cost $10 or less:

Sanitarium is an adventure game which bears some strong resemblances to Psychonauts: the main character awakens in an asylum and has to adventure through various delusion-created worlds of his own and others' devising to solve the mystery of what is happening and why, using point-and-click puzzle solving and various skills unique to each dreamscape. I really enjoyed it, and based on what you've asked for, it would be the first one of my recommendations I look at.

Any time someone asks about adventure games, I always want to point them towards The Longest Journey. It's a straightforward but well-crafted adventure, the puzzles are mostly environmental and arise out of story demands, and the story itself bounces between different parts of two parallel worlds.

Batman: Arkham Asylum strikes a balance between exploring, action combat, and stealth combat, although I'm not sure whether it would be to your taste based on what you've described. Still, I think it meets your "mix of things", "exploring environment", and "larger story" criteria. It is available on Steam.

Finally, I don't know if you have access to a PS2, so this may be a little out of scope for the question, but my immediate answer to your question was Jak and Daxter. The second game in the series, Jak II, is an open-world style adventure with a variety of different minigames, skills, and environments. I didn't play Jak 3, but it was also very well-received according to Metacritic and has similar gameplay elements.
posted by Errant at 3:19 PM on February 19, 2010

Hopefully this isn't a stupid suggestion, but have you played through all the Myst sequels? I've only played a couple of them, and I think there are 4 or 5 of them now, but there are definitely plenty of puzzles. In a similar adventure/puzzley vein, I really enjoyed Syberia and Syberia II. This won't really help in terms of free stuff, but Gametap has a number of old-school point and click adventure games that are much more on the puzzle side than the interactive movie side. The Syberia games are there, as well as things like the Zork series and some Jules Verne-themed games which you might like.

I know you aren't really looking for console games, but Psychonauts is one of my favorite games of all time, and a lot of the qualities I liked about it I also found in the Kingdom Hearts series on the PS2. Oh, and speaking of Psychonauts, in addition to the Monkey Island games, you should check out Grim Fandango also, for more Tim Schaefer-y goodness.

On a personal aside, when you mentioned MIT's The Game, did you actually mean the MIT Mystery Hunt?
posted by Diagonalize at 3:20 PM on February 19, 2010

Response by poster: Diagonalize: Yup, that's the MIT thing I meant. I've read the reports and I drool. It's like the best game ever.

I've played most of the Myst games, and I think I tried one of the Syberia games but it died on me halfway.
posted by divabat at 3:46 PM on February 19, 2010

You're quite right about Mystery Hunt being awesome! I was on the winning team this year, so you should come out to Cambridge next January, because hopefully we're going to put on another super Hunt!
posted by Diagonalize at 4:06 PM on February 19, 2010

Psychonauts is a true classic, one of the all-time Great Games, so it's a hard act to follow. I remember many of the levels like I just played the game last week, and it's been years. If you haven't gotten to the Milkman level yet, you are in for a treat.

Ooh, I know! I was just scrolling through my list of Steam games, looking for inspiration, and it hit me: the game you should play next is Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. The later episodes in that series weren't as good, but the first one is a shining jewel of gaming. It's much more of an action game than Psychonauts is; it's very focused on fluid motion and feats of acrobatics, but it has many physical puzzles that you have to work out in order to progress. There's a lot of stylized, Arabian-Nightish combat. You have a magic dagger, filled with the eponymous Sands of Time, that lets you rewind time for a short period if you make a mistake... you watch everything run in reverse, and then can resume play at the correct instant. It's a great mechanic, lots of fun to play with.

The whole game is very cinematic. The voices are wonderful, and the story is fun. I was very disappointed when it was over, because I wanted more!

There's nothing exactly like Psychonauts, but PoP is probably about as close as you're going to get. The only thing that worries me is the combat; I'm sure you'll love the motion and acrobatics and environmental puzzles, but I don't know if you'll like the fighting. It's $10 on Steam, so you're not out a ton of money if it doesn't work for you.

