The point-and-click video game genre has had an interesting ride. The genre began back in the 1980s as one of the first video game genres consisting of simple text adventures. As technology advanced the genre continued growing and was one of the most popular genres on PC. This popularity was short lived though as the genre started dying out in the late 1990s as other genres like the first person shooter grew in popularity. The genre remained as a cult genre for around a decade but has seen a resurgence in recent years due to digital distribution. I bring this all up because today I am looking at a point-and-click game from before the collapse of the genre. Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs was originally released back in 1996. Today the remastered version of the game was released on Steam. Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs succeeds at updating a cult classic to the present day but fails to fix all of the problems of a game made over 20 years ago.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Casual Brothers for the review copy of Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
It is the 1860s in Arizona and things are quite chaotic. The Civil War just ended and America is expanding west. American soldiers are fighting with the local Native Americans, the Mexicans are fighting against the French, and many nefarious outlaws are trying to make their own fortunes. In this chaotic environment you play as Fenimore Fillmore. Fenimore Fillmore witnesses a shootout where a man is killed and his golden skull is stolen. It turns out the skull is part of a set of three skulls that reveal the location to a valuable treasure. Will Fenimore Fillmore be able to reunite the three skulls and find the ultimate treasure?
Longtime readers of Geeky Hobbies will know that I have reviewed quite a few point-and-click games in the past. As a kid I can’t say that I was a big fan of the genre. As an adult though I have come to appreciate the genre mostly because I am a big fan of puzzle games. As I wasn’t a big fan of the genre when I was a kid, I missed out on a lot of the “classic” point-and-click games. I have been catching up on them though through the recent trend of remastering classic point-and-click games. While I had never heard of Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs before, I was interested in trying it out as it is always interesting to see what the older games in the genre have to offer.
Gameplay wise Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs is similar to pretty much every other classic point and click game. As the genre’s title aptly points out, the gameplay mostly relies on pointing and clicking on things in order to solve puzzles. You mostly pick up objects and figure out how to use them. You also talk with people in order to get information that is needed to solve puzzles. Like a lot of older point-and-click games you have a list of actions you can take with objects which include: go to, open/close, pick-up/give, use, move, talk, and look. You have to use these actions in order to solve the puzzles and advance the story.
As for the difficulty I would say that Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs contains a lot of old-school difficulty. I can see this as both a positive and a negative. People who like the challenge of old point-and-click games will be happy as the puzzles aren’t something that you can solve immediately. Some of the puzzles require some real puzzle solving which adds a sense of accomplishment to the game. On the negative side though the puzzles can be kind of frustrating at times. The game relies on a lot of backtracking and trial and error in order to solve some of the puzzles. This can become a little frustrating at times where you might want to consult a walkthrough to figure out what you are supposed to do next.
I would say the difficulty of Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs doesn’t come from the same source as most point-and-click games. The general complaint against a lot of point-and-click games is that the solutions to the puzzles can be really abstract and random. The only way to solve these types of puzzles are to either be on the same wavelength as the puzzle designers or to try everything until you find the right solution. There are occasional instances of this in 3 Skulls of the Toltecs as well, but it isn’t responsible for most of the difficulty in the game. Most of the difficulty comes from two things.
First most of the game’s locations are opened up pretty early in the game. This gives players a lot to analyze at the same time. If the game only opened up a few locations at a time it would narrow down what you could do making it easier to figure out what you should do. This is not the case though in 3 Skulls of the Toltecs as you can visit most locations right away. The game is also somewhat open world as you can choose which skull’s storyline you want to pursue first. Initially this is great as you can choose a different path if you get stuck in your current path. At times this makes it much harder to figure out what you are supposed next in a particular story though. This leads to a lot of backtracking and there will be times where you will get lost.
