Richard & Alice
First posted on 01 May 2015. Last updated on 01 May 2015.
Richard & Alice Limited Edition
The Limited Edition of Richard & Alice (only 50 copies ever released) includes a boxed copy of the game on DVD. The game is otherwise identical.
Richard & Alice is an indie point-and-click adventure game created by British developers Lewis Denby and Ashton Raze. Set sometime in the near future, freak weather systems have resulted in half of the world becoming covered in perpetual ice and snow (with the other half rumored to now be a sweltering, barren wasteland). Society has fallen. Civilization has all but disappeared. A new age of hardship and survival has begun.
After a short introduction that effectively shows the endless snow quickly turning from a childhood dream into a living nightmare, the game begins proper with its titular characters meeting each other across a sterile corridor, from behind bars, in an underground prison. Richard cites his reason for imprisonment as desertion from the army, whereas Alice claims that she has been jailed because she is a murderer. The story jumps between these prison sections, with flashbacks from Alice recounting her fight for survival with her 5-year-old son Barney.
Richard & Alice uses a traditional point-and-click control scheme, though interaction with the game's puzzles is kept simpler. Conversations (between Richard and Alice in particular) form a huge part of the game, with the actual gameplay itself taking a backseat. In many ways, the game seems to have taken inspiration from Kan Gao's To the Moon. Much like that game, Richard & Alice is much closer to being an interactive story than it is a game per se. The graphics also evoke a similar comparison, although it must be stressed that this game is by no means derivative. Using isometric pixel art, the basic visuals adequately convey the isolation of the game's icy, snow blanketed world. Furthermore, the entire game seems to have been overlaid with static fuzz, as if the events unfolding on screen are being transmitted via a weak signal due to the adverse weather conditions. What music there is seems content to reside in the background, behind the howling winds and eerie silences of a world that has been abandoned by humanity and offered up wholesale to the elements.
There is no voice acting. Thankfully, the strong writing brings the small cast of characters to life. In particular, the game is as much about the relationship between the sarcastic but loving mother Alice and her innocent, chirpy son Barney as it is about Richard and Alice themselves. Barney is an integral part of the game, the lynchpin of the entire experience—there is a constant nagging fear that only continues to grow as the game continues forward. Where is Barney now? Why is Alice in prison?
The strong storytelling makes both of the game's protagonists likeable in their own ways despite their flaws. There is also the constant suspicion that they are hiding some truths of their own pasts from each other. Indeed, the final twists and turns are what make the game's 3-4 hour playtime worth experiencing. The game has 5 possible endings. However, they cannot be reached by simply making a concrete decision right at the very end. Instead, the criteria that determine the game's conclusion are more diffuse, making the reached outcome for each playthrough of the game feel organic and, most important of all, inevitable.
Still, there are some minor gripes with the game. The walking speed when trekking through the snow as Alice can become tiresome. The visuals are rather basic despite moments of flare. Above all, the relative lack of puzzles makes the brevity of the experience all the more apparent.
The real value of playing Richard & Alice comes from the larger questions it poses about the nature of humanity and how far individuals will go to survive. Well written with sympathetic characters, Richard & Alice is an adventure game that is content with simply telling a good story.