Note: I played it on the XBox 1, and loved it to death. I haven't played the PC version, and I don't know how good the port was. I vaguely remember hearing that it was a little harder to control. You may want a gamepad for it.
posted by Malor at 4:28 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Braid, available on Steam, has the whole different powers/different world thing, but it's not so expansive.

I've never played Trine, still waiting for it to come to XBOX, but it might also fit some/most of your criteria.
posted by cali59 at 5:11 PM on February 19, 2010

Do you know of the (out-of-print, Windows-only) Grim Fandango?
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 5:11 PM on February 19, 2010

Nethack? Really, nethack?

- The puzzles/challenges are direct manipulations of the environment
- Part of the puzzle is working out what skills you need to solve it
- Aspects of other games
- The environment is fun, expansive, good for exploring
- you're doing a mix of things
- Everything you do contributes to a larger story

posted by Zed at 5:17 PM on February 19, 2010

+1 for Portal. It's short, delightful, and flawless.
posted by kprincehouse at 9:15 PM on February 19, 2010

Seconding Grim Fandango. It was made by the same folks who made Psychonauts. . . just years earlier. It's pretty old, 10+years so it's probably available online somewhere. Lots of puzzles, in-depth story, wonderful characters. It was one of my brothers and my favorite games when it was new.
posted by FairlyFarley at 9:22 PM on February 19, 2010

Seconding Braid. It's the first thing that came to mind for me.

I... uh... still haven't beaten it. But every time I leave it for a month and come back, I make progress. It requires both deft control and an open mind ("I can stand on that?!? FFFFUUUUUUU!").

I have to recommend Grim Fandango, too, although it's more of a traditional point-and-click than Psychonauts. Nonetheless, the puzzles are all concrete, the worlds are very different, and it's by the same guy who worked on both Psychonauts and the above-mentioned (and highly-recommended) Monkey Island.
posted by McBearclaw at 9:34 PM on February 19, 2010

Ever since Errant weighed in about Jak and Daxter for the PS2 (which I'd 2nd, btw), I've been thinking about Okami. It's got everything you're looking for, and if a PS2 wasn't available for like $50 used, I'd probably not mention it. But it is really such a beautiful game.
posted by cali59 at 10:04 PM on February 19, 2010

Ditto Grim Fandango.

Also, The Longest Journey or its sequel Dreamfall, maybe?

Both have their flaws, but still worthwhile I think. The first one is straight point and click (like Syberia) and the sequel does more of the "doing a mix of things" you mention liking, but to be honest, the parts of it that aren't point and click are kind of crap.
posted by juv3nal at 12:48 AM on February 20, 2010

Grim and TLJ are fantastic games, but I explicitly didn't recommend them because she says she doesn't want to do just one thing, and that's pretty much what those games do. In Grim, you're piloting a 3D character around with an ancient and clunky interface, and solving puzzles, but that's it. It's not 3D like Psychonauts, where you're having to solve physical puzzles, or having to fight enemies. It's just a pure adventure game in rather annoyingly-controlled 3D. It's not point-and-click, it's drive-through-3D-space and click.

TLJ is a traditional 2D point-and-click adventure, except with rather crudely-animated 3D characters on top of lovely 2D backgrounds. You could call TLJ a "2.5D" game. The low-quality characters shouldn't bother most folks after the first half-hour or so, and the backgrounds are often stunning. But it's still a basic point-and-click adventure.

Since she explicitly says she doesn't want point-and-click adventures, I don't think either one would be a good fit.

