Though it’s art and sound feel like they came straight from a pleasant dream, Rivers of Alice Extended Version‘s extremely slow pace and sometimes nonsensical puzzles keep the game from reaching its full potential.
The Rivers of Alice Extended Version
Developer: Delirium Studios
Platform: Wii U
MonsterVine was supplied with a Wii U code for review.
Rivers of Alice Extended Version is a game best played in short spurts, as the game aims to combine a lucid, dream-like atmosphere with the underused point-and-click genre. In some ways, the game succeeds, but at the same time, Rivers of Alice fails to avoid many of the pitfalls that previous point-and-click games created.
You play through the game as a young girl named Alice, who dreams of collecting numerous dragonflies that escaped a special locket. That’s really the extent of the story, but in some ways this works in the game’s favour. The player is never bogged down by unnecessary lore or information, as not only are there no traditional cutscenes, but there is also no spoken dialogue in the game. This helps to keep things simple, which goes a long way in making the dreamy setting accessible and relaxing.
This also has its drawbacks, however, as the lack of dialogue or exposition also makes it somewhat difficult to know where to go, and what to do. Though the player can interact with characters, they only speak through drawn pictures and grunts. While this is by all means aesthetically pleasing, the pictures don’t always succeed in conveying Alice’s next goal, which at times, makes the game feel confusing and frustrating.
Another frustrating aspect of the game is the process of finding and using items. Interacting with any person or object will give you three options, look, touch, and speak, of which normally only one or two is selectable. More than a few of the game’s items are very easily missable, as they look like background objects. Objects you think could be useful may only allow you to look at them, while objects that seem pointless are needed to complete a later puzzle.
An example of this is when you encounter a small rock on the floor in one area of the game. While you would normally think it to be a background object or part of the scenery, you need it to complete a puzzle involving a beehive, an old lady, and a very alarming looking spider-person. While the order of events slowly makes some sense, you wouldn’t think to grab the random pebble on the outskirts of the beach.
There are lots of puzzles like this that either take an endless amount of trial and error, or a long slog back to the game’s guide, Sloth, to solve. Alice walks very slowly, and since there’s no means of quickly traversing screens, it can take an eternity to reach Sloth, who’s permanently placed at the game’s first screen. To be clear, Sloth does normally provides more clear and useful clues, it’s just unfortunate that there isn’t an easy way to reach him.
On the other hand, some puzzles are clearly set out, and thoroughly enjoyable. At one point in the game, you have to walk across a panelled floor, with each panel having a snippet of a song attached to it. After listening to a toy monkey play a song, you have to pick a path of panels that matches the song played. This puzzle requires little explanation, and is equally challenging and fun. The game is at its best with these puzzles, of which there are a couple, as you obtain a fun feeling of true accomplishment when you complete them.
The River of Alice‘s visuals are one of the highlights of the game. The soft watercolor backgrounds perfectly sell the sleepy atmosphere that the game aims for, and brings a nice contrast to Alice’s black and white appearance. The characters and locations all look unique and subtly pleasant, while creepier things like the eye-monster and toy monkeys are suitably eerie, in part thanks to the somewhat simplistic style.
The sound is probably the game’s best aspect, with every song feeling more serene than the last. Each piece feels more euphoric than the last, which goes a long way in making the player feel as though they are truly in a dream. The relaxing qualities of the songs compliment the softly coloured and simple visuals, to make a truly relieving atmosphere. The songs are also unlocked as you progress, and can be listened to outside of gameplay, which is a nice touch.
The Final Word
The River of Alice Extended Version is a thoroughly mixed bag. Though some of the puzzles, the visuals, and the sound are pleasant and relaxingly surreal, the slow pace and sometimes nonsensical puzzles make the game more akin to a dream you’ll forget in the morning.
-MonsterVine Rating: 3 out of 5 – Average