Indie-ana Jones Reviews Richard and Alice
I have had Richard and Alice in my Steam library for awhile and was just waiting until I had some free time to enjoy it. So right when I fire it up we find Richard in a prison cell and he is bored out of his mind when something strange happens. The guards bring in a new prisoner, he is dying to talk with whomever is in there. Once Alice awakes Richard is chatting with her. At first she is cold and shies away from you. After sometime though you become friendly and are always chatting.
Right after meeting they soon find out that Alice is missing something from her room, a TV. Consumed with boredom she begins talking with Richard. He has found that the TV is just on a loop as he has been there for a considerably longer time so he is looking for conversation with anyone. As you talk you come up with ideas about how to escape or turn up/down the thermostat. When Alice tells her story you are transported into her memories and play as her. This is where you get the first glimpse at the desolate conditions on the surface. The world is filled either with snow and ice or an equally inhospitable desert where the ground is cracked from the glare of the sun. Alice is traveling with her son (Kindergarten age) who is oblivious to the constant danger. You must escape a man who has locked you in a basement and find medicine, food, and shelter during Alice’s sequences. After she escapes the basement things take a turn.
You are trudging through snow trying to find someplace warm before you both freeze to death. Thankfully you find a house to stay in. After warming up and getting some food in their bellies Alice goes out in search of supplies. And so the puzzles begin, first you must find a ladder to get into the second story of your house (the stairs are blocked) and hopefully there is food up there. I do not want to give away to much of the story so I will just say that it is a continuous struggle to survive and stay clear of the deadly gangs. The story does pull you in and you feel for the characters dilemmas and struggles. But there is always something tearing you away like the gameplay and environment.
Bland graphics and terrible movement animations pull you out. The walking is so weird, all the characters do a strange shuffle movement that doesn’t look right. I don’t know how to explain it and I know that it is a little thing but it caught my eye and once you see something you just can’t un-see it. The environment is mostly snow and anything else is basically brown except for the prison but mostly Richard and Alice just chat in there. What really gets to me is the walking, it is unnecessarily complicated and slow. You constantly have to click at the edge of the map to continue moving and you cannot just hold down the mouse button and drag it places to move, you have to click. On top of that all around the edges there is a dead spot so you have to be conscious of that to. It makes something that should take a few seconds take minutes.
On top of the irritating movement are the puzzles that make you constantly backtrack and deal with more walking. I will use one puzzle that will wrap up the entire game for you. You must get to a box out on the lake but the ice won’t hold you. So after some thought I go ah ha! I have to go back and grab the ladder. So I go back and try to grab the ladder but Alice says, “I’m not going back up there.” Ok hmm…ok it must be something in the woodshed, nope. Ok then the building we are sleeping in, again nothing. Alright it has to be in the church, nada. Ok maybe I have to find something around the lake (I thought I had scouted it pretty well), nothing. Ok where in the hell am I supposed to go!? Now I am just running around clicking on everything, then I click of the ladder. All of the sudden Alice decides now is the time to pick it up. What!? What!? Why now!? I have no clue why it wouldn’t let me pick the damn thing up the first time. I have no idea what requirement needed to be met before I was allowed to pick it up but it seriously took me like 45 minutes of wandering. Forty minutes was me wandering and five minutes was interacting. It is obnoxious and only exists to extend the length of the game. I could have finished it in around an hour but spent a little over 2 because she walks so damn slow and all the backtracking.
The walking and interacting isn’t the main draw for Richard and Alice, the story is. I’ll put the gameplay issues aside for now. You two can interact with each other across the hallway, mostly just talking but sometimes you put together contraptions to share items to try and solve a new problem. Alice telling her story is what you are working to get back to and Richard has no problem prying so you get to drop back into her story quite often. As the story goes on you get this nagging feeling that you are missing something. Are their stories intertwined somewhere? Is Alice someone Richard knows or vice versa? Is it all a dream? The people at Owl Cave were smart to sew those seeds but not reap them until the time was just right. I liked the twist but was disappointed by how little it actually affected the characters. It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, when you pull back the curtain the imposing figure turns out to be an unexceptional man.
Even with the story being pretty decent the dialogue with the son is excruciating. Alice is constantly trying to shield her son from the awfulness of the outside world. This all fine and good but her conversations with her son are unbelievable. Even for a child the conversation and questions are ridiculous. It was horrible and when talking with him I just skipped through it as fast as possible so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. The dialogue can be so disjointed and at its worst distracting and unbelievable.
What I do commend is Alice, her character is not a damsel in distress but a strong willed and clever character. She feels real and that is refreshing. Alice is fiercely protective of her son and capable. She witnesses and commits grizzly acts across the game. We see her deal with depression, grief, suicide, and hope for a better future. She and Richard are not the common stereotypes that are commonly portrayed, they are just people trying to deal with an awful situation. Their choices aren’t good or bad but somewhere in the middle and that is what the world is, somewhere in that gray area.
I was somewhat disappointed we didn’t get to play any of Richard’s story but it is Alice’s story so it makes sense to leave him out. Richard and Alice’s stories are what makes this game livable but outside of that it is pretty much a disaster. It’s just so bland and slow moving, finishing it was a chore. If you want a good post apocalyptic game I would go on Steam and buy any Fallout for a few dollars more. Then you get to enjoy a great story and gameplay (I suggest Fallout 2). Unless Richard and Alice is on sale I would suggest passing.