Richard & Alice Review

 

Apocalypse has many faces: nuclear disaster, meteor from outer space crashing into Earth, alien invasion… the list could go on and on. Sometimes the reasons are more mundane, like a climate change, which was shown for instance in a movie The Day After Tomorrow or the first adventure game by Denby Raze called Richard & Alice. It is an emotional and morally ambivalent story that doesn’t give us easy answers. One thing is certain though: when the civilisation crumbles down, people will do anything to survive, cruelty and betrayal included. 

 

It all started with the snow that was falling incessantly. At first, people didn’t care much, hoping the winter would pass soon. But the situation only kept getting worse. This is the reality in which we meet our protagonists. Richard is a man who spends his days locked in some kind of luxurious prison: his cell has two rooms, a TV set, a computer and a sizeable bathroom. Not bad, eh? The only thing he lacks is a companion but that soon changes when the opposite cell becomes occupied by Alice, a mysterious woman, who ended up in prison after committing a heinous crime. The two of them, having nothing better to do, start talking and slowly open up, revealing their earth-shattering secrets as the world around them slowly descends into madness.

 

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The plot is divided into two storylines. The first one is the present time where we assume control of Richard, move about his cell, overcoming some mundane problems, and communicate with Alice. The other one is the past, taking shape of Alice’s memories. The woman gives us an account of her life before the prison and how she did her best to survive in the apocalyptic world while looking after her five (and a half!) years old son, Barney. The relationship between them is so real and poignant that the player just can’t help rooting for the mother and the child, caring about them deeply. Actually, I fretted over Barney more than I did over Clementine from The Walking Dead, and that is really something coming from a person with an inherent allergy to children. The brilliant way all the characters are written only strengthens the immersion. All in all, the story is the biggest advantage of Richard & Alice. It’s very sad, depressive even, so don’t be surprised if at the end you’ll find your eyes welling up. The game leaves you thinking about the condition of humanity and those are not happy thoughts, I assure you. I swear I wasn’t crying, there was only a  truly moving tale in my eye.

 

Plot and its emotional weight aside, Richard & Alice is a point’n’click adventure game that is overall very simple. It takes only about three hours to beat it, but you’ll be no doubt thinking about it days after finishing it. Anyway, we move the characters around and perform actions using the left mouse button, whereas the right button allows us to examine something further. Along the way, we pick up quite a lot of items that are stored in our inventory, placed at the left side of the screen. We can combine them together and obviously use the objects in appropriate places to advance the story. All the puzzles are logical, but very easy. Maybe even too easy. I was never really stuck and without a clue what to do next. Obviously, that’s a good thing, though one or two more challenging conundrums wouldn’t hurt. Dialogues consist an important part of the game, so if you don’t like reading – tough luck! More seriously though, sometimes I felt that the authors wanted to cram in too much into the conversations, making them at times go on forever, when we just wanted to go back to the story. Still, talking is important because a few times you can choose different dialogue options, which determine the ending that you can get. There are several, so you are encouraged to finish the game more than once.

 

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When it comes to the graphics, I feel that majority of people won’t be overly impressed by it. And quite rightly, because it’s rather poor, sometimes looking like child’s first attempts at drawing in Microsoft Paint. It gets slightly better in time though, but is never really pleasant to the viewer’s eyes. I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though there’s not much to behold. To be fair, I found Barney’s animation really endearing. Apart from the visual overhaul, the game could use more music as well. Most of the time we are accompanied only by the ambient noises and swooshing wind, bits of melody appearing only occasionally. Pity, because a nice score would be very welcome here, especially that the game doesn’t have any dubbing.

 

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All in all, I really enjoyed Richard & Alice despite its flaws. I generally bemoan the lack of productions that are serious in tone and depressing, so this game fills the niche quite nicely. Just don’t play it if you’re in a suicidal mood. Really. Don’t. Otherwise, “have fun”, diving right into the overwhelming sadness.

 

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

 

Pros:

* Great plot

* Well-written characters

* A child that we actually care for

* Dark and depressing story…

 

Cons:

* …which may be quite overwhelming to some people

* Too much dragging conversations

* Poor graphics

* The puzzles provide no challenge