Clever, low-stress, RSI-friendly, eyecandy puzzle-adventure type games?
September 12, 2014 2:14 AM   Subscribe

Need moar gamez, plz hope! (for Mac or iPad.) I love Myst-type, atmospheric, "wander around beautifully illustrated worlds and solve puzzles" type games, especially with at least a little narrative quality, and want to avoid timed segments (do this within a timed period or fail), explicit / realistic violence (I don't really want to be killing things or wandering around bloody rooms, etc.), or games where advancement hinges on say, physically jumping from one thing to another thing in just the right way, at the right speed, etc. Specifically, I don't want to have to do much or any repetitive clicking/tapping movements, because ouch.

I have and love all the Amanita games, I loved Monument Valley, except it was too short (and too easy, really, though the novelty, atmosphere and gorgeous graphics made it delightful for me), The Room is really nice, though a little confined for my ideal environment... hm, what else? I'm currently stuck in Tiny Bang Story, for example, because I can't do the submarine mini game fast enough, and this is the sort of thing I'd like to avoid. Wrist and arm pain on my dominant side makes some games really not smart for me to play, if not impossible.

Some old school games I've enjoyed in the ancient past include Myst and its sequels, Grim Fandango, Bad Mojo, Lighthouse, 7th Guest/11th Hour.

Though it's really pretty, I'm not terribly fond of Contre Jour, so physics type "manipulate-things to swing, slingshot, climb etc.," aren't really my perfect cup of tea. Generally my Jump-around, Shoot, Run skills are low, and my logic and abstract thinking skills are high. Spatial stuff can go either way (like I'm currently having a lot of fun with English Country Tune, which is a bit like Sokoban on steroids + LSD, but it isn't an adventure type thing).

Any suggestions for me? (I'm looking at Psychonauts right now, but can't tell if it fits my needs/restrictions; any opinions on that one?)
posted by taz to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 147 users marked this as a favorite
Kentucky Route Zero is sublime, and hits all your requirements.

Device 6 for iOS devices. It's closer to interactive fiction, but presents words as space and does very interesting things with puzzles and atmosphere.

I personally love the Blackwell adventure games, but you have to soldier through the kinda tedious first episode before it gets good. And it gets really good. Not too much eye candy, but excellent writing and characters.

On that note, you might like other stuff that Wadjet Eye Games puts out.
posted by beijingbrown at 3:20 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Gone Home
Broken Age
The Wolf Among Us
Fract OSC (highly recommended by me)
posted by Mizu at 5:03 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

These two don't have a strong narrative to them, but they are delightful with good art:

For iPhone: About Love, Hate and the other ones

Mac desktop: Edge
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:17 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just stumbled upon the free Rituals, which sounds like what you are describing. Haven't played it yet but am currently dl'ing it.

If you want something for the smaller appetite, I suggest Escape the Room games, a successor of the point-and-click genre from days past. They will mostly play directly in browser although there will be variants for iOs, too. I specifically suggest the Jay is Games collection because they don't feature any Escape game under the sun and the comments are a nice way to get some hints (besides the walkthroughs, which is the complete solution).
posted by KMB at 5:39 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Poking my head in to say that as a sandbox fan, there are not words for my disappointment with "Gone Home."

Part of it may be an issue with my game-play skills, but in my quick, rolling through a pipe night playing that game, there were several cases where I thought that looks like a secret panel or door that is not locked or blocked from the other side. And in those cases they were, indeed. But not until later in the game when the in-game world changed after I read a piece of paper.

I am noting all these suggestions, so if you people are foisting off another Gone Home, I'll be out anywhere from $2 to $10!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:04 AM on September 12, 2014

Your question perfectly describes Dear Esther, which I think you will love.
posted by jbickers at 6:50 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh hey, I asked a very similar question last year that you might find helpful.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:17 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Psychonauts has a bunch of jumpy puzzles, and might be bad for RSI.

Mizu mentioned Wolf Among Us, but pretty much the entire TellTale Games library fits, visual aesthetic partially aside. They're closer to Grim Fandango than any of your other examples I think. (Sam and Max, Bone, etc..)

