We have a rusty ladder in our inventory. And a can of rust remover. It’s not going to take much trial and error to figure out this one out, but then puzzles aren’t really the point to Richard & Alice, Denby/Raze’s debut game. This a story-focused post-apocalyptic PC adventure game in which puzzles are subservient to dialogue, structure to pacing, and where needing to find an item really just functions as an excuse to have you poke around a room.
Thankfully, Richard and Alice tells a quietly powerful tale about parenthood and survival in a frozen world. The mother-son part of the tale is technically flashback, however, told within a frame narrative that sees two prisoners, Richard and Alice, locked up in a curiously cosy prison. There’s enough ambiguity and mystery to the premise that, even if the characters themselves weren’t engagingly written, you’d want to find out more.
Thankfully Richard and Alice do manage to engage, the awkward stiltedness to their early conversations naturally easing into a more flowing rapport. Neither are as a delight to read as Alice’s son Barney, however, whose perfectly captured five-year-old’s speech patterns provide both humour and heartbreaking moments of poignancy.
It’s a sad tale, then, a companion piece for To The Moon and its brand of barely interactive, tear-jerking drama. Puzzles make more sense in context than To The Moon’s tile-flipping challenges, though they’ll rarely cause you more than a moment’s pause. You don’t keep playing for the puzzles, however, but for the narrative woven around them.