Richard & Alice is a game that I wouldn’t usually pickup as I’m generally very stuck in my gaming flavoured ways. I personally tend to look for the traditional fighters and third person adventure games, so, in truth, I rarely give other genres a chance or time to commit with. However, one night after scanning my eyes over games I’ve played a dozen times, I thought it was about time I explored the Steam store in an effort to try something outside of my usual tastes.
Developed and published by Owl Cave, Richard & Alice is a point-and-click adventure game set in a bleak and snowy town ruined by the collapse of their government and society. Within the first few minutes of experiencing this title, I was unaware of how mature and moody this game would play out. Needless to say, I was intrigued from the get-go.
The leads, Richard & Alice, are generally well written, and are most definitely the main focus of the game. It tells the tale of the two people who are imprisoned for different reasons, in somewhat homely prison cells; with a bedroom, bathroom and living room. Set in a future post-apocalyptic world, the planet is covered in snow and ice because the government failed to act promptly to an impending disaster, thus, leading to the downfall of society. The story plays out through the present day and flashbacks, in which you’ll learn the backstory and developments for each character.
Overall, the design has its flaws. The walking speed is fairly slow throughout and definitely proves tiring after having to scroll through multiple screens of snow to get to a simple door. One minute, you’ll have a deep and developing conversion, and then the next, you’ll be forced to navigate long and unnecessary paths to continue the story. It made for mindless trekking, and at times, drove me to detach myself to the story; often making the experience feel tedious.
The primary focus of the game centres around plot and character development, so it’s understandable to see why the gameplay took a backseat during development. In fairness, this is a very typical approach for a point-and-click adventure game, with item collection used to progress the story forward. I guess the plus side to this game is that the puzzle solving is inspired by real-life problems, so keys and combining certain items will help you to move things forward. This doesn’t make it enjoyable or rewarding, though, as completing tasks feels like a chore most of the time.
The visual presentation is basic and uninspired, in my opinion. However, in an odd way, it kind of works to support the games subject matter. It’s by no means pretty to look at, and the artwork almost looks as if it were created in MS Paint, but in turn, it also doesn’t affect the mood style of what the game is themed on. The music is essentially on loop for most of the game, which somewhat adds a layer of mysterious ambience. All of the sound effects are stock standard, and I guess with the minor effects, with the overall sounds, the dialogue and story remains front and centre.
Despite the fact that Richard & Alice is a brief, and, at times, taxing game, it does offer some replay value with multiple endings. There is also hidden information to find throughout that’s easily overlooked and adds more of an inside look into the mind of the characters. The less than impressive art style and barebones gameplay will not please everyone, but underneath is a thought provoking and slow building tale that will grip some players – just don’t expect to enjoy it.