Review: AlternativA – Point & Click through a Good Looking Dystopia, So What’s the Problem?

Review: AlternativA – Point & Click through a Good Looking Dystopia, So What’s the Problem?
2.5

Platforms:

Windows PC

Game Name:

AlternativA

Publisher(s):

Bohemia Interactive

Developer(s):

Centauri Production

Genre(s):

Point & Click Adventure

Release Date:

November 3, 2010

Developer Summary:

Alternativa is a story that will take you to a world much different to what you’d expect in 2045. To a world destroyed by war and revolutions, a world led by an oppressive and cruel dictatorship.

Classic point&click adventure game based on the original sci-fi/cyber-punk script which is composed of a number of shorter stories that lead us through the lives of individual characters as well as the fictional world of the future.

Murder of one, power of a few, betrayal of all!

What We Think:

This was a tricky game to review. Point and click adventures have been a staple of computer gaming for a very long time and they haven’t changed much in their decades of existence. There isn’t any innovation in AlternativA, so I’m left rating it on the elements. On one hand, what’s good is very good, but on the other hand, what’s bad is very bad.

AlternativA screenshot 1

What’s Good

Let’s start with the positive. Alternativa, (from Czech developer Centauri Production) looks great. It has the gritty dystopian cyberpunk environment down to a tee. Robots twitch in alleyways, steam rises in the background, lights flicker. Cut scenes look good and add to the story where needed. Characters look great too – your typical “guy in leather jacket” design, but good none the less. The art team did a wonderful job.

Game mechanics are quite good too. The inventory system is very straightforward. You’re never required to manage a billion items at a time (this is due to a detrimental game mechanic I’ll discuss in the next section though); The item interface isn’t overly complex: (Look, Talk, Use) and you can quickly find all the hotspots in a scene by hitting tab.

AlternativA screenshot 2

What’s Bad

I’ll start with one that isn’t really a game issue, but will inevitably affect your game experience, the resolution. This is yet another point and click that only plays at 1024 x 768, which means you’re LCD monitor will probably have a fit at full screen and you’ll have a hard time seeing things in windowed mode (alt + enter).

Point and click adventures are more of an interactive story than a game. It therefore leans more heavily on story and character than other genres might. Here AlternativA stumbles quite a bit.

It sets up an interesting world with weak government and corporate greed and espionage, but gives you a story where the main mechanic involves the lead character doing irrational tasks for others in exchange for favors. The main story doesn’t flow as much as hop from plot point to plot point. And the ending – oh, the ending. Nothing is resolved. You get the sense this is a set up for a sequel, but it’d be nice if this chapter at least came to a satisfactory conclusion.

The dialog is often awkward and stilted. I get the sense that it may have originally been written in another language and then translated by someone not willing to make the rewrites necessary to make it flow correctly. This isn’t helped by the fact that the voiceover work is terrible; characters emphasize the wrong words in sentences, often turning statements into questions.

Sometimes a paragraph of dialog will sound like each sentence was recorded during different sessions and stitched together, leaving the voice actors with little reference. Recording quality seems to vary often too, exacerbating the problem.

AlternativA screenshot 5

Note to the developers: Children rarely make good voice actors. Hire adults capable of sounding like children (trust me, I laughed out loud during the flashback scenes). To be fair, in AlternativA, every single line of dialog has been voiced. That’s a hell of a lot of work put in by the developers and I know I’d certainly prefer bad voice acting over reams of text.

Finally, there’s the game mechanic I mentioned in the “what’s good” section. You only have to manage a few items at a time because your character is illogically handicapped; there are countless instances where things that didn’t work together previously now magically function, and areas your character didn’t feel like visiting that suddenly are available because a certain plot point has been completed.

This does keep you from having a lot of items in your inventory that you have no need for yet, but it also means you spend a lot of time going back to places and things that you’ve already fully explored for things you should have done the first time. It’s just lazy game logic.

AlternativA screenshot 3

What else

There are two things that I want to point out that aren’t really good or bad.

First, you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned anything about puzzles. Puzzles are often a huge part of the genre, but there aren’t very many of them here. What few are in Alternativa involve solving lock combinations. Solving them mostly involves trial and error, because there were very few clues as far as I could tell. So, whether or not you like a lot of puzzles might be a deciding factor for you.

Second, dying. A lot of these games you simply can’t die in. There’s no combat, so why kill the character? In Alternativa you can die, or be arrested, ending your game. Depending on whether you set the game to easy or hard, you’ll have more chances to continue. Now this isn’t bad per se, but the dialog choices that lead to a loss don’t seem any more or less logical than the ones that lead to success. Like most games, save often.

AlternativA screenshot 4

Conclusion

Well that seems like a lot of points against AlternativA, but you may not be as picky about the voice work as me, and you may not have a problem with all the pointless back and forth often required by the setup, and you may enjoy the story more than I did. It’s a tough call as to whether or not to recommend this on the elements. What tips the scales is the price. At $25 AlternativA is way too expensive, particularly when you consider the fact that there are already dozens of great point and click adventures on steam for under $10 (many under $5).

Get AlternativA on Steam now

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Patrick Bartholomew

Patrick is a freelance multimedia developer specializing in Flash development and animation. He has been programming and making games as a hobby since the age of 7 and has been an avid pen and paper role-player for at least as long.

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