It's the year 2045 --
Prague is a city in ruins. A worldwide government and two international
corporations have taken over. War has wiped out all traces of freedom,
graciousness and culture -- at least among the masses. In the future of
Alternativa, people are either employed or they starve to death. The
time has arrived when one large corporation is laying off many of its
employees, greatly expanding the ranks of the desperate.
You assume the role of Richard Rocek, a young man who
has just lost his job at a construction site and is trying to cope.
Refusing to go gently into that bleak night, he decides to do something,
strike out at someone -- and to join anyone else who talks of doing the
"If you are going through hell, keep going."
The background graphics in Alternativa are one
of its strengths, containing lots of detail, intriguing angles and unusual
light sources. Still, I can't describe them as enticing, since Prague is
littered with refuse and the abandoned hulks of vehicles. Androids
compromise the security service, but they don't clean up after themselves
-- malfunctioning androids can be seen lying everywhere, twitching as they
expire. The parts of Prague that aren't a decomposing mess are composed of
sleek, minimalist factory and office interiors. Oddly, even the exterior
facades of the spiffy offices reflect decay, as though their owners want
to compound the atmosphere of despair. In order to exit the game, you
select a button marked: "Forgo all hope."
The game's tone shifts somewhat when the story moves
from Prague to Brazil. In the future world of Alternativa, Brazil
may be impoverished, but at least trees still grow there, and the
buildings retain a shadow of their quaint former character.
The futuristic background music has odd beats,
buzzing sounds, echoes, rumbles and reverberations. The jukebox in the bar
features a song called "Somewhere in the Dark" that's worth listening to
via an interlink with Richard's Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).
"Man is the cruelest animal." Friedrich Nietzsche
When the game begins you can select a difficulty
level. The "Low" difficulty setting lets you reveal hotspots by pressing
the "Tab" key (the in-game instructions don't tell you this -- you have to
read the manual very carefully to glean this information).
Selecting the wrong dialog choices sometimes results
in death. On the "Low" difficulty setting, the game is then restored to
the point before death. On the "High" difficulty setting, the game is
restored to the point before death two times -- after that you have to go
back to a previously saved game. The game also contains a couple of timed
challenges that lead to death until you figure out what you're supposed to
Even on the "Low" setting, Alternativa's
challenges are similar to those in older games with core adventure
gameplay. What exactly do I mean by this? Well, here's a representative
sample of what you'll encounter: invisible triggers (you have all the
information necessary to solve a puzzle, but must visit a different
location and click on a tangential hotspot before the game lets you access
the puzzle); trial and error puzzles (you randomly figure out which 2 --
or possibly 3 -- of 6 hotspots must be clicked on in the correct order);
and guessing the form for log-in names and passwords (both names? all
caps? is that an "I" or a "1,"? an "S" or a "5"?).
Sometimes locations are grayed-out while you are
attempting to solve these challenges. But more often a handful of
locations are open, so you go back and forth endlessly, trying to figure
out what you missed.
I know there are gamers out there who cherish this
style, because I've heard complaints about recent trends in "dumbing down"
adventure games. So if you are a gamer who laments the passing of
invisible triggers, trial and error, and non-hint-assisted puzzling (you
know who you are) this game is for you.
"They stumble that run fast." William Shakespeare
Alternativa uses a point-and-click interface
and is viewed from a third person perspective. Clicking on hotspots
reveals a circular menu that lets you interact by selecting an icon for
examining, using and (for androids and humans) talking. The inventory bar
appears at the top of the screen and is easy to use. Double-clicking
causes Richard to run and double-clicking on an exit also should cause a
fade-to-black that brings up the next location. Sometimes double-clicking
twice is required -- enough to cause the navigation to feel laborious in
"Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the
company." Mark Twain
This game contains memorable characters, some of
which grow and develop as the story progresses. Richard, for instance,
starts as someone who doesn't question his lot in life as long as he has a
steady job. He eventually is transformed into a resourceful individual who
risks everything on the advice of virtual strangers. The transformation is
believable, given the obstacles he encounters and the paucity of his
Other characters include Andrea, a mystery woman who
seems fated to come to Richard's rescue (at least at first), and Andy,
Richard's roommate, an amiable slacker. There's a significant amount of
back story, which is mostly contained in data files in Richard's PDA. More
files are added as the story progresses.
Character interaction is a prominent feature in the
game. Character animations are a bit stiff. Dialogs, especially those
early in the game, are sometimes stilted, but conventions of speech will
undoubtedly be different by 2045. Voiceovers are competent and aid the
story and the game. Dialogs can be clicked through; they contain
occasional casual vulgarities.
