I’ve never really gotten on with adventure games, so I don’t know why I would have expected anything different when it came to 3 Skulls of the Toltecs. I’ve always found them too slow, too contrived and too reliant upon players coming to the same conclusions as the developers from whatever arcanery the deviser of any puzzles in the game considered logic. Given that I wasted three years of my life studying formal logic before getting an office job with the most irrational internal politics, leaps of ‘logic’ aren’t particularly something I like to fill in my leisure time with.
Anything I say here probably shouldn’t be considered fair: I didn’t play the game for a particularly large amount of time and my opinions of it are very much biased by my lack of affection for genre wholesale. With that said, and having wonderfully and skilfully indemnified myself from any criticism with that one glancing comment, there is so little from my time with the game that I feel worthwhile. While it’s a stable of the genre, the game presents itself as nothing more than the traditional and standard ‘verb soup’ of the genre, with the verbs already not-quite-meaning-what-the-words-mean within the first twenty minutes, with picking up a screw being done by looking in a basket rather than explicitly choosing to pick something up. While perhaps a minor niggle, it’s something that immediately indicates that the game has little respect for what you, as a player, would expect to do in a given situation – an indicator that the game, while premised on ‘real-world’ reasoning, expects the player to engage with it on its own internal terms.
It probably doesn’t help that the setting doesn’t do much for me: I’ve never been one for westerns (I don’t care much for American exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny and all of that) and I’ve never been one for anachronisms to generate humour – 3 Skulls trades heavily in both and – as would be expected – turned me off by doing so. Maybe I’m just a humourless boor, but it feels cheap to trade in solely an assumed shared cultural background to generate humour: a little patronising to the player.
I’m sure that there is enough here for people who like this sort of thing, just as the sort of deviants who don’t add bechamel sauce to lasagne and still call it lasagne are free to do so and enjoy it. For me, though, the slow pace and lack of consistency are always going to turn me off. It may be that the game has a wonderful story to tell, but I was already in a position of not being able to look past some obvious flaws to find out. I’ll completely yield if someone tells me this is to my detriment.