The Rivers of Alice – Extended version
(C) Delirium Studios / Pequeño Salto Mortal
Tested: PAL Version
EU Release Date: 2015-09-24 / Price: 7.99€ / 7.19£
NA Release Date: 2015-10-01 / Price: $7.99
A point&click adventure dream... or nightmare?
In the Rivers of Alice, from young Spanish development studio Delirium Studios, you play as the young girl Alice, who's just going to sleep, travelling to her dreamland where she manifests and confronts her fears sloth, envy, and lie to find four mysterious dragonflies. The whole game is a weird dream with odd creatures, places, objects, and riddles.
You exclusively use the GamePad touchscreen to move Alice around the environments. The tv screen is completely useless - it shows only the game world, but nothing from the interface: you don't have access to many puzzles, the inventory is never shown, dialog and textboxes are entirely skipped, and other important things are simply missing on the tv screen. In fact, if you wanna puzzle with family & friends, you have to inform them of what is happening or have them watching you play over your shoulder. Also, it destroys the opportunity to play this game in Full HD and with a Wiimote. The development team should have just mirrored the GamePad screen 1:1 and be good with it. Instead they somehow managed to cripple their game.
If you can click on something you can interact with a simple menu pops up, allowing Alice to use her eyes (look), mouth (talk), or hands (take, touch, use). Interestingly, almost everything is visual, even the dialogue is delivered in pictures. The items you collect will be added to Alice's inventory. Drag an item out of it and onto something else to use it, or to combine it. Furthermore you have access to Alice's scrapbook that automatically adds important information. An empty page allows you to write down things you want to remember, so there's no need to get up from the couch to get reallife pen and paper. (It seems not all hints will be saved there - I couldn't confirm if that's intended or a bug.) With a press on the START button you can get into a pause menu to save your progress at any time. Miiverse works flawlessly with this game, but there are no special features.
For a point&click adventure there is a strong focus on puzzles - a nice mix so to speak - but veterans have likely solved most of them in some other form or game already. And just like in other games of this kind, if you get stuck you should be looking for items or hints in a different place. There's never too much to try or too many places to go, just make sure you click on every little detail and talk to the few other characters from time to time and you'll find a way, so it's a good suit for beginners. Rivers of Alice isn't a very long game with just around 5 hours of gameplay and around 20 different places. It's only 7.99 so don't expect a classic like Monkey Island.
The handdrawn pencil and watercolor graphics from Ane Pikaza have a neat children's book feel and are a nice diversion from the usual 2D-sprites or 3D-polygons. There's nothing outstanding on a technical level but plenty of imaginative art. While the animation seems pretty good at first, some of it could have used more polish: Grass in the wind or birds in the sky that clash with the backgrounds at times are little things that can be overlooked, but there's also a light clunkiness to everything. The biggest issue was Alice glitching into a wall and up the ceiling, moving into places where she normally couldn't go. The same room had my Wii U freezing frequently while solving a puzzle that can be dramatically difficult, which was very frustrating and only got worse after the update. Fortunately, I was able to find another solution. Also, to the game's credit, other players reported that they never encountered any glitches or freezes during their playthrough.
The live soundtrack from Spanish indie rock band Vetusta Morla consists of dreamy and calm acoustic guitar ballads and a song with vocals for the ending. It creates a fitting atmosphere for each place. But again, a couple of bugs can appear: The first one is a seemingly random glitch that seems to put the music through a crackling filter, and the second one is an oddity: Normally you unlock songs as you find new places in the game, but if you click around in the soundtest menu you can get access to all songs right from the beginning.
The Rivers of Alice could pass as a work of art, like Tengami or Thomas Was Alone do to an extent, but those games received very polished Wii U versions. Rivers of Alice on Wii U unfortunately has enough issues that damage the experience and lower its score. I hope the developers can fix them and give Wii U players a better experience through another update.
Written by SKTTR, 2015-11-18
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