PN Review: The Rivers of Alice: Extended Version
Whenever Alice falls asleep, she enters a world of fantasy.
While its predecessor showed something of a point-and-click resurgence, the Wii U remains limited when it comes to graphic adventure games. As such I tend to have an eye out for when the next will release. The Rivers of Alice still managed to sneak up on me somehow, but with its weirdly unique visuals and promise of a leisurely adventure I quickly grew intrigued. Playing it however has left me largely mixed.
A couple of staples for graphic adventures are (often) intricate stories and robust voice acting. Both are in short supply here sadly. The lack of plot puts some real limits on motivation. Meanwhile the use of pictograms in lieu of speech come up short in ideal function. They do make for a more artistic presentation though.
This game is leisurely in more ways than one. The screens pan quite slowly, and there’s moderate loading times for each. Alice herself walks very slowly, and the animations in general keep you waiting. It’s somewhat ironic that a sloth acts as your hint source of sorts, since this game moves at such a sloth-like pace. Even by genre standards I found things a little too sluggish, a feeling that only grew with continued backtracking. But as it’s being marketed as a game “if you are not in a hurry”, how much can I really fault it?
The arousing visuals proved unable to live up to their full promise. The water color look is mostly darker shades, with a major want of vibrancy. The Alice character has no color whatsoever, making her notably dull looking. Perhaps if the developers had gone either full black-and-white or full color things would’ve worked more effectively, but this hybrid left me rather unsatisfied. The potential for a dream world was under realized. I’ll also add that while the graphics certainly show some imagination, the world overall felt rather soulless to me, lacking that certain something. Interesting? Yes indeed. Beautiful? I wouldn’t call it such. And while the game is rated E, I do believe some of the bizarre imagery could prove disturbing to younger children.
The soundtrack for The Rivers of Alice was composed by an indie rock group. Rock certainly isn’t the easiest type of music to mesh with a graphic adventure game. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results are uneven. Does the lion’s share of the music really fit the dreamy atmosphere the game’s trying to establish? Especially when lyrics get introduced, it’s hard to shake the feeling that these songs might’ve been conceptually misplaced. The music is sporadic also, at times giving way to sizably unscored sections. Given that much of it may be ill-fitting though, this actually isn’t such a bad thing. It also helps lessen repetition slightly. Should you happen to love these tunes, and unlockable music player has been included as a thoughtful gesture.
In terms of the gameplay and puzzles, The Rivers of Alice left me with many moods. Sometimes satisfied, other times surprisingly bored, and occasionally even frustrated. Audio-visual preferences aside, the game had inconsistencies that challenged my patience. For instance, sometimes Alice will acknowledge an action you attempted was wrong. Other times she’ll remain silent. Or how about clicking the inventory, which will usually pull an item down for use. Sometimes it will inexplicably send Alice plodding across the screen. Things such as these and more – including game resetting bugs – suggest more polish is needed.
The further I advanced in The Rivers of Alice: Extended version, I couldn’t escape the growing feeling that it could’ve been so much more. Perhaps it just caught me in the wrong mindset, but it wasn’t the graphic adventure I was expecting. It jettisons so much of what makes the genre great, while introducing concerns all its own. I won’t say it’s a bad game (even with bugs) but it’s certainly a weird one. For a big graphic adventure fan like me it was undoubtedly something of a letdown.