I enjoyed what time I spent playing 1954 Alcatraz, which according to Steam is 6 hours. I'm glad that I finally bought it after pining over it and that I played it till completion. I'll even go back for a second play-through. However, I'm unable to recommend this game to anyone. By no means am I a seasoned veteran of point-and-clicks with a higher sense of nuance, but I've played them enough over the years to explicate my experience with this title.
First, the positives. The atmosphere in this game is incredible. The background artists used their skill sets well and created a vibrant world that I wanted to come pack to. The music and the sound effects were top notch. These are great things to have in a game, but these things don't themselves make a whole game, and not every aspect is as great. The 3D models are low-grade. It's almost insulting how untextured they are. It feels like they were taken from a late Dreamcast title, and not a great one at that. The female characters look fine. They're stylized and have depth in their design, but the males are bland and the overall lack of design shows in them. The animations of all the characters are stiff. It feels like an alpha build almost. They barely react appropriately with the world and never show items when they're using them. The best the characters look is during dialogue (mostly) or when standing still. But once the animation starts, it's painful. You don't expect much action from such games, but if action is going to be a thing, then it should be done well. Instead, the loading times for actions often show characters halfway through and you have to assume some of what happened.
The biggest frustration is the writing. There are multiple aspects to the overall concept of the writing
, but it's the linking motif among them. The design of the female characters is again, alright. They had personae. The males are just insulting and are almost entirely one-dimensional. For instance, the detective you encounter has an obvious scar over his bad eye. Gee, I wonder if he's a bad guy.
No other character experiences growth or change. Not really. The characters are just expanded upon over time, and yeah, you learn new information about them occasionally, but never something that makes you go back and appreciate them. It's just information you don't need. I'd rather they twist it to where you either feel it changes things or you feel it's important. You never do, and characters remain painfully static.
Worse, it ties into the gameplay. Everything can be interacted with by left or right-clicking. Right clicks make your character react. Left clicks make them interact. Most items cannot be interacted with, so the button is redundant 95% of the time - which makes the right-clicking redundant 100% of the time in these instances. It's just more dialogue to listen to. And unfortunately, the dialogue cannot be skipped. They sometimes say three lines when one isn't even necessary. A lot of the time, their responses don't make sense. They'll even talk about things that can't be (X is going to kill me! Well, X died. So, no he won't.)
To top it off, many of the dialogues and points where the plot progresses do so for no reason. The dialogue jumps around and the characters sound like they missed four or five lines leading up to what happens - all in an attempt to move things along. I wonder why they didn't work on the dialogue more and tone down your time spent interacting with useless objects.
The best thing the writers or directors did was not shy away from some of the harsher realities of the setting. You hear occasional racist terms thrown around, but never just because. The same characters show the same behavior (though it's hard not to when they're so stiff). The inclusion of and depiction of two homosexuals is just fantastic, and it's wonderful that the main characters are a black and white couple. It makes sense why there's such an emphasis on the Beat culture of the 1950's - they were more accepting of such things. Plenty of others weren't. Even the instances of violence aren't toned down. The game has a rawness to it that's refreshing. They discuss sex and relationships without the need to titilize the player or as an excuse to appeal in a basic way (when does sex never
sell?) I just wish this had all been packaged in a better game. I wish they'd have said something thoughtful about sexuality instead of just making me think about it.
Overall, this world is nice to visit. Daedalic knows their stuff. It's for this very reason that it's almost difficult to play - because you do expect better. It's an okay game to play when you have a week to do so and have nothing else. But if you're going to spend money on this title, don't spend more than $10. Even then, only if you're committed to enjoying this title from the get-go, because if not, you'll drop it quickly.