“1954 Alcatraz” aka I Guess He’s Not Getting Off That Island

I tried to finish this game, people. I really tried. The blurb about it looked intriguing, the casual 50’s banter seemed amusing… and then I played the game.

Firstly, it crashed after I reset the graphics and settings (max all the way!) but I soldiered on and gave it the benefit of the doubt, fiddling with settings until it seemed happy. I started a new game, and threw myself into the story. You start out as the man in the can, the incarcerated, Joe, in Alcatraz after what, according to the intro cut scene, was a botched escape attempt. Apparently, he helped with a big heist with some bad characters and everyone thinks he hid the money, so everyone is after him for that.

In prison, you struggle to interact with your surroundings with a strangely clumsy 2-button interface using your mouse. There is a brief (And I mean BRIEF) tutorial and then you are left to your own devices. Right click everything to “view” it – and you get a little blurb about what you are looking at – and then left click to “interact” with the object and/or person. I clicked everything, both buttons, and heard the same one-liners about each item without any real help. Eventually, after lots of clicks and hearing the same thing over and over, I managed to work out how to “make stuff” and how to use that stuff on other objects. Perhaps I was not as focused as I could have been, and perhaps it was explained in the “tutorial” but it really was not very intuitive. Finally, I managed to find some objects I needed to continue (because the story will not continue without certain checkpoints being met… more on that later) and left my cell.

While we stood in a line outside our cells, I chatted with various other prisoners. The voice acting was great, with some real feeling and story thrown in, but the constant repetition of things until you chose the “right” sequence of events got a little annoying. Once I got that right, we moved on to the chow hall, where we had some more strange and stilted conversations where there was no option to end the conversation until you’d asked all the questions, and you’d chosen each dialog option.. even the ones that made people angry. Maybe it was bugged? I don’t know… but more on THAT later as well.

After these weird exchanges and promises of “favours” a select few of us went to the visiting room and we meet Joe’s wife, Christine. She’s a fast talking, snarky, witty, “hep cat” poetry slinger with flippy hair and a beret. I can’t say I “clicked” with Christine. Her dialog options with Joe seemed very weak and pointless filled with “miss you baby” and stuff like that. Not my cup of tea, but I persevered and we learned things and, again, after exhausting ALL OPTIONS in the chat menu, even ones that were contradictory to what I had just told her/asked her… we then begin playing as Christine.

On the dock, we meet the sleezy Mickey and his enormous thug. He wants his money and gives Christine a deadline to get it – and by deadline, I mean deadline… he plans to kill her if he can’t get the money from Joe, through Christine. Lots of corny/cheesy/cliché “mobster” lines are thrown around, and Christine’s responses are a mix of sassy comebacks and whiny weakness of a damsel in distress. It confused me. Again… all options had to be exhausted until you could move on.

I investigated every clue/item/viewpoint and heard all the blurbs, and then we went home to our apartment. Again, lots of clicking, looking, trying to interact and not really getting anywhere. I clicked on the things that were meant to give me answers and items (clues that Joe gave me in the visiting room, and again on a letter I found from him in the apartment) but nothing presented itself. I then went onto the fire escape (to be met by a neighbour who is desperate to sleep with you.. and YOU CAN SLEEP WITH HIM and apparently (according to the internet) you can learn stuff about the heist that he did with Joe… but only if you sleep with him… I said no thanks and sent him home to his wife and the “secret Marriage Level” went up 10 points or something, but I was left in the dark about important details for the rest of the game… wait… WHAT?) and the roof and again… nothing presented itself despite clicking on everything with both buttons. I went back inside and then used the map to visit the 3 people I am supposed to chat to.

I then bumped into Detective Grassi and was taken to the police station for interrogation, and again, all dialog had to be completed. I was then let go, but only after promising to meet up with Detective Grassi at his favourite restaurant. Er… okay. That’s not odd at all.

So I visited our landlady who lives above her Chinese restaurant. This is where I learned, again, that if you do anything in the WRONG ORDER, it totally messes up your chances to pick up any further clues or advance any further in the story. I went to the kitchen FIRST and picked up a bowl of soup. I tried to read the drawer labels at the back of the kitchen, but apparently “I can’t read Chinese, only the cooks know what these say!” I then went UPSTAIRS to the landlady, who was lying in her bed, under the weather. I clicked all around her room, checking out every single clue and object… got nothing very helpful. I then spoke to Vivian (the landlady) and she begged me to go get her a bowl of soup… oh GREAT, I thought, I already have one here in my purse! I handed it over.. and she said thank you, but she wanted Winter Melon… where the heck am I supposed to find that? I went back to the kitchen, clicked EVERYTHING again… nope. Still can’t read Chinese. Went back up to Vivian… she didn’t want to talk to me anymore.

Bugged, I thought? So you know what I did? I restarted the fekkin game. Did it all again.. all the clicking and dialog and searching and waffle…. this time I went to Vivian first… she asked for soup, I went downstairs to get it… GOSH… I STILL CAN’T READ CHINESE. I had no idea how to get this Winter Melon she kept asking for. I gave up on that one, hoping I’d find something later that would help.

I then went to the church to talk to the priest… I had to break in… to the church… *raises eyebrow* and then I went to confession with the priest. Lots of silly dialog options here, and I asked everything and got nothing. Again. Checked ALL the clues and items and objects… nope, nothing helpful that moved the story along.

I had no choice, I then had to go to dinner with Detective Grassi. Despite complaining every five seconds about how hungry I was… I refused to eat anything, not even the bread rolls on the table because the Detective would “just reach out and hold my hand” and I didn’t want that, apparently, despite going to dinner with him and being “so lonely” all the time. Christine complains about everything, but then refuses to do anything that may help her. It irritated and confused me. I went back to the apartment, as apparently, I could not move the story along anywhere. I was stuck. I did things in the wrong order, and now everything was broken and would not advance me at all.

I tried to switch over to Joe, but I couldn’t actually find where to do this. The “tutorial” mentioned it for a second, but there was no real clue for me to show how to switch over to him. Not even sure what that would have accomplished anyway, as I hadn’t advanced anything for Christine that may have helped Joe in the clink.

At this point, I gave up. I was frustrated and irritated and finding this game was NOT what I was expecting and it was nothing like the trailer had made it seem. I was disappointed.

Game uninstalled. Moving on.

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