1954: Alcatraz

1954: Alcatraz presents a promising premise, but executes it poorly.

By PKKHaseo, Posted 21 Mar 2014

1954 Alcatraz is the latest point and click adventure game published by Daedalic Entertainment and developed by Irresponsible Games. You will be playing as Joe Lyons, doing 40 years on Alcatraz for robbing an armored truck, and his wife Christine, who faces the danger of getting killed by one of Joe’s former “business” partners. So, let’s dive right into it and see if the game lives up to its promising premise.

As the name suggests, the game takes place in a 1950’s San Francisco where, after an initially successful robbery, Joe gets caught and ends up behind bars; but not before hiding a part of the money in a safe place and away from his partner in crime and a member of the mob, Mickey. This of course puts Christine in danger as Mickey has threatened to kill her if she doesn’t return the hidden loot.  And so the race is on to find the money, help Joe escape, get out the country and live a lush and happy life.

1954, Alcatraz, Review, Preview, Trailer, News, Daedalic Entertainment, Irresponsible Games, Point and Click, Adventure, Noir, The Beats

Despite the name of the game, 1954 Alcatraz focuses more on the relationship between Joe and Christine than the actual escape from The Rock, which is a big letdown. No delving deep into the Mafia life style, no negotiating with any Godfather-like figure, no seeing what hardships being a black convict in Alcatraz brings. The “grand” escape that should have been the pinnacle and climax of the game takes less than an hour to play through and is extremely unchallenging. Even if you were to add up the beforehand preparations that Joe makes, the escape still takes less than a quarter of the gameplay time.

Instead you spend most time with Christine and her friends in her pursuit to find the hidden loot based on the hints that Joe gives you. She’s part of the Beat Generation, known for rejection of received standards, experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities, a rejection of materialism and explicit portrayals of the human condition. Even here the game falls prey to contradictions; despite Christine being part of a culture that’s supposed to be anti-system and support each other, she doesn’t think twice before using her gay friends’ marriage to blackmail a catholic priest helping with Joe’s escape.

The puzzles are more than lacking in difficulty, with most of them requiring players to fetch object A then use it on object/person B. Even the escape proves way too easy, considering it’s a renowned prison you’re escaping from. During the entire escape there are only around 6 six that you conveniently manage to walk passed them as all seem to have the peripheral vision of a mole. You’d think a high security prison such as Alcatraz would have tighter security protocols, but the game fails to recreate that feel, instead giving you the impression that the prison is run by mere amateurs.

1954, Alcatraz, Review, Preview, Trailer, News, Daedalic Entertainment, Irresponsible Games, Point and Click, Adventure, Noir, The Beats

Another problem the game has is that it doesn’t manage to historically recreate the time period and fails to give you the feel that the game takes place in 1954. Everything seems way too modern and, with the exception of a few scenes where some old cars are showing, nothing in the world gives that noir vibe the 50s had. There’s also a strong lack of discrimination, yes you read that right. Back in that time period prejudice was present everywhere: racism, sexism, homophobia, you name it.  But in the game not even once do you get the impression that Joe, being a black convict, is being treated differently from all the other inmates. The game goes even further and features a gay couple openly kissing in a public café that’s open for business. Though this doesn’t seem like anything special nowadays, back in those times those sorts of things could have easily gotten you lynched.

The game lets you switch between Joe and Christine at any given time, but if you choose not to, the game will eventually switch to the other character at certain milestones. This, in correlation with the fact that the game gives you the freedom to follow leads in whatever order you please, makes for some really sloppy transitions. At one point the game switched to Joe just to switch back to Christine three minutes later because I had hit a milestone. Another issue that’s present is the passage of time. Whenever you switch to Christine it seems to always be night while on the other end, whenever you play as Joe it seems to be daytime all the time (with the exception of the escape). The game does a bad job of making it feel like time is passing; instead what should feel like at least a few weeks, if not months, ends up feeling like mere hours.

1954, Alcatraz, Review, Preview, Trailer, News, Daedalic Entertainment, Irresponsible Games, Point and Click, Adventure, Noir, The Beats

So, in the end, while the idea and the overall premise were promising, the execution was more than lacking. Unfortunately, the thematic music and the inclusion of a filter that makes the game look like a 50s movie just isn’t enough to save the game. If you are looking for an involving and immersive noir adventure, then save your time better and elsewhere. If you still wish to buy the game, 1954 Alcatraz is available on Steam for $19.99, £16.98 or €19.98. The game will provide you with around eight hours of gameplay, a bit more if you choose to replay the game to see the alternative ending.

Cirstoiu Alexandru, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Daedalic Entertainment
Developer(s): Daedalic Entertainment, Irresponsible Games
Genres: Point and Click, Adventure
Themes: Noir, Thriller
Release Date: 2014-03-11

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