A few months ago when I reviewed Broken Sword 3, I complained about how it contained ancient relics and pyramids, and how those things are all too familiar in adventure games. Well, perthaps developer Dejavu Worlds had the same thought, because their adventure, titled Alida, takes place in and around a giant guitar. I’m pretty sure you can’t get more unique than that. Unfortunately, I’m also pretty sure you’re not going to play a worse adventure this year.
Alida is about a band of the same name. After the four members of the group discovered a “new wave of music,” and after their debut CD sold over a billion copies, the quartet decided to buy an island (also named Alida) and build a giant working guitar on it. However, during their excavation of the island, the group discovered some alien artifacts, and instead of opening the island to tourists, they decided instead to use the alien technology to hide away their considerable wealth. Now one of the band members has gone missing, and his wife has asked you to go to the island and look for him.
I don’t know about anyone else, but that has to be the silliest premise I’ve ever heard. I mean, I don’t even believe the part about the band getting rich, let alone anything about giant guitars and alien technology. But whatever. As long as the developer uses the premise to put players into an interesting situation, so be it. And I can imagine lots of interesting things here, with puzzles perhaps based on the band’s music, and the fun of exploring a big tourist attraction. Just think if the Beatles had bought an island and created, oh, the Yellow Submarine ride.
But, alas, Dejavu Worlds pretty much ignores the premise. The game takes place on the island, and there is a giant guitar there, but you can only tell it’s a guitar from the outside. From the inside, the island is a dark, drab, industrial-looking place, and it looks much like other adventures, and especially Myst-style adventures, which is what Alida is. I’m not sure how you can start with such a corny premise and end up with such a dreary world, but there you go.
Since I just gave away that Alida is a Myst-style adventure, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the puzzles involve manipulating machinery. Unfortunately, the puzzles aren’t a lot of fun to toy with, and they’re almost impossible to solve. That’s because the machines are essentially “locks.” You can’t fiddle around with them and eventually figure out what they’re supposed to do and how you can control them. Instead, they have an exact combination you have to use before anything happens, and you can only find the combination by examining clues elsewhere.
As an example, at one point you find a terminal with three buttons. Each button cycles through about ten images, and you have to get the correct three images showing to complete the puzzle. Well, that’s about 1000 combinations, so you’re not going to solve the puzzle through trial and error unless you’re seriously patient. The problem is that the clue is on the other side of the island, and it involves a flickering light. It turns out you can make the images flicker in the machine, and the flickering light flickers in just the same way as three of the images. This makes enough sense when I describe it, but discerning it in the game is just about impossible, and I think the number of puzzles I could have solved without a walkthrough is pretty close to zero. Some people might like next to impossible adventures, since it lets them kick them around for weeks or months, but I don’t have that sort of time, and having to go to a walkthrough for every puzzle is downright boring for me.
And if the puzzles weren’t difficult enough, Dejavu Worlds also provided extra “challenge” just for the heck of it. Alida is a game that provides static views of the world. You can’t rotate the camera freely like in other adventures; all you can do is rotate the view by 90 or 180 degrees. That means Dejavu Worlds was in complete control of where they placed things, and they took advantage of this to hide things in obscure places. One room in particular is a Roach Motel. It’s easy to get in but then it’s difficult to get back out because the doorway is 1) tucked into a dark corner and 2) doesn’t look like a doorway. The game is also overly dark in a lot of places, making it difficult to navigate, and the cursors aren’t especially friendly, making it difficult to tell what you can do.
So, no surprise, I’m not going to recommend you buy Alida. The plot is silly, the world is drab (not to mention being stuck in a 640x480 resolution), and the puzzles are too difficult to be any fun. If you feel like playing a Myst-style game, your best bet is still to go back and play one of the actual Myst games.