Get off the rock!
Daedalic Entertainment are almost single handedly keeping the classic point & click genre alive at the moment, and are releasing titles at a rate that will keep any point & click fan happy. However, the latest title from the Daedalic stable shuns the stunningly crafted fantasy worlds that gamers have come to love in previous games for something a bit more gritty – San Francisco in 1954.
Players certainly get their money’s worth in 1954: Alcatraz as they get two characters to control through a linked story. Players will get to switch between the characters of Joe and Christine as they wish, pushing forward a story filled with crime, love and betrayal. So yeah, it is slightly clichéd.
Players will begin the game as Joe, alone in his prison cell in the famous Alcatraz Prison. It would seem that Joe has been involved in a heist that has gone terribly wrong and resulted in his long-term incarceration. Still, it matters not as a wrinkly old guy in one of the adjoining cells has an escape plan that he is willing to sell to Joe. Once this plan has been put into action, surely it won’t be long before Joe is reunited with the love of his life, the delightful Christine, and of course his loot from the heist.
Meanwhile, Christine is on the outside and going through some problems of her own. Besides helping Joe to escape, she has to deal with the Mob that Joe owed money to, and she really wants to find where Joe hid his money.
Switching between the two characters offers a nice contrast for the player, with the almost suffocating environment and dehumanization that Joe has to deal with in Alcatraz, to the more alive, and certainly more colourful, San Francisco North Beach area in which Christine finds herself. Either way, both areas have their fair share of strange, and sometimes quite scary, characters that the player will find themselves interacting with along the way.
The story in 1954: Alcatraz is actually quite well crafted and has a much more mature feel to it than recent Daedalic games. The relationship between the two main characters is certainly the highlight, especially when they start doubting each other. And the voice acting the the two main characters is also a high quality, helping the player to empathise with them both.
Unfortunately, much of the rest of the game doesn’t quite match up to the same levels of quality, including the voice work for all of the other characters. While the voices for Joe and Christine serve to pull the player deeper into their world, the other voices are so laughably bad at times that any immersion is only short lived.
Visually, the game suffers from the same problems. Some of the 2D backgrounds are really a sight to behold, whilst others might feel bland or even unfinished. The 3D character work is not too bad, but does feel dated. It could be the style that the developers were going for, but I am not sure. Even the animations feel awkward and jarring at times, further emphasising the slightly lower quality feel of the game.
Then there are the puzzles, arguably the most important aspect of a good point & click adventure. In 1954: Alcatraz, the puzzles are inconsistent. The majority of the puzzles involve finding items or combining already found items, and some of them are quite enjoyable and logical. However, others may involve a missing object being somewhere that is just really difficult to click due to other characters or the fixed camera, or they may involve combining items that simply defy any form of logic at all. Hitting the space bar will highlight all interactive objects within an area, but just because they are interactive doesn’t mean they are of any use to the player.
Inconsistency seems to be the overall theme of 1954: Alcatraz. There are some really good aspects, such as the story and the main characters, then there are some bad aspects, such as the rest of the voice work. Everything else is just average, which leads to an average overall game. Certainly not Daedalic’s best. If you are a point & click addict, then 1954: Alcatraz will provide a fix. Otherwise, it may be best to just leave Joe in his cell.