OP: if you want to relax your restrictions a little, those are two of the best traditional adventure games ever done. If you don't mind the lack of hybrid gameplay, they're wonderful.
posted by Malor at 1:41 AM on February 20, 2010

Again: the biggest problem you have here is that you're trying to follow up on a game that's probably in the top-25 ever done, and almost anything will be a bit of a letdown in comparison.
posted by Malor at 1:44 AM on February 20, 2010

Response by poster: A lot of these games sound great and I'd play them anyway, though in this case I'm trying to find a game in a genre I can't seem to concisely describe. From a first look at these suggestions (mainly through websites & Wikipedia):

Starship Titanic (looks like more of the kind of thing I'm after, but can you get it online?)
More Myst (My boyfriend says we haven't played *all* of them yet. Well there you go.)
Batman: Arkham Adventure (I like the sound of the detective mode!)
The Longest Journey (downloading demo now!)
Syberia (I played it a few years ago but my copy was faulty. Maybe another go?)

Monkey Island (I've played at least the first one, though it does read as more of a text-based adventure with graphic accompaniments)
Ratchet and Clank (looks relevant; is there a representative demo?)
Sanitarium (concept looks intriguing but I am squeamish!)
Jak and Dexter (not sure about the driving, but couldn't really tell)
Grim Fandango (sounds like fun, the non-linear aspect was interesting)

Professor Layton and the Curious Village (puzzles are not directly affecting the environment, also I don't have a DS)
Nethack (not as dynamic. I'm not after Zelda.)
Portal (all you're doing is creating a portal in and out; I'd like to be able to do *more*)
Kingdom Hearts (bit too RPGish for my taste, but maybe the later games are more suitable?)

OK, that's the first part. Hopefully this gives more of an idea. Atmospheric adventure mental quests? Point & clicks extended?
posted by divabat at 2:55 AM on February 20, 2010

Divabat, do not dismiss Portal without giving it a shot. It is one of the best environmental puzzle games out there. Incredibly funny, incredibly clever. While you can reduce it to "creating a portal," it is MUCH more than that.
posted by smersh at 4:58 AM on February 20, 2010

Really, how has no one suggested World of Warcraft yet??? It meets all of the criteria except that you have to pay for it.
posted by alygator at 6:08 AM on February 20, 2010

7th Guest/11th Hour? It's a pretty small world to play in, but they're good older puzzle games if you can find copies.
posted by Cricket at 8:10 AM on February 20, 2010

I know Portal doesn't sound like much, but it really is one of the best games evar. Maybe grab the 'First Slice' demo from Steam? It's like the first ten levels of the game for free. I guarantee after you finish it you'll be hooked.
posted by word_virus at 8:53 AM on February 20, 2010

I recommend Beyond Good & Evil.
posted by danb at 9:31 AM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have heard good things about the Rhem games.
posted by speicus at 1:35 PM on February 20, 2010

It sounds like you're describing a genre that's similar, at least in part, to what I was looking for in this thread -- puzzle adventures with relevant puzzles.

You might give "room escape" games a try -- especially Neural's room escapes (the best I've come across) and some of the other ones mentioned in that thread. They generally don't have much of a story (other than "I'm trapped in this room!"), but the good ones (like Neutral's) contain puzzles that are great and relevant to the environment -- not peripheral and tacked on.

Tipping Point is quite good. It's an environment-manipulating browser-based puzzle adventure, with relevant puzzles that don't just seem like an afterthought, and with an unfolding back story that's more robust than those of most escape games.
posted by sentient at 4:39 PM on February 20, 2010

Here are some that I've played and loved that mostly fit your broad criteria:
For Ubuntu, I recommend Beneath a Steel Sky and the Ur-Quan Masters (both older). There are also good nintendo 64 and ps1 emulators for Ubuntu on which you could play such games as Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, and Chrono Trigger. Otherwise, you will not find anything similar to Psychonauts on this platform.

For Windows: The Longest Journey 1/2, Beyond Good and Evil, Syberia 1/2, Indigo Prophecy, Grim Fandango, and Tales of Monkey Island are my favorite adventure games. If you are willing to delve into RPG territory, there's a huge library of good games there.
posted by aesacus at 11:07 PM on February 20, 2010

Oh hey, seconding Beyond Good and Evil (can't believe I forgot about that).
posted by juv3nal at 11:43 PM on February 20, 2010

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