Daedalic Entertainment are believers in the great point and click adventure game, and help to get many a unique and interesting game out to fans of the genre, and together with Irresponsible Games, they have brought 1954: Alcatraz to gamers.
1954: Alcatraz focuses on two 'beats' Joe and Christine who are married and living in San Francisco, but couldn't be further apart, unfortunately Joe is serving time in the prolific prison of Alcatraz after an infamous armed truck robbery for which the game is intricately based around.
With Joe stuck on Alcatraz for the rest of the foreseeable future, and the oppressive nature of prison life getting to him, his only option is to escape, but with many having tried and failed in the past what chance does he have? That's where Christine comes in, because the two will have to work in tandem to find the elusive loot of the armoured truck heist, keep thugs at bay and escape from Alcatraz.
Controlling the two characters works incredibly smoothly, and at any time during the game you may switch between them and explore their radically different worlds; Christine lives in the heart of the 'beat' underworld of San Francisco, with friends who reject the norm of the 'squares' in favour of experimentation with drugs and sexuality, the world carries with it a subtly dark humour which blossoms through in the optional conversations to be had with all manner of characters. In contrast, Joe's life in Alcatraz consists of very little, you'll encounter a few prisons norms, as well as his adopted role of prison handyman, there's not much smaller talk to be had here.
Surprisingly for a game based around what should be one of the biggest escapes ever, there are no logical puzzles whatsoever, in fact all of the puzzling in the game is carried out through your standard combinations, this isn't incredibly exciting, however most, if not all of the combinations in the game are brilliantly put together, and as long as you're paying attention to what people tell you, you'll never have too much trouble figuring out what to do next. If you are a fan of the simpler combination puzzle aspect of video games then you may just fall in love with the short-lived fixing job of Joe's on Alcatraz, it was just so satisfying!
The strange angular design of the characters in 1954: Alcatraz is certainly unique and helps to create a cast of characters that you're definitely going to remember, though the stark differences between characters like the rounded Bumpy and extremely angular Mickey do look somewhat out of place, but the wonderfully chunky characters echo past beloved Telltale franchises, long since thrown away that you can help but fall in love a little with the games quirky style.
The version of the game we tasted a few months back was somewhat incomplete as far as the art of the game, which is a strange mix of 3D characters in a 2D hand-drawn world of burning sunsets, dinghy cafes and clinical prison cells, it has come a long way in that time, but unfortunately some of the locations still aren't quite as vivid and stunning as others, especially when compared to Daedalic's other titles, that and the introduction cutscene just feels as though it's unfinished with nothing else in the game using the same sketchy style, which is quite saddening.
The premise of 1954: Alcatraz is brilliant, it's one of those concepts that make you wonder why a game in the genre has not been attempted to date, what could be more exciting and puzzle-inducing than the idea of escaping from the inescapable! To succeed where no one else could manage! Except it all sort of falls into your hands, whilst it could all be an allegory of with love anything is possible, you get to around half way through and everything just feels far too easy, and if it were so simple there would have been record numbers of escapees!
What the game does have is a beautifully soulful and jazzy soundtrack, or at least it does when you inhabit Christine, unfortunately there's not much of a 'beat' atmosphere for Joe as he resides in his cold callous domain, instead you'll be met with a downbeat, sinister tune where ever you go. On a whole the game sounds fantastic, and whilst some of the characters sound a little clichÃ©, though Christine's wonderfully wry but optimistic character is really elevated by her wonderful voice actress.
A nice feature of the game is its 'love meter'; with Joe secured on the island of Alcatraz for many years to come, you've got to give Christine some slack, a woman's got urges right? Well perhaps you think so, or maybe you believe in the sanctity of marriage, either way, making certain choices while you play will cause different outcomes. It's nice to see these ripples make an effect whilst you play, but ultimately you won't be forced into an ending, and you'll always get a choice which is a bit disappointing, after all if you play the game like a bitch then you'd expect her to simply make her own choice in the end.
1954: Alcatraz sets up for a brilliant thriller of an adventure game, but falls in its execution, instead, what you are left with is a very straightforward point and click with far too little danger. It does build up a nice picture of a group of beats in the 1950's but doesn't ask you to stick around for long enough for them to make a truly lasting impression.
1954: Alcatraz is available now for Windows PC from all good digital distribution sites for the SRP of £16.99