Alice Aforethought

We're Alice ... sort of. Technically, we're the "Alice" Alice is talking to when she talks to herself, but practically speaking, we're Alice, full stop. The problem is, Alice has broken her father's unique and irreplaceable pocket watch, and now she's locked in her room to await her father's return, whereupon he will be a trifle upset. However, we have access to the mirror world, and what follows is a surreal pastiche of the Alice books and a time-travel plot.

I like the Alice books. There was a time when I was fairly obsessed with them. But I think that, as a work of interactive fiction, the strongest part of this game was the first part, where we're just noodling around in our room, trying to escape, and establishing the premise. Once that's out of the way and the Other Alice (our reflection) is on the loose, things seem just a little too close to the originals for comfort. There are scenes in the Alice books which easily lend themselves to IF puzzles, but I don't think we need a lot of scenes reproduced from the original, especially as the initial section seems to be telling us that this is going to be Alice-inspired rather than any sort of faithful-ish reproduction.

One part I did not appreciate was the sequence in which we're falling down the never-ending stairwell. This involves waiting while a series of random paragraphs play, telling us of our encounters along the fall ... and I don't mean clicking a "wait" button: I mean literally waiting, because these paragraphs flow by on a timer, and you may or may not get to read everything before the game moves on to the next random paragraph. There's a way to zoom to the end of it, but this involves waiting for the right paragraph and clicking the right link; otherwise it's waiting, waiting, waiting. Which would not be so bad if it were a once-only situation, but we could potentially find ourselves here multiple times on a playthrough if we're not careful. As a player, I thought the most interesting thing to do here was to step away and make a sandwich ... which meant breaking from the game.

Timed sequences: don't do that.

On the whole, though, there's a sense of narrative completion that I did appreciate. I'm not sure if it's because of a contrast with the very chaotic middle, but I did feel that the story wrapped up very neatly. Unless you insist on a separation between the dream world and reality, that is: the story seems to hinge on the distinction being rather fluid.

It's like an omelette made with fresh eggs and leftover leg of lamb. It looks good, all neatly folded over, and the first bite is delicious; but then the mint jelly from yesterday's dinner begins to intrude. That makes for a rather odd experience, though I dare say some would like it. A cup of Earl Grey tea, with its ever-so-civilised floral bouquet, completes the meal.