I love old-school adventure games so damn much, but sometimes I just can’t manage to finish them. I get stuck on puzzles but I’m often too stubborn to consult a guide, or I lose patience with their pacing, or sometimes I’m just tired of looking at my laptop screen (most of the adventure games I want to play are on my work laptop). I feel bad about this, because at their best, adventure games are playgrounds of absurd logic, fun characters, and gorgeous art. A mobile game called Pilgrims has finally got me jazzed to play an adventure game again.
Part of this is due to the game’s presence on Apple Arcade – although it’s also available on PC – but another reason is the neat way it foregrounds the trial-and-error method for solving puzzles, a method that adventure games devolve into anyway. Here, it’s what you’re actually supposed to do.
As you’ll recall, getting stuck on a puzzle had been part of my problem with adventure games in the past, and often led to me disengaging entirely with the game. Usually, I’d get stumped because the logic of the game had become impossible for me to parse, so I’d just start trying things with no rhyme or reason, mindlessly matching items with interactable objects and seeing what would happen. That’s not very fun, so after a while, I’d quit.
Pilgrims, however, is a game that strips everything back and makes being “wrong” part of the fun. It’s a game about a pilgrim-looking dude on a journey; it’s not very clear where to, there’s no text in the game and every character speaks in amusing gibberish. Mostly, this is a game about trying stuff and seeing what happens. Every item and character who joins you is available to play as a card. Play a card in a scene, and even if it doesn’t give you progress, something amusing might happen. A man in a tavern might pour your character beer and get them drunk. A bear might eat your stew and punch you out. A demon might twirl a lasso like a rodeo character. None of these things have advanced me in the game, but I’ve loved seeing all of them.
That’s why I think I’m going to finish Pilgrims. Because, like a pilgrim, I’m off to see what I can see.