Wonder, whimsy and watercolors await in the puzzle filled dreamland of The Rivers of Alice – Extended Version. This visually stunning point-and-click puzzler was developed by Delirium Studios, and is strongly reminiscent of the fantasy worlds found in Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth and MirrorMask. Rivers of Alice features a slow pace and a unique art style which weaves watercolors, graphite and ink together to create amazing textures, gorgeous animations and a truly stunning atmosphere.
Slip into Alice’s dreams and help her explore the world within her own mind, completing puzzles, overcoming obstacles, and helping her face her fears along the way. While this game is quite short, I was able to beat it in two hours, The Rivers of Alice is not the kind of game which you power through. The focus is not on the destination, this is about experiencing the journey, about wandering, about getting lost in something less than real, if only for a little while. The entire game has been rendered in a powerfully nostalgic style which easily brought me back to the whimsically illustrated books of my youth. By overlaying this style with smooth, beautiful animations, Delirium Studios has truly created a game with the feel of a storybook come to life.
Paired with this visual feast is an equally sunning soundtrack. Vetusta Morla, a Spanish indy-rock band, provides the melodies which drift through dreamland along with Alice and the player, and their lyrics provide strong inspiration for many parts of the game. Quiet at times, swelling with music at others, I was truly impressed with the audio choices, and found the music to be the perfect backdrop to complete the atmosphere of the game.
While I am well aware that Rivers of Alice is intended to be leisurely and dreamlike, the game takes it a touch too far at times, and occasionally feels frustratingly slow. Text boxes take far longer than necessary to close, animations, especially in the opening sequence, moved so slowly or subtly that I simply wanted them to hurry along, and Alice herself moves very, very slowly across the screen. I can appreciate a game which encourages the player to slow down, to smell the roses and drink it all in, but Rivers of Alice took this effort just a little too far for my liking.While there are books within the game which feature text, all of the actual dialogue within The Rivers of Alice is done through pictographs, which can be both delightful and a struggle. Most of the conversations are clear and easy to understand, but some concepts are more difficult to translate via images than others. One particular area was explained with a drawing of stars, with arrows drawn between the larger stars. My immediate understanding was that I needed to somehow draw constellations which, as it turned out, was not at all the idea behind the pictograph. It was not until I broke down and looked up a walk-through that I understood what the image was actually trying to communicate.
The gameplay within The Rivers of Alice is entirely puzzle based, and the designers did a great job of including enough different kinds of puzzles to keep the game from becoming repetitive. Each area is unique, truly giving the impression that you have been on a journey and traveled a great distance, and successfully navigating Alice’s dream world requires logic, observation and creative thinking. If you ever get stuck, you can always return to the starting screen and as the Sloth, who seems to know everything about this world, for assistance. While convenient when stuck, I found the Sloth’s all-knowing nature to be out of tune with the rest of this quirky world. Rather than providing hints or yet another riddle, the answer to which would help you get one step closer to solving a puzzle, the Sloth simply tells you step-by-step how to solve any given puzzle, be it how many times to turn a wheel, or which tile to move first.
While I was able to figure out several puzzles without asking the Sloth for help, there were a few which stumped me, especially the second musical puzzle. I don’t have much of an ear for music or notes, and while I was able to tackle the first musical puzzle myself, the second one was simply beyond my ability. This puzzle involved listening to little mechanical monkeys play a song, remembering that song, then stepping on a set of unmarked tiles, each with a musical note associated with it. Keeping the correct notes and order of those notes in ind, you must move from tile to tile in order to recreate the original tune through trial-and-error. While it was too much for my untrained ear, the Internet is, very fortunately, full of easy to follow guides, allowing me to breeze right through it. One puzzle required that I spin a set of three disks until all of the patters aligned. After a great deal of guessing, turning, and luck, I finally had all three disks align, and… nothing happened. Frustrated, I tried again, only to have the patterns align and, yet again, nothing happen. Reluctantly, I trudged all the way back to the Sloth who told me how to align the pattern in only five turns of the disks. Apparently, even though I had successfully aligned pattern, the entire design had to be facing a certain direction for the puzzle to be considered successfully solved.
The Rivers of Alice – Extended Version is a visual treat, with gorgeous music and an amazing atmosphere. Slow pacing, slow animations and short gameplay are its biggest drawbacks. However, like the story books it so strongly resembles, this is a game which was intended to be explored, not beaten, and returned to again and again. Point and click controls make it simple to play, while diverse and challenging puzzles keep it from being overly easy to beat. This whimsical dreamworld is a delight to explore, its stunning music makes it a great way to relax, and its small price tag makes it a wonderful addition to any Steam library.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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