Maaaaybe the oddworld games?
posted by contrarian at 8:36 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I loved Psychonauts a lot, and it's dirt cheap these days (I think I saw it on sale for a dollar on steam last week), but it is definitely as much a platformer as it is a puzzle game with a funny story. Notoriously, the final level is pretty hard to nail all the platforming aspects correctly and I've talked to people who just walked away from the game because of it, or were soured on the game after having to play the final level so many times. That being said, I would say it's still worth it even if you only play the first half and get bored, so many of the worlds (brains) that you go into are so clever and interesting, especially once you get to the second half.

Besides all that, I would second Gone Home and Kentucky Route Zero. I also really want to get Fract OSC but I'm sure as soon as I do it'll be in a humble indie bundle so I'm trying to hold out.

You might try FEZ. Also Papo and Yo is an interesting platform/puzzler that is about the developer childhood with and alcoholic father that was really well done, but not very hard or long.
posted by DynamiteToast at 8:39 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hello, player of adventure! You and I have very similar tastes.

I've enjoyed almost every game you mentioned, so perhaps I can recommend you a few more.

Tim Schafer, the lead designer for Grim Fandango, worked on a bunch of excellent adventure games for LucasArts. Many of them are difficult to play on modern computers, but The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge were overhauled and re-released for iPad a few years ago. You could also check out Schafer's latest adventure game, Broken Age.

The Journey Down is a modern game in the LucasArts vein. Part one was short but incredibly polished; I'm looking forward to trying the newly-released part two.

Emerald City Confidential is noir detective game set in the world of Oz.

Fez is basically Monument Valley with gameplay.

I'm not usually into Sokoban games but I had a good time with CLARC.

Hitman Go is a puzzle game with a fantastic aesthetic. There's a small amount of timing to some of the levels, but each level only takes about 30 seconds, so maybe it'll be okay?

You might also enjoy the Submachine series of flash games.

Hope you find something you like!
posted by Georgina at 9:14 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding the idea of escape-the-room games (which often have much more than just that as an objective), and as a resource for finding good ones.

Beautiful, atmospheric ones include those by Tomatea, Tesshi-E, and Robamimi. There are tons more in a more cartoonish or cute style, lots of which are super fun, and which rarely involve violence or require absolute precision of movement.
posted by jessicapierce at 9:28 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Road Not Taken is an adorable little puzzler game that's come out recently. The art is wonderful and whimsical. The narrative is small but poignant. The puzzles are NOT time based, they are movement based, so you can take as long as you need for each step. They are procedurally generated, as well, don't know if that's a pro or a con.

If using a controller helps your RSI, a wired XBox360 controller and this driver will work with it on your Mac (and other games people are likely mentioning that have controller support on steam).
posted by foxfirefey at 9:28 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding Fez. I discovered this recently and really am enjoying it. I think we have similar taste as I loved playing the games you listed.
posted by FireFountain at 9:40 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dittoing, beijingbrown's suggestions.

There are sequences in Fez that require, if not pinpoint jumping/timing accuracy, some dexterity.

Adding: The Journey Down which is a pretty good point and click adventure series. They just released the second chapter of it. It tends to be cheaper on ios (it's on both ios and pc), but that's probably not so much an issue if there's a steam sale on. If the gap between the 1st and 2nd chapter is anything to judge by, though, do be warned that there will probably be a pretty hefty wait before next chapter shows up.
posted by juv3nal at 10:46 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Monument Valley visually reminds me of Windosill
posted by ringu0 at 11:41 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was also really good.
posted by DynamiteToast at 11:41 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, wow! So many great suggestions! I've loaded up. So far, I've picked up Kentucky Route Zero; Device 6; About Love, Hate and the other ones; Tengami; Dear Esther; and Fez. (And finally signed up at Steam.)

I'm exploring Dear Esther right now, and it's really spooky fun (I'm in the caves!), and has exactly that "lonely wanderer discovering weird mysterious places" dreamlike feeling I love. I've dipped into Device 6 (this seems very cool!) and played some of Love, Hate and the other ones, which is adorable and clever. I'm going to play Kentucky Route Zero with my husband, just like in the good old days.

I also downloaded Ritual, and it looks like it's a preview sort of thing to give an idea of what the finished game will be about, but without typical game controls that I can tell. The art looks great and the story seems like it will be fun; I'll be looking out for the finished version, apparently to be called "Somewhere."

