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PC Review: Richard & Alice

Each year the winters are cold and white as snow plummets from the clouds and onto the ever unsuspecting roads of world. Unlike the United Kingdom, any other country simply shoves the silky white frosty substance to one side and carries on with the day with only a minor increase in workplace body-sliding incidents. Each year, England and its connected lands fall into complete disarray as they either fear for their own safety or use the many issued radio warnings as enough of an excuse to skip out of work and lounge around in a onesie while pretending to look disappointed by the icy carpet not even an inch above the ground.

Richard & Alice is – in many ways – how I’d imagine this country becoming if the snow were to start falling one morning and never stop. What once was a rare occasion filled with excitement and joy as people took to the streets to pelt each other to the point of their ear succumbing to frostbite only to refuse to leave the house and forever moaning how the snow is ruining their plans to visit their nearest McDonald’s the day after next. Richard & Alice feels as if it took the experiences of the English over the past 3 winters and looked for foresee just what would happen if we were pushed to the brink of extinction from a once whimsical weather condition.

The snow just started. Richard stands staring through the window as the ground outside turns an from tarmac black to an ever-lightening shade of white. His son stands by proclaiming how he’s growing up too much to appreciate the snow like a child should – to see it as the ultimate plaything in an otherwise boring environment. Richard goes on to explain to him – in a way only a father could – how he shouldn’t be so quick to give up on those little childhood wonders. Gladly enough  he smiles. The snow is his toy again. But it never breaks.

Fast forward to the present day and the frame has stripped Richard’s cozy abode to something a little more… secluded. The man sits in a prison cell watching re-run after re-run on a provided television with his family nowhere in sight. A sound in the only cell nearby – the once adjacent his – indicates a new arrival. A little company. A woman by the name of Alice has occupied the cell that had been bare since Richard’s arrival; and, of course, there are questions to be asked and stories to be told.

Richard & Alice takes the form of a good old-fashioned point n’ click adventure game. You’ll start by guiding Richard around his cell as he tries to use the pen’s linen and scraps to deliver a family photo over to the opposite side of the bars. Succeeding in these brief segments of chit-chat between the two titular characters will progress the story further and delve deeper into Alice’s last few weeks prior to her condemning prison sentence. It’s immediately apparent that Alice is troubled by something – and why wouldn’t she be? – she’s been surviving on the ground above with her 5 year old son since the breakout of the plaguing snow; it’s just exactly how she juggles the relationship with her son, Barney, and the sacrifices the public have had to make for their own survival that makes the tale so engrossing and, at many times, so diabolically realistic.

It’s a world thrown into a chaotic sub-zero warzone; houses have been enveloped and families made homeless, shelters have become cramped, food supplies are low and medicine has become something of a commodity around the surviving groups and the off-springing  tyrant party – The Polars. The tale of Alice’s downfall and the struggle of bringing up a toddler in a world ransacked into oblivion is told with enough well-written dialogue to cause emotion to splurge out slowly but surely from the pixelated backgrounds and foreground text.

Richard & Alice is a touching tale that’s equally as twisted as it is truthful. It may not be breaking  new ground in terms of gameplay mechanics, but it certainly made this writer see an interactive story through to the end – and that’s a rare feat indeed. It tough to explain just how deep this game really is without divulging in what will essentially take away from the expereince. You really have to play through the story to understand how powerful of a tale it really is.

I’m the kind to not take anything away from the latest blockbuster marvel as the time sat in the cinema isn’t enough for me to grow attached to a character to the point of me caring what happens to them; but this game managed to do that without me even noticing how long it took from start to finish. It’s a mighty powerful story set aside very basic visuals that essentially proves that a story – given the right atmosphere – can achieve something special without relying on visual effects to pull it off.

 

Gameplay - 4/5: It’s as simple as point and click can be. You’ll pick up items from across the screens’ few surviving objects and shelters while putting them to sometimes obvious and sometimes crafty uses. It’s simple, but it really sets the scope of the world Richard & Alice are having to cope with.

Audio/Visual - 3/5: While the visuals are nothing short of SNES worthy at best, they manage to pull off some incredibly emotional and disturbing scenes. Paired with the atmospheric music and subtle jarring sound effects the game becomes something more captivating.

Innovation – 3/5: By the end of the game, I had no idea how long I had been playing. That feeling of immersion is something I haven’t gained from a title in many years. That alone should be enough reason to warrant the score here.

Replayability – 2/5: While the game is said to include a few different dialogue and paths, I’m not sure how likely you are to replay through a story again just to find them – but the inclusion is never a bad thing.

Final Score – 3/5

 Richard & Alice is available now on PC through GOG, Desura and IndieCity for $5.99 (£3.99). A Steam version is currently working its way through the Greenlight system.


Josh reviewed Richard & Alice on PC. A review copy was supplied by the  developers .


 

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