Alicemare is a delightful adventure game made by the same guy who made LiEat which you may remember because I reviewed that one as well. I knew it instantly when I saw the art style and program icon. Or at least, I was highly suspicious of it until I verified it. Anyway, on to the review.
Alicemare is an adventure fortunately with very little adventure game logic. Adventure game logic is the primary reason that I generally tend to dislike adventure games. You play Allen (though you’ll spend half the game being called Alice). You’re at some kind of boarding school(?) where you hang out with other problem children with horrors in their pasts. Apparently this “Nightmare Syndrome” is killing people in their sleep. You… somehow… find a way to enter the dream world. Then you adventure game it up to solve puzzles. As you solve these puzzles, you are rewarded with little cutscenes that tell you the backstory to the other children at this boarding school. It’s a good design choice for character exposition because instead of an exposition dump you get to live the life through the child’s eyes. Almost makes you feel sorry for the kids, as they all have somewhat uncomfortable backgrounds. But hey, the game has “Horror” as a tag, so ya get what you saw on tin, amirite?
There’s a white rabbit and a cheshire cat but that’s really about where the similarities with “Alice in Wonderland” end, after the name.
Honestly, I don’t like the execution. The art for some of the maps feels a little too “RPG Maker-esque” if that makes sense. Not only that, but some of the maps themselves feel a little too “RPG Maker-esque”. I remember there was this one time where I had to walk through an entire maze which was pretty much copy/pasted rock sprites. I would’ve been more satisfied with a solid looking wall. The guy did LiEat as well and there was a maze section in the game that could’ve been handled better too. But if I recall correctly, that was something like a series of wooden floors with a black background and glowing lights. It had more ambience than this.
The game is filled with little puzzles. There was a literal copy/paste of the Wolf-Lamb-Cabbage bridge puzzle. There were a couple of math puzzles. A murder mystery with very little mystery. A spot-the-difference game, can you believe it? I think of these as gimmicks that serve only as barriers between me and story progress. The adventure game puzzles were a better way to progress.
Let’s see, since I know the guy’s past work LiEat, allow me to compare the two. First – the characters in LiEat were far more interesting. I think if you contrast Alicemare to LiEat, you get a game that’s about a setting rather than about characters. In my opinion, LiEat is the far superior one. While the battles were kind of a waste of time, I feel like the characters and story are better explored in LiEat than they are in Alicemare. On top of that, the deduction game was a better way to move me between set-pieces than a stupid spot-the-difference game. LiEat had more interesting characters overall.
The game is short, and I’ll edge on the side of the recommend because it does have its appeal. The art direction and music are well done. I guess My problem is that the story just feels so weak and even at the end I wasn’t satisfied. Maybe a sequel will come out, as it did with LiEat. The characters are forgettable, possibly because they were flat characters upon introduction with the purpose of being fleshed out during gameplay. But nothing really stands out. There’s nothing that says “Yes, this character had this happen to them and that’s why they’re a massive tosser”. There’s just “I am a tosser and this happened in my past”.
Overall, I give it a pass but only just. Thanks for reading.