There are typically two lines of thought when dealing with releasing old games on a modern console. There are ports that prioritize being as faithful as possible to the originals, even if they haven’t aged particularly well, and then there are remastered versions that’ll feature tweaks to make a game more playable to a new audience. Occasionally there’ll be a release like Day of the Tentacle Remastered that caters to both audiences, but it’s ultimately a matter of philosophy. Do you choose to preserve history, or give players the best possible experience?
8-bit Adventure Anthology Volume I falls more into the category of being a faithful port, but that’s not to say that there haven’t been some tweaks. For one, the three classic PC adventure games (Shadowgate, Uninvited, and Déjà Vu) are all playable with a controller (you can use the analog stick or the touchpad) rather than a mouse and keyboard. It’s certainly not the optimal way to play the game due to how precise some of the “clicks” have to be, but it’s a totally adequate control scheme that never felt too frustrating. It does show how far adventure games have come in the decades since these titles released, though, as it feels quite cumbersome to be clicking on verbs and then objects in 2017.
The first game I checked out was Uninvited, which is a haunted house-themed adventure game. It’s not exactly scary in 2017, but it’s still fun to be dealing with a bunch of supernatural baddies. Sadly, I didn’t find the puzzles all that fun to solve due to the leaps in logic players have to make when solving them. That sort of trial-and-error was acceptable in 1986, but I just wound up getting frustrated. I eventually gave up, and used a guide to make actual progress. It’s not ideal, but that’s likely how a lot of players will ultimately experience it.
The only title of the three that I had played previously was Déjà Vu, although I’m not quite sure I ever wound up beating it as a kid. This is where I got to really experience the nostalgia pulls that the collection can have, and it was a pleasant trip through memory lane getting to see these scenes I vaguely remembered. It’s largely a detective story (there’s no supernatural element like in the other games), and the mystery winds up being the real star of the game.
My favorite game of the bunch is Shadowgate, a fantasy point-and-click title that has players exploring a mysterious castle filled with deadly creatures and secret passages. Some of the puzzle solutions are incredibly obtuse, but there’s a lot of charm that makes the whole thing worth playing. Plus, getting to outsmart a jerk troll will always be satisfying. Non-coincidentally, it’s also the most recent release of the three (although it’s still a 1987 release), so it sports spiffier graphics than the other titles, and you can tell that ICOM Simulations learned some lessons from their previous titles.
One’s enjoyment of 8-bit Adventure Anthology will ultimately come down to what they were expecting out of it. If you’re looking for a way to play Shadowgate on PlayStation 4, then you’ll be incredibly happy with it. Conversely, if you’re a modern day adventure game fan that is looking for some new titles to play, then you might find that these ports are faithful to a fault. Besides some helpful auto-saves, there aren’t the assists that modern games in the genre have, and some of the puzzles wind up being utterly bizarre in how they’re solved. If you’re not using a guide, expect to die plenty while you experiment with using different items. It’s a reminder of why the genre fell out of favor for a while, and how far it has come.
One thing that really would’ve helped the collection stand out is if it did more to celebrate the classic games that it has in the package. Besides a few aesthetic filters (such as making the screen look like a CRT monitor), there’s really no bonuses to be found here. While ideally a package like this would feature some documentary-style features, even some extras that told players about the historical significance of the tiles on offer would’ve gone a long way.
8-bit Adventure Anthology Volume I does exactly what it advertises. It allows players to play three classic adventure games on modern consoles without any hassle. That said, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into since this doesn’t featured remastered versions, and the design is absolutely old school. Those who are fine with those caveats will find a lot to like here, but even then, there could’ve been a little bit more put into the presentation of these classics.
8 bit Adventure Anthology review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.