Cut scenes have a 3D, slow-motion quality to them,
viewed as though through a brightly lit haze. This suits the surreal
quality of the setting and the story.
There isn't much comic relief in the game, so when it
does occur it's welcome -- the amusing conversation with a telephone, for
instance, and the tongue-in-cheek pest repellent advertisement.
Alternativa attempts to tell a compelling
story and to comment upon the human condition: it partly attains these
goals. One theme is how the strictures of a dystopian society -- forcing
people to commit crimes in order to survive -- is similar to the
strictures of a computer game, where you (via the player character) can be
forced to commit virtual crimes in order to complete the game. In some
ways, the game reminds me of The Experiment, in that it is
ambitious, creates a believable alternate reality, strives for some
overarching social commentary, and beats up on the protagonist in every
"If you come to a fork in the road, take it." Yogi
Although you play as Richard for the bulk of
Alternativa, you can also play as one of two other characters. The
story hits a branching path, where you choose whether or not Andrea and
Richard should trust Andy. If you decide to trust him, you play one
sequence as Andy. If you choose not to trust him, you play the sequence as
Andrea. (If you want to see both branches, save your game right after
Richard arrives in Brazil.)
The puzzles are different for each branch. Each of
these two branches is rather short and, afterwards, the story resumes with
you assuming the role of Richard once again. At that point (as far as I
could tell) the different branches have no affect on gameplay or on the
Controversies Lie Ahead! "The ceremony of
innocence is drowned ...." William Butler Yeats
(Plot Detail Spoilers)
One particularly memorable subquest in Prague forces
you to steal something from a girl in her early teens who has lost both
her parents. You then discover that this young girl has been allowing
herself to be repeatedly raped in order to have the money to buy food.
This part of the game goes from heart-wrenching to revolting and back
A later sequence brings more implied violence -- a
flashback involving the murder of a young family. It's a timed sequence,
and if you don't figure out what to do fast enough, you repeated the
events leading up to the murder of a child.
(End of Spoilers)
Had I not been playing this game for review, I would
have abandoned it. Though I'm aware that such horrors exist, they are not
what I would choose to dwell upon in a game. However, by game's end I had
begun again to be caught up in Richard's quest. I was rooting for him to
succeed and cared about him as a character. Under the circumstances, this
can be considered something of an achievement for the latter part of the
"An eye for an eye only makes the whole world
blind." Mahatma Gandhi
The final cut scene is unexpected. Given the first
two thirds of the game, I anticipated a "nothing will change and life is
completely pointless" ending -- or perhaps a brutally violent ending (both
would have made sense with the way the story was trending). That's not
(End of the Ending Spoiler)
The ending of this game is perplexing. It appears to
be setting itself up for a sequel. The conclusion surprised me because
much of what has been going on in the story simply isn't explained --
including the true motivations of many of the characters. The identity of
a pivotal character is never established. The reason one character is
targeted for death is never touched on.
Quick List for Alternativa
A mystery/conspiracy theory game involving a future
dystopian society, set in Europe and South America. A likeable
protagonist, fighting against extraordinary odds. An atmosphere of
brutality, degradation and despair. The ending leaves a lot of unanswered
Detailed naturalistic graphics, third person
perspective, point-and-click interface. Satisfying amounts of character
interaction. Good voiceovers. You can click through the dialogs.
One crash to desktop, one voiceover at the beginning
that cuts in and out. No problems with installation. Two difficulty
settings. The "Low" setting enables a "show all hotspots" feature. 21 save
The game is not appropriate for those under age 18. I
would recommend it only for adults who can handle realistic descriptions
of violence aimed at innocents, including children.
Inventory challenges, lock puzzles, dialog choice
puzzles, guessing passwords. A couple of timed challenges. You can die,
but are brought back to the moment before death. No sliders, no mazes, no
color or sound based puzzles. Lots of invisible triggers and back-and-forthing;
some pixel hunting and puzzles that require trial and error. Difficulty is
on the high side. The most difficult puzzles -- the trial and error pin
lock and figuring out how to trigger the safe puzzle in the professor's
apartment. About ten hours of gameplay.
Aimed at experienced adventure gamers who enjoy games
with serious themes and dark, surreal environments -- and who aren't put
off by a journey through a futuristic version of Hell.
Final Grade: B-
What I played it on:
Dell Studio XPS 8000
Windows 7 Home Premium
Intel Core i5-750 processor
6GB DDR3 SDRAM
1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220
* Quotations are drawn from Thinkexist.com.
Alternativa can be purchased via download on
GameBoomers Review Guidelines