The bigger problem with the game is that it is not always clear what you can and can’t interact with. In most point-and-click games your best option when stuck is to slowly hover around the entire environment to try and find things that you can interact with. I would also highly recommend this strategy in Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs. The problem is that it can still sometimes be hard to figure out what you can interact with. The only way to tell if something can be interacted with is to watch the text on the bottom of the screen which will change when you can interact with the item. This lead me to getting stuck a couple times where I was looking for a specific item and I didn’t notice when I hovered over an item that I could interact with. For the remaster I think the game would have benefited from highlighting/outlining an object you could interact with when you hovered over it. This would have made these items easier to notice. This problem also applies to some of the conversations as to advance the story you have to go down very specific dialog paths. If you make any wrong choices the whole conversation is ruined. When you make a wrong choice, you have to restart the whole conversation from the beginning.
On the story front I would say that there are some positives and negatives. In a lot of ways Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs’ story is similar to a lot of 1990s point-and-click adventure games. The story can be quite cheesy at times which I appreciate. Fenimore Fillmore is kind of naive which leads to some funny moments. I would say that the story is kind of politically incorrect though. The game does have quite a few stereotypical characters. For example some of the Mexican characters are portrayed as lazy. The Native American and Asian characters are also made the butt of jokes based on their speech patterns and accents. The game was originally created back in 1996 when this was a little more acceptable. I don’t think this is a reason not to purchase the game though and I think it was the right decision not removing it from the remastered version of the game. It is something you have to take into context when playing the game though as it is kind of insulting.
As far as the remaster is concerned I think the developers did a pretty good job bringing a game that is over 20 years into modern times. The game runs well for the most part except for a few bugs and glitches. I would say most of the remaster work went into updating the graphics. The graphical style hasn’t drastically changed from the original game. Most of the work was done to clean up the artwork from the original game and add a little more detail. The remaster doesn’t look quite as good as some of the other remastered point-and-click games that I have played, but it is a visible improvement over the original game. The improvements are good enough where the game doesn’t look outdated.
The problem that I had with the remaster is that I think the developer could have went a little further in some areas. The graphics for the most part are pretty good but there are occasional graphical glitches. Sometimes the graphics become a little blurry where I am curious if those assets were upgraded for the remaster. There are also a few other graphical glitches that I encountered. For example one time I was talking to a character and his neck showed in front of his face which lead to a pretty awkward conversation. I did play a pre-release version of the game though so these issues might already be fixed or may soon be fixed.
Other than the graphical glitches there are a couple other issues with the remaster. First there were a couple times during the game where Fenimore Fillmore would get stuck in place where I couldn’t move him or interact with objects. Reloading an old save fixed these issues. As the game autosaves quite regularly, this didn’t lead to me losing a lot of progress. Another issue with the remaster is that it doesn’t appear like the audio was upgraded for the remaster. The audio can sometimes have static and other imperfections the background. The audio levels can also sometimes be inconsistent where some audio is really loud and others is really soft. I think the game would have benefited from the audio getting a little work.
The game’s length is really going to depend on the player. How good you are at solving the puzzles and how many times you get stuck are going to determine how long it will take to beat the game. If you encounter no roadblocks at all I could see beating the game in just a few hours. If you get stumped a few times I could see the game taking around 6-7 hours. Players who get stuck quite a few times though could take quite a bit longer. This is not too bad for a point-and-click game especially as it only retails for $10. I wouldn’t say that Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs has a lot of replay value though. The storyline is really straightforward so I don’t really see a point in playing the game a second time unless you wait long enough where you don’t remember how to solve the puzzles.
Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs is a solid remaster of a 1996 point-and-click game. The puzzle solving is pretty good for the most part. The gameplay does have that old-school difficulty though. Unless you are a puzzle master you will get stuck at times and have a hard time figuring out how to proceed. The puzzles themselves are pretty straightforward but the game requires a lot of backtracking and it is sometimes hard to tell what you can interact with. The story is cheesy but entertaining for the most part. It is kind of politically incorrect though. The remaster does a pretty good job updating the graphics, but it does encounter occasional glitches and more work could have been put into the audio.
If the story or old-school point-and-click games don’t really appeal to you, Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs probably won’t appeal to you. If you have fond memories of the game or want to try out an older game from the point-and-click genre, you should enjoy your time with Fenimore Fillmore: 3 Skulls of the Toltecs.