The Rivers of Alice: Extended version – review

  • Format: PC (version reviewed), Mac, Wii U
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Merge Games, Tagstar Games, Delirium Studios
  • Developer: Delirium Studios, Pequeño Salto Mortal
  • Players: 1
  • Site:
  • Game code provided by the publisher

The Rivers of Alice is probably best described as short but sweet. It’s an adventure game that looks very nice with its simple but surreal art style that merges pencil, ink and watercolours together into a world that looks cohesive, and it’s all rather fluid and well animated to boot. It’s a perfect game to play over an evening or two (or perhaps even on a Sunday afternoon) as a game you can complete in a short space of time and feel satisfied at having achieved something. It may not long; but in that respect, it means that it doesn’t outstay its welcome and makes good use of your time.

The game revolves around Alice waking up in a dream world where she faces some of her fears but rather than your typical fire/death/spiders/etc, instead, it’s more focussed on social fears such as Lies, Envy or Sloth. It’s all about overcoming these fears but it’s not really all that clear how it relates to the puzzles and solutions. Perhaps it’s us that missed the point in those encounters.

When it comes to positives you need only look at it to see the major one; aesthetically it’s beautiful and most of the screens you visit will be just that. To reiterate; the mix of pencil, ink and watercolours are often gorgeous and suit the dream world Alice has constructed really well. It’s also very good at conveying what characters mean though the use of only pictures rather than dialogue. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to grasp exactly what’s being said, but generally speaking it’s quite clear in what it wants to say.

Vetusta Morla is a Spanish Rock group and they are the ones behind the soundtrack, which is the other major positive of the game. While we can’t say we loved every track, it is on the whole very nice to listen to and does fit the world very nicely. It’s quite a mellow soundtrack, so it’s easy to just let it wash over you as you play and just relax to the fairly easy puzzles that make up the game.

As an adventure game it’s very pleasant, but where it delves into puzzler territory is its only real detractor. There are a few puzzles that wreck the pacing horribly and do bring the game down, due to them being of a trial and error nature. Alternatively, you could get given the answer by Sloth, a character who will give you hints on puzzles when you go see him – though that doesn’t exactly feel like the best course of action. It’s not that they’re bad puzzles per se, but they are too difficult for one reason or another.

There is a multi-step puzzle which is based around musical notes and being able to tell whether the notes go up or down in pitch or not. Anyone who isn’t particularly musical – ourselves included – isn’t going to be enjoying that puzzle, it feels like a time sink where you have to repeatedly listen to an instrument play the same notes over and over, then listen to the muddled set of notes you assembled when you tried to replicate it.

Most of the puzzles thankfully don’t require you to be musically inclined or particularly good with puzzles in general, and that’s great. Those bits keep the pace going rather well and don’t make you feel as though it’s just trying to make things difficult. In a game like this which relies so heavily on atmosphere, those few difficult puzzles jerk you out of the game and practically force you to run to Sloth for the answers, else it’ll just tire you out mentally.

It’s hard not to like just plodding through the game’s various scenes; as most of the puzzles are fairly simple, when you get the hard ones it just breaks the pace so heavily. It’s a very pleasant game to play through and doesn’t ask too much of you in return; allowing you to make what time you have with it feel well spent.

critical score 7

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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