What will you do to survive?
Richard & Alice is an intriguing point and click adventure game title by Owl Cave, an indie game developer. The game takes place in the future not too far from modern society, where the weather of Earth has taken a permanent turn for the worse. Within this post-apocalyptic setting, the story delves into a variety of themes, including but not limited to family, trust, survival, and what it means to be right or wrong in a world in which the last semblance of order has been buried under the snow.
True to its title, the plot revolves around the two main characters Richard and Alice, two seemingly unlucky prisoners stuck in their jail cells. You control your character from a top-down perspective, clicking to move and interact with objects. With a simplified movement system and a bare-bones inventory, there’s nothing particularly special about the adventure mechanics of the game. It serves its purpose, but don’t be expecting anything radical in this department. Within these game mechanics, it’s up to the player to solve certain situations and puzzles in order to progress the story. None of these puzzles ever get too confusing or difficult, but there are times where it can get tedious, especially during some of the larger stages where the environments have nothing but snow, and you end up constantly clicking through looking for something useful. A small grace in the game is that the characters will sometimes give you hints on what they need, if you don’t have the required item. There are also certain points in the game that require you to make a choice to proceed as well. Though they never affect the immediate flow of the plot, all the choices will eventually influence the ending you get.
The graphics and aesthetics of the game don’t do much to ease you into the experience, unfortunately. Textures and environments honestly look like they could have been made in the early 90s, while the few sound effects used are generic and can sound unnatural at times. The music of the game is nothing special either, but at least it fit the theme of the game, making it a step above the bland visuals. Regardless of all those complaints, at the very least the visuals don’t do much to get in the way of the story working to capture your attention. However, as stated before, in some of the larger levels, it’s hard to keep focused at the desperate situation when you have to walk through the same few looking screens in order to progress through the story. At these times, it really pulls you out of the experience that the fantastic story puts you in, which is a big minus.
With all that said, you don’t play an adventure game for its superior gameplay or cutting-edge graphics. R&A manages to capture my attention for most of the game with its superior writing. Everything in the game, from the playful and light-hearted banter between the two main characters, to the way Alice speaks to her son, and how Richard responds to situations really gives you a strong impression of what kind of characters these two people are. There were very few times where I felt that any of the main characters said anything out of ordinary. The few dialogue choices in the game also felt impactful, not because they affected anything at that moment of time, but because they were more than simple dialogue options; they give insight into the morals and values of the character, how they choose to adapt to adversity, and so forth. They felt like meaningful choices simply for that reason, and that's something I can’t say the same for all dialogue options in the RPG/Adventure game market.
R&A delves into a multitude of different themes, some referenced explicitly, while some are more subtle and requires the player to think about the deeper meaning behind a person’s words. Because the game dares to comment on these mature themes, it makes the story that much more enjoyable and enthralling.
Owl Cave clearly thought hard about the kind of story they wanted to tell with Richard & Alice. The game can be finished in about 4 hours; I managed to finish it in a single sitting because I was so engrossed in the tale. Despite the ancient-looking aesthetics and unimpressive sound work, the only thing that really managed to bring me out of the experience were some of the environments that just felt laborious to traverse through. Ultimately however, even that doesn’t change the overall strength of the intriguing story of these two characters. And at the end of their story, the game just might force yourself to ask: in a world enveloped by a perpetual blizzard, what would you do to survive?