The puzzles, though, we struggled with periodically almost from start to finish (apart from the excellent hacking minigame that reminded us of long-forgotten path connecting 8-bit puzzle classic Deflektor). It's not so much that we're out of practise with adventures; well, we clearly are, but we don't want to brandish that as an excuse. Maybe it's years of having our lateral though processes dumbed down by endless watered down action adventuring and simple object hunts, combined with button pushing. Or maybe Revolution's efforts continually blur the line between logical and just damned pernickety. Time and again, progress was utterly barred by having not done an action at the right time. Sometimes you'll do an action, activate a machine, and find that it doesn't really do anything of interest - only to later discover that it only becomes relevant when you've done something else. Often you'll wander around baffled by what to do next, thinking you've searched every room, activated every object, only to discover it's simply a case of doing things in the right sequence. It's needlessly frustrating as the game gives the player absolutely no inkling of what they're trying to achieve. Dare we suggest, the solution to the game's own problem is to provide its own task list of objectives, or at least prompt the player that once they've done something significant, they should do this next. It's a common trick in action adventures - pan the camera somewhere else to drop a large clue of what the next port of call is - but The Angel of Death all too often leaves the player high and dry.
Speak no evil
The most needlessly tiresome element that we kept crashing into time and again was the 'conversation effect'. Progress is so often held up until you've flitted between locations and ensured that you've asked everyone about everything, because until you do, the subject won't show up in the other person's conversation tree, and thus they won't be able to give you the crucial piece of information required to present to someone else. And even then, you've got to be mindful enough to do things like examine objects in your inventory ("oh look, there's something written on the back") and combine certain objects. Or remember to use your PDA to hack computers. All things the game never prompts or suggests or hints. The merest amount of hand-holding would have made The Angel of Death a far more enjoyable experience. As things stand, your only option is to plug away and hope that something clicks, or you notice some previously obscure object, but more often than not, even when you do solve something, you still shout incredulously "how the hell was I supposed to know that?". Even the option of highlighting objects that you need to interact with would have helped - sometimes the objects are a few pixels wide and obscured by semi-darkness, and if you've walked past them the first time, there's a pretty good chance you'll take an age to go there again. Even knowing what you're looking for isn't enough.
Fortunately, there is an online hint system that gradually gives clues before revealing the full solution. Even used as a last resort, you can stillfind yourself wondering why absolutely crucial details are left out - or in one memorable instance, why the actual solution bears no resemblance to the logic of reality ("why didn't you shout out the code through the door, you stupid $#&@?!!"). It's definitely a lot of fun deciphering clues and applying lateral thought to situations and scenarios, and being inquisitive, but on at least half a dozen occasions we wanted to throw in the towel, go up to York and give the lovely Mr Cecil a stern talking to.
But the veteran in me remembers that point and click adventuring was always a bit of a cursed love-hate affair. Even the best of LucasArts efforts housed some ludicrous puzzles. It's always been a catalogue of slightly unhelpful situations that come together in the end. You don't play adventure games to be able to breeze through them like an FPS or a typical action adventure. You chip away at them. Mull over them between sessions and come back with a fresh approach, and get dragged along by the desire to see the story unfold. In a way, they're the worst kind of game to review, because you're under strict time pressure to get through them, and you particularly don't need to be put under pressure to review games like this, because it's always so frustrating once you're stuck. It's not like GTA where you can just go off and play a side mission. This is about as linear as gaming gets - and to a fault, perhaps.
As an example of classic, back to basics point and click adventuring, there can perhaps be no finer recent example in the genre than The Angel of Death - it's a nailed-down must-buy if you're an adventure diehard who plays every one. It's got excellent production values, a great script, solid cast, a delightful orchestral score and some of the most challenging puzzles seen in a videogame for ages. But for mere mortals, trying to play through without the walkthrough will be among the most daunting experiences in videogaming, and it's there where we fell out of love with The Angel of Death. It's a great game in so many respects, and we're overflowing with admiration that Revolution stuck to its purity of vision about what an adventure game can and should be about in the mid noughties. But when you're sat in front of the monitor filled with rage because of some utterly obscure puzzle, you'll have to question whether consistently busting a player's balls in so many ways is the right approach these days. It is a game's duty to entertain, after all, and being trapped in a handful of locations with nothing to do than click on everything and everyone in the vain hope that something might happen is a peculiar way to pass time. Revolution should take heart that it got most things right about The Angel of Death, but that giving the player a repeated bloody nose should be optional, rather than a mandatory part of the experience.