I'll definitely be going back for second helpings to get many more of these, probably starting with The Journey Down, and really just pretty much everything mentioned here. Such wonderful recommendations, everyone, thank you!
posted by taz at 1:41 PM on September 12, 2014

About Love, Hate and the other ones

Fair warning, you may find yourself whispering "I love you" or "I hate you" to your SO.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:33 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nifflas' Games. Many of them are free and all of them are beautiful.

You'd almost certainly love all the games in the Knytt series.
posted by Quilford at 5:28 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kairo is beautiful in an alien, minimalist way. Movement is FPS-style, but there's no reflexes needed beyond being able to WADS and mouselook. It felt to me like exploring weird alien ruins in an Arthur C. Clarke story.

It has a very minimalist, elegant design that creates surprisingly distinct and memorable places from very simple building blocks, environmental puzzles that don't require a bunch of note-taking or code-deciphering, and a very streamlined interface with no HUD, inventory, or even a "use" key.
posted by straight at 9:33 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also recommend Gone Home, but check the system reqs first. Eyezmaze grow games might scratch the puzzle itch and Sunless Sea is very atmospheric, but while it's not twitchy, it does have some sort of... real-time time management elements. It's also only in Alpha, so far.
posted by NoraReed at 9:08 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A couple of updates for those who are interested in some of the same criteria: I did get Gone Home, and played it last night, a short and fun one that is strong on narrative (this is really the goal, to find out what has happened recently, and to some extent, in the more distant past), good though limited on exploration (rooms of the house, known and unknown), and, similar to "Dear Esther" (though they are very different!) is a story exploration that doesn't feature puzzle subgame sorts of things, though this one is interactive. It's unusual, and I enjoyed it. The only RSI issue in this one is that you can pretty much pick up / open everything (and there are a lot of things!), but only some items will advance the story or help to open or unlock stuff, so the hand action to reward ratio (wait, does that sound dirty or what?) is not great.

On a tip (thanks, NoraReed), I got it in the current Humble Bundle (12), which also includes a great one, not mentioned here yet, that I think folks who like the sorts of games I like will probably enjoy: "The Bridge." Though sort of opposite in aesthetic approach (cool black and white sinuous, line etching type art as opposed to vibrant, colorful, polished geometrics, it's an Escheresque similar to Monument Valley, and while you can die/be killed in this game, it has a "back-up" feature that really, really helps with the RSI business, because I don't have to endlessly replay any tough bits from the beginning. I love that. I'm on Chapter VII of this one.

I've also started Fez, and really like it. It feels more frenetic than contemplative, but I like the retro psychedelic quality, and so far, it seems like one I can just play for 10-20 minutes at a time to not overdo the jumping and climbing biz, and I won't lose the thread of what I'm doing... though maybe that changes – I'm not that far in (just finished the first golden cube).

I do need to get a controller, which maybe calls for a separate question.

I downloaded a demo of Knytt Underground, and while I really like the visuals and it seems like fun, it involves a bit more (sometimes kind of fine-tuned) climbing and jumping, etc., than works well with my wrist/hand trouble, and since it has no at-will save function (apparently you need to find "save points"?), too much repetition to work well for me to play in short bits. I appreciate that they offered a demo, so it was a risk-free tryout, and I think a lot of people will like this one.

Haven't started Kentucky Route Zero yet (we're supposed to do that today, since I'm off work), and I both love and hate Brandon Blatcher for "About Love, Hate and the other ones," which is a "puzzle platform" (I looked that up!) rather than adventure/exploration type game, but oh, dear. I'm ridiculously addicted, and have been playing it every night in bed on my tablet... and then when I wake up, I play it some more.

Kairo looks great, and is probably next up on my list, once I've gone through a couple more I already have... and still more mentioned here that I will be trying. I feel greedy and happy – my favorite emotion sandwich!
posted by taz at 2:28 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

A note about Kairo. About 96% of it is entirely fair and not really difficult. There's one puzzle that uses real-world knowledge in a way that stumped me because it was different from everything else. But there are 3 rooms with puzzles you cannot solve without collaboration with other people who've played the game. They lead to a few super-secret endings that are pretty cool.

So if you're stuck, don't be afraid to use the in-game hints, because they will tell you if you're in one of the rooms you can't solve right now. And once you've finished the regular game, go ahead and get on the internet and find the solution to the super-meta puzzle because the payoff is fun and you almost certainly won't feel like the puzzle is something you could have figured out if you'd tried harder.
posted by straight at 9:16 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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