In Richard & Alice, the world has basically gone to hell. In this not-so-distant future, Earth has found itself subject to inhospitably extreme weather. For our two lead characters, their side of the planet has been graced with never-ending snow. Many people have frozen to death, leaving survivors to form gangs who control the last remaining resources. An apocalyptic scene such as this provides quite the backdrop for an adventure game.
Players are introduced to Richard as he sits confined in a jail cell watching a dull nature documentary. For reasons initially left unexplained, all we know is that he has been incarcerated for quite some time and has absolutely no company. This quickly changes when Alice enters the picture. She is sent to the cell directly across from Richard’s and the two slowly get to know one another. It’s through their discussions about what events led up to their sentence that we get to learn about them. Not only that, but we also get to experience these recounted memories as levels.
For the most part, players are granted access into Alice’s story. She begins with herself and her young son as they are trapped by a “bad man”. It’s creepy, weird, and ultimately a dangerous predicament. Players must live through these tough moments and also what comes afterward. Although we eventually uncover Richard’s story, we are unable to play through any of it from his perspective.
All of this takes place from a top down viewpoint but the RPG-ish graphics cannot detract from the emotional weight of the story. Thankfully, Richard & Alice’s graphics are quite good at evoking a stark, lonely atmosphere. The pixelated visuals depict snow and lots of it when outside, while the jail cells are completely drab with hues of grey and green. Every once in a while, objects might go missed because of their small size. Overall though it is not hard to distinguish items in the environment.
Soon enough, players find themselves wandering the snowy landscape and solving various object puzzles. As with most adventure games, there are a good deal of puzzles to solve to unlock doors, fetch hidden items, and the like. At least in most cases everything is very logical, although a few puzzles do not have solutions that pop into your mind as obvious. This is contrasted with the fact that your area of exploration isn’t that large, meaning there are not huge amounts of places or things to mix and match objects with.
Although the snowy landscape, as well as jail cells, are restrictive, the storyline is able to blossom freely during a playthrough. As we embark on this plight with Alice, we get to worry for her and her child. The world has turned crueler than ever and it feels like just a matter of time before something awful will occur. With that in mind, players seek to complete all puzzles and get the family some sense of security. Although the game is under ten hours long on average, it would be hard to finish without having gained an emotional attachment.
Of course, none of this would be possible with poor writing. Richard & Alice has a great storyline that meshes with mostly skillful writing. Things never become sappy or over dramatic as could have happened in the hands of others. With that said, the dialogue is imperfect. Sometimes the two characters seem to have suspect similarities in speech patterns. Even so, their personalities appear distinct enough to make this easy to ignore. Again, with a strong storyline, most will likely not even notice.
The strongest aspect of Richard & Alice is how it manages to tell an engaging story in a fairly compact amount of time. Although players start out as total strangers to the duo, they find themselves quickly interested by their plight. For the most part, the adventure gameplay doesn’t get in the way and furthers our connection with the characters. Anybody interested in games with a narrative focus simply must give Richard & Alice a shot.