Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Richard & Alice Review


Meanwhile... over in South Park

  • Developer: Owl Cave
  • Publisher: Owl Cave
  • Release Date: 21 February 2013
  • Time played: 3 hours

I've been grabbing a lot of games off GOG especially point 'n' click adventure games. In fact the backlog is pretty huge at the moment and it doesn't help that some of these are several gigs in size (meaning a huge blow to my miniscule 50GB quota). Thankfully, Richard & Alice is one of the adventure games that were small enough to not eat substantially into my quota. I believe I acquired this game during a GOG sale for a couple of reasons: (1) it is a game developed using a modified Adventure Game Studio engine (an engine I dabbled a bit in many years ago) and (2) the game was developed by gaming journalists – so I felt a kind of kinship – even though I'm by no means a professional gaming journalist but I do like to write about games and dream of making that breakthrough game one day…. one day… But I digress, here is my Richard & Alice review!

Plot (5/5)
Richard & Alice is set in the near future after a cataclysmic event sees the world inundated with snow, causing society as we know it to collapse. In this post-apocalyptic world, we hear the tales of two survivors, the eponymous Richard and Alice.

The plot is a well thought-out and mature mystery plot that invites a replay. The cogs were definitely turning (or at least trying to turn) in my head as I tried to piece together how everything in the game was interrelated and considering the moral dilemmas faced, what I would do in the same situation, not too dissimilar to some moments in The Walking Dead. I really love games that do this to you since it forces you to be introspective. Obviously, reflecting on your life and how you would deal with desperate situations can be somewhat depressing so this game won't be everyone's cup of tea but none can deny how carefully crafted and complex the protagonists of the story are. They're not just caricatures; they're just like people in real life.

Gameplay (3/5)
Richard & Alice is a puzzle-lite point 'n' click adventure game. Like other point 'n' clicks you use the mouse to interact with your world and to move your character. You also have an inventory to store and manipulate items. However, there aren't too many challenging puzzles in this game and when conversing with characters conversation options are limited. But there's a reason for this.

Like many interactive fiction games, the game seems very linear on the surface but it's in fact actually recording all the conversation topics you pick and all the actions you do (or not do). These determine what kind of ending you will receive as there are multiple ones. So like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, Richard & Alice tows the line where sure the gameplay is limited, but the intriguing story more than makes up for it. And remember, nothing will beat Dear Esther in terms of limited gameplay.

Inventory items are stored on the right of the screen

Sound (3/5)
Sound effects are used sparingly in the game and there is no voice acting.

Music (4/5)
The game has a suitably atmospheric music soundtrack; while there are no memorable themes it is effective in setting the sombre, depressing mood to the game.

Best of all, if you get the GOG version you get the soundtrack bundled absolutely free :).

Graphics (3/5)
Graphics are definitely not the game's main selling point but they're functional and do the job, if you don't mind old-school Japanese RPG style graphics. Don't be fooled by the cutesy graphics though, there are a few disturbing scenes in this only suitable for adults.

Replay (3/5)
The game apparently has 5 potential endings based on the actions you make so this would normally invite replays however I've always found it harder to replay games where you're unable to customise the protagonist which you don't get to do in these sorts of games. i.e. it's hard to roleplay the same character again yet choosing different choices. It seems like you're artificially playing the game just to get the other endings (which you basically are). Also, the game only takes about 3 hours to play meaning that even if you did replay the game it wouldn't be long until you finished again, which can be a good or bad thing depending on your view.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't notice any serious bugs while playing which is refreshing to see nowadays.

Score – 7/10

Richard & Alice has a great mature plot but the short game length, basic puzzles and primitive graphics holds the game back. Definitely worth a look if you can get it cheap though and another good example of the AGS engine's capabilities.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on GOG .

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