Preview – 1954: Alcatraz
There was a time when Point and Click Adventures were a huge part of the video games market; Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were two of my favourites. But nowadays great Point and Click games come few and far between. The combination of 2D environments and 3D character allow for a much more busy, stylised and interesting worlds that you just won’t find in any fully 3D game. There are little to no performance issues to worry about, no low-res textures and no limit on the amount of objects displayed in one scene. Instead it’s all about the gameplay and the experience, telling a story and showing of the world in the most beautiful way possible. 1954: Alcatraz sits right in the middle of all of that.
A main mechanic to 1954: Alcatraz not unfamiliar to the genre is the opportunity to play out one story from two very different perspectives. As you probably already know, one of these characters is a prisoner of Alcatraz penitentiary; a man named Joe who spends his time desperately looking for a way out. As Joe you find yourself living prison life day to day, waiting in line and chatting in the mess hall; hearing all of the many escape plans from the ever-hopeful inmates.
On the outside you play as Joe’s young wife Christine who is not only searching for a get out of jail free card, but also believes that the money Joe stole is hidden somewhere waiting for her to find. With a limited amount of clues to go on and only a brief meet with Joe every once in a while (at which a guard is always listening intently), Christine relies on the information obtained from Joe’s friends. Unfortunately for her, she isn’t the only one after the loot. ‘Mickey’ and his band of goons are always on Christine’s back, asking for the cash Joe owes them and threatening her. But Christine is a tough girl who knows how to fight her own battles and manipulate people into getting the information she needs.
In each and every area there is a large amount of objects you can interact with, a lot of which you can pick up. You may find yourself carrying lots of strange stuff around that you never think you will need such as a can of beer or some soup; there seem to be so many places to explore and so many items to collect that you may start to feel overwhelmed with options, but quite a few of the areas you can visit and people you can talk to offer no help towards completing your mission whatsoever, but allow you get a much better feel for the world and the characters within it. When talking to people you are given a few choices of what you want to say. You will almost always have the chance to ask each question one at a time. Even if it is something you may not initially wish to say, it’s often worth it for the extra information you get.
The art style in this game is great, especially some of the prison folk with their huge heads, big noses and gigantic hands. All of the characters are highly stereotypical, from the petit and glamorous ladies to the short and shifty Mafia fellas. Their animations push those stereotypes further and would even look a little over-the-top if it not for their imaginative character designs. There is a great deal of detail in some of the 2D environments, and what makes it so interesting is how so much of it is interactable. A bookcase, for example, is not simply a bookcase full of ‘un-useful books’ like I’ve heard so many times before. Instead, Christine or Joe will talk about several different groups of books. And on top of that, you can tell your character to interact with each item or just talk about them.
It’s fun having lots of areas to explore and people to talk to, but sometimes you get a little stuck. Part of figuring out the puzzles is to simply do everything, but you often find that a specific thing can be very difficult to do. I’ll be honest; I got stuck in the first room of the entire game – Joe’s cell – for a good fifteen minutes. When you don’t know what to do or how to do it, your only real option is to try everything and depending on the type of person you are and how much the story grips you, this could be a good thing or a bad thing.
Personally I love having so much to do within a fairly simple story. 1954: Alcatraz isn’t a game about going from ‘A’ to ‘B’ and doing things that gradually take you to your goal. Instead, it’s a game about talking to people, listening to your characters and most of all, enjoying the humorous and highly interesting characters. 1954: Alcatraz is out in the coming weeks. If you enjoy a nicely made Point and Click and have some spare time to enjoy the little things, then pick this one up.