Richard & Alice Preview

by on September 6, 2012

Richard & Alice PreviewAs part of the new Greenlight scheme that is being run on Steam, Lewis Denby and Ashton Raze are publishing a new indie Adventure Game, entitled Richard & Alice.

Greenlight is the new submission process for Independent games on Steam, where instead of having to submit through Valve and liase with the people there, budding game developers are now able to submit their game directly into Greenlight, where the Steam community get to vote whether or not they would like the game released to the full Steam audience. Richard & Alice is one of the earliest batch of games trying out this service; a new Adventure Game being developed by a very small team, which deals with the ideas of isolation, family and the collapse of society. Some nice, fun topics there right?

In the preview build (which is still at a Beta stage), from what little we learn at the start of the game, we find that the world has been struck by a series of freak snow storms which have devastated the entire human race. Life as we know it has changed, with people struggling to find food and shelter, and tensions riding high – forcing people to turn on one another.

Richard & Alice Preview

We straightaway find ourselves thrown into the action to the point where the titular characters Richard & Alice meet. Richard is a former Military man who finds himself as a long-term convict at an un-named facility. Alice joins him as a new resident at the facility, having been convicted of Murder; a fact that she disputes. The story of how the two reached this point is then told through a series of flashbacks, where the player takes control of Richard or Alice, depending on who is recounting their tale.

The really impressive part of the preview build is the quality of the storytelling and the writing, which is mature, gritty and believable. The preview mainly focuses on the story of Alice and her five-year old son, Barney. They have been taken advantage of and trapped in a cellar, from which we have to escape. The writing of the story cleverly infers what may have happened to the pair, and the horrors they might have been through, without being too explicit. This leaves a little to the imagination, which often leads to even more disturbing conclusions than if we were told directly what had happened.

Richard & Alice Preview

The script writing is also very impressive and the strained conversations between a haggler’s mother and her more care-free and oblivious son are quite moving at times. We can see the struggle Alice must go through to keep the horrors of this new world away from her son, and as you explore and find more disturbing discoveries, you start to get more of an idea of how hard life has been for this unlikely pair of survivors.

In terms of presentation, the game is played from an isometric top-down view, as was made famous by the early Legend of Zelda games. And that isn’t where the retro comparisons end, with both the sprites and the backgrounds being drawn in an 8-bit blocky style. There are no voices in the game and the sound effects are also minimal, but this does serve to heighten the sense of isolation that this snow-filled world generates. The music used is very atmospheric and ambient, it isn’t there to add drama or action, but to make us feel more uneasy and suggest a constant underlying threat in this post-apocalyptic world. There  may be some changes made to the audio-visual presentation, such as a little spit and polish, but so far it isn’t really the graphics or sound that are likely to really wow you in this title.

Richard & Alice Preview

The interface is something that hits you right away though. The basic graphics are coupled with a pared-down and efficient gameplay system. Rather than having different interactions at your disposal to choose from, you simply have a left and right click. Right to examine, left to interact – whether that be with an item, a place or a person. Your inventory is always shown on-screen, so you don’t forget what you are carrying, and this makes puzzles more simple as you can just click on the objects straightaway. This is a title that really could be picked up and played by even absolute beginners within minutes, but that isn’t to say it is easy. There are still some tricky puzzles to take care of, but because the game is going for a very authentic and realistic feel, none of the puzzles require the kind of mental leaps you find in some adventure games, the solutions in this game are very logical and can be reasoned out with a little time.

Unfortunately the short preview only allowed us two sections of play – one in the present and one flashback – but it did leave me wanting to find out more about this world that has been created for the game. Why did this disaster happen? Who is running the facility and why are our two protagonists being held? These questions and more should be answered in the full game, which may not be much to look at, but so far it is a surprisingly well-written, adult affair, that has some really strong atmosphere about it.

If you want to help the Richard & Alice project come to fruition, you can find their Greenlight page, where you can comment, share and upvote the game here. You can also see a video of the game, complete with Designer commentary below:

Richard & Alice is set for release on Windows PC in January 2013.