Delirium Studios – Wii U eShop (original version available on iOS & Android)
When Alice falls asleep, she enters a mysterious dream land, where she has to retrieve a locket and its dragonfly contents. After a short intro/tutorial on how things work, Alice sets off on an adventure to get the dragonflies, through her surreal dream land. On the way she encounters different people, strange creatures and unusual environments. The Rivers of Alice is a point and click style adventure, using the gamepad’s touch screen to direct Alice through each scene. As Alice ambles her way from one screen to the next, she more than likely encounters a puzzle that needs solving. These puzzles range from simple memory games to very tough tile moving puzzles and even some kind of vulture chess. Obviously a lot of these don’t make any sense, but then we are in a dream world, where each screen has something that doesn’t quite fit into place, like a weird man spider or strange sloth creature that looks nothing like a sloth. Other than it all being a dream, there’s no real narrative to the game. You slowly traverse the many environments, solving some fiendish and some not so fiendish puzzles, and once you’ve completed the final one, that’s it, end credits. No cut scene or elaboration of the story.
The game looks great, with a hand drawn style that looks part watercolour, part art house animation. Each scene has its own visual identity, from the beige caves, to the dark and starry apartment complex. The titular Alice however is merely monochromatic in an otherwise vividly coloured world. Possibly a metaphor for how Alice sees herself? The music in the game plays a good part, be it a nice piece of background music or a part of a puzzle. There’s more than one puzzle that requires a keen ear for sound although these tend to be the shorter of the brain teasers throughout the game. There’s a lot of acoustic driven, indie music that creates a great atmosphere and adds to the depth of the game. The difficulty of the puzzles and the leisurely pace of Alice make sure that you spend plenty of time in Alice’s dream land, with the first play through clocking in at around 4 1/2 hours. The game is far from linear, so a fair amount of that time is spent going backwards and forwards having found a clue or an item to progress.
It’s another title in a growing catalogue of indie games for the Wii U, but it is one that stands out. It’s not for the impatient, the speed the character moves and the amount of to-ing and fro-ing involved means that those who like to whizz through games, may want to give this stately moving puzzler a miss, but if you don’t mind a stroll through a lovely, but challenging game, you’ll likely enjoy The Rivers of Alice.