Two different characters, following two different paths along the same story.
Alter Ego is a point and click adventure from Future Games that, in some ways, is so typical of the modern point and click genre, yet in others surprisingly different. Whether or not these are good things is entirely down to the player.
In the town of Plymouth 1894, an urban legend has sprung up around a local character by the name of Sir William Lewis. Known as “The White Beast” rumours have circulated about him being responsible for numerous bloody crimes. However, after his death and the subsequent disappearance of the body followed by a series of murders, the urban legend has grown into something supernatural and the entire town is in a state of panic.
Enter the two heroes of this story. Yes, in a change from the norm, we have two heroes offering completely different perspectives on the story. Timothy Moor, an Irish petty criminal, arrives in Plymouth to find his friend, pull of a minor heist and gather enough money to make his way to America. Detective Bristol, on the other hand, is an unwavering career detective who believes only in logic and is determined to solve the murders and prove all of this supernatural talk to be utter nonsense.
The player alternates between the two characters as they follow the story in a classic point and click style, ever working closer to the point when these two polar opposite characters will meet and the story will reach it’s conclusion. Each of the characters go about their investigation in very different ways, with Moor leaning towards the more criminal acts such as theft, whilst Bristol does everything by the book and according to Police procedure. Although for the most part of this roughly nine hour adventure the two characters work separately, sometimes their actions will have an impact on the other character, which was a nice thing to see.
Players will find themselves making use of items that they find to achieve their goals and move on in the game. It is worth mentioning at this point that another way in which Alter Ego bucks the usual trend of this genre is the complete absense of puzzles. Whereas it can be considered that finding the right item to use at the right time could be considered a puzzle, the more usual sprinkling of mind-numbing conundrums are not to be found in this game. This gives Alter Ego more of a “interactive story” feeling than what I am used to from a point and click title.
A feeling which is emphasised by the lack of difficulty presented by the missing puzzles. As if the game were not easy already, pressing the F1 button during the game will happily highlight all of the points of interest within a given scene for you, making the game a simple matter of “click here and proceed”. With almost a complete lack of challenge, it is lucky that the game has a reasonably interesting story to keep the player coming back. But even the story is let down by a rather uninspiring ending that puts everything comfortably in place for a sequel.
Alter Ego does tick a lot of the right boxes when it comes to the visuals. The character animations are not the best in the world, and they do have a tendency to keep moving their mouths even when not talking. But the environments are sublime, recreated with incredible detail that sets a perfect brooding atmosphere for the game. The complete lack of any background music is a real shame, as that could have built on the atmosphere created by the environments, but the game does make good use of sound effects and the voice acting is equally well done.
It is, however, difficult to recommend Alter Ego as a good example of the point and click adventure. Whilst many may well enjoy the games relative simplicity and find the change of pace engaging, the lack of challenge will put off a lot of players, and those that do find their way to the end of the game will be disappointed with the conclusion. That being said, the story and lead up to the conclusion are good, and the two characters are well developed and enjoyable to play with. Alter Ego is perhaps not the entry point to the genre that new players would need, but may well be enjoyed by veteran gamers looking for something a little different.