Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Two More Previews of 1954: Alcatraz video game

A couple longer previews popped up in the last week on the mojo wires in the last week and I just wanted to collect them here - the only bad news is that it seems the release date has slipped back to early 2014.  But, maybe the fine folks at Daedalic Entertainment and Irresponsible Games will
surprise us with an early delivery!  In the meantime, enjoy a couple of previews from and -

1954: Alcatraz Preview | ‘Pointing and Clicking In The Big House’

Escape isn’t the only option…
As far as settings go, there are few more iconic than Alcatraz Island. America’s long closed yet increasingly infamous penitentiary has been the stage for numerous films, books, plays and television series, but as far as we’re aware there hasn’t been a game set in the prison.

1954: Alcatraz Preview | Pointing and Clicking In The Big House
Irresponsible Games are looking to change all that with a beautiful, albeit it traditional, point-and-click adventure starring a robber named Joe and his long suffering wife Christine. Both of whom are struggling to put their lives back together since Joe landed himself in the slammer after pulling off a successful armoured car robbery. Where things get really interesting though is that through the fifteen hour story arc, players control both Joe stuck inside Alcatraz and his wife who is carrying on her life outside of the prison, regularly getting hassled by Joe’s former hoodlum buddies eager to learn the location of all the money he stole.

1954: Alcatraz Preview | Pointing and Clicking In The Big House

This adds an interesting new dimension to the game’s branching, moral decision-based, plot as both Joe and Christine can essentially screw each other over for their own individual gain. We were shown a brief gameplay demo involving the forcefully separated couple during a prison visit, with Joe talking to his wife behind glass over a telephone. Here we could select all of Joe’s responses, but once back on land the control shifted to Christine who was met by two gangsters pressuring her for information on what was said during her last visit; with dialogue choices varying from telling the random muscle everything or adopting the ‘dumb broad’ approach to throw the hoodlum’s off the scent of her husband’s score.

These decisions have far reaching consequences radically altering the critical path of the campaign, and they’re sure to be plenty of challenging moral decisions to ponder; should Christine just run off with the money and let her husband rot in Alcatraz or should she help him and maintain their bond before god? This is the 1950s after all, that thing was kind of a big deal back then…

1954: Alcatraz Preview | Pointing and Clicking In The Big House

While Christine has the whole of San Francisco to explore, Joe is confined to Alcatraz, but Irresponsible Games are sure to manufacture plenty of drama to keep playing as the criminal entertaining. One scene from the gameplay demo featured the protagonist Joe refusing to conspire with prisoners about yet another escape attempt, while in another the former technician was inside the house of the prison’s governer,  fixing his wife’s faulty record player. That isn’t a youthamism we promise, but there will be occasions where guards use the talents of the prison population for their own ends.

1954: Alcatraz Preview | Pointing and Clicking In The Big House

The nuts and bolts of appeared very traditional for a point-and-click experience, with the visuals sharing a lot in common with early Telltale releases. Basic gameplay involved searching scenes for clues, combining items and talking with NPCs in order to further the story, but a suitably atmospheric 1950s soundtrack helps keep the action engrossing. Irresponsible Games has absolutely nailed down the period detail of this release, but what interests us is how far they’re going to take the Alcatraz source material.

Will the Penitentiary’s most famous prisoners feature? Will issues associated with solitary confinement, violent guards or dropping soap in the shower rooms be communicated to the player at all? Time will only tell, but we have high hopes that this release will make the most out of its iconic setting.


1954: Alcatraz Preview (PC)
Escaping The Rock.

It’s not particularly surprising, but 1954: Alcatraz features one of the most famous prisons in the world as its backdrop. Filled with the least desirable elements of society – or maybe just the ones stupid enough to get caught – it’s an oft-romanticised setting, despite having only operated as a prison for 29 years.

It’s in the middle of this period that Joe is caught and incarcerated for his role in a bank heist gone wrong. However, he’s the only one who knows where all of the cash is stashed, and at the heart of the game is this one secret, which Joe has to ever-so-carefully manage as he tries to escape and make off with the swag.

In true form for the setting, he has to make uneasy alliances with other characters in order to facilitate his escape from prison in this point and click adventure. The main man initially seems to be Hank, a 99-year-old prisoner who has been planning for years and years. However, he and other members on the team need persuading to work together.

This is where the game can get increasingly complex, as you have to barter and convince him through dialogue. How much do you let on about about your riches on the outside? Do you reveal all and put your trust in these out-and-out criminals, who you really should be wary of trusting, or do you keep it all to yourself and try to convince them using other methods?

Whatever path you choose, the game will branch out based on your decisions. This branching is only amplified by Joe’s wife, Christine, who is a second playable character. The level of trust you have Joe place in her is even more paramount, because she’s the one who can actually go and act upon the information you give her, courtesy of Gaspipe causing a little distraction so you can talk openly without a guard listening in during a visit.

There’s bound to be a strain on that relationship, as Joe has to keep a hold of his secret, while Christine is being pressured and intimidated by the gang on the outside, who would also dearly love to get their hands on the money. What you choose to do will see you hurtling towards one of several endings, where you can go out of your way to see Christine screw Joe over, or work together to share the wealth and live happily ever after.

Their two worlds couldn’t be more different, as Joe makes do on the inside in a fashion which is reminiscent of the Shawshank Redemption. As a bit of a handy man, one scene sees him called in by the Warden’s wife to fix her TV via traditional point and click puzzling, and able to chat to her while waiting for the guard to get the spare parts Joe demands.

Doing favours and staying out of trouble in the day-to-day will be key in the run up to the big escape attempt. Christine, in contrast, has the freedom of the city, with a larger variety of locations to go to and people to interact with.

Her side of the story – you’ll be hopping between the two fairly regularly – will allow the game to really explore the period and San Francisco. All of the locations have wonderful hand drawn artwork in the background, married to 3D models, to really evoke the 1950s and a particular aesthetic; something which is pushed further by the jazz-based soundtrack accompanying the game.
One particularly interesting factor to the story and setting stood out to me, as Joe is an African American and Christine Caucasian. Speaking to Daedalic’s PR Director, Claas Wolter, as he demonstrated the game to us, it doesn’t sound like the racial discrimination of the period is something which the game will tackle head on, but rather deal with in a more subtle manner.

Just as players can see the story branch based off decisions made during the game, it could be that Christine is better able to handle a particular task than Joe. In addition to the gender divide, there would also be an element of a racial undertone where Joe might be flat out turned away from a nightclub, and Christine is able to sweet talk her way in.
It’s these kinds of things which could make this game quite special. A handful of developers are tackling stories which branch and flow towards distinct endings based on your decisions, but this is still something very much in the minority, and combining it with this setting and story genre will hopefully make 1954: Alcatraz stand out from the crowd.

Dave Fennoy "In the Booth With Adam & Erik" #5

Video Game News - they give a shout-out to the talented Cissy Jones-Lin - New segment "In the Director's Chair" with the always awesome Julian Kwasneski and the big interview with the inspiring and amazing Dave Fennoy - voice of Lee Everett in "The Walking Dead" as well as "the Hulu Guy".  Enjoy!