By: Ted Chow
While following a similar aesthetic to one of the more unique games of the year, Neverending Nightmare, The Rivers of Alice explores the concept of dreams. Lighthearted and surreal in its presentation, Rivers is open to interpretation as to the deeper connotations of the settings explored.
If you enjoy casual games with a heavy emphasis on solving puzzles and finding meaning to the symbolism found throughout, The Rivers of Alice is one game to touch upon these subjects.
Needing only the mouse to initiate all your actions, Rivers is pretty simplistic as far as controls are concerned. You will left click to move as well as interact with the environment and points of interest. A dialogue wheel will present itself when interactions have multiple options, but beyond that, there isn’t anything more intuitive.
Despite its simplicity, the input can be a bit sensitive at times, especially when you want to click moving objects and instead, move to that particular location unexpectedly.
Reminiscent of reading a children’s story book, the graphics take on a distinct look in order to play out a story. Bordering books like Dr. Seuss or even the old Tootsie Roll lollipop commercial, the colors are intentionally faded and washed out. Character and environmental designs are unique and ooze Alice in Wonderland levels of weird and bizarre.
Much of the pull and immersion of the game comes from the soft acoustics that really do a great job of selling the mood of the zones in question. Without the carefully crafted ambience, the game would feel overly flat and uninspired.
The Rivers of Alice is a mystery/puzzler that decides to remove all understandable dialogue and instead rely on ambient sounds to give substance. The story is told through pictographs and a level of intrinsic insight is needed to decipher what goes on in every puzzle and story point.
This can lead to plenty of trial-and-error attempts to find the solution to some difficult puzzles at face value. In addition, a lack of dialogue or other substantial back story makes The Rivers of Alice hard to follow and invest in if you’re in the casual gamer camp. That doesn’t take away the charm of the presentation, but too many questions remain even after completing the game.
Alice, the story’s protagonist, is brought to some sort of dream world where you solve puzzles and collect green dragonflies. Aside from that core purpose, there is no real explanation as to anything else nor how everything you encounter is relevant to the character.
There are plenty of bizarre settings and inklings of deeper potential symbolism, but even I may be grasping at straws and over thinking the story’s. Ultimately, though, the story is really up to the player’s interpretation, and that may not always appeal to everyone, so be forewarned on keeping expectations in check.
Rivers‘ core gameplay will have you interacting with the surrounding environment through clicking and dragging items out of your backpack to points of interests. By clicking on things you will receive pictures in your notebook that you can refer back to for clues and solutions to puzzles.
One neat feature here is the ability to “draw” in your notebook and use that as a cheat sheet. If at any point the puzzles become too hard, a NPC by the name of Sloth can be visited for additional pictographs to provide hints.
Mileage will vary with The Rivers of Alice as the difficulty of the puzzles can be a turn off, and the game is on the short side with very little replay value after your initial run. Plus, as stated earlier, the story is convoluted, creating more questions than it answers. Even with an interesting art style and concept, the gameplay and story aren’t compelling enough to keep players invested.