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Halloween Contest 2013 Review 002: Alice Is Trapped 
 PostThu Oct 31, 2013 8:17 am
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That's good advice.
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No one can find me in this hole in the wall, so I'm gonna spoil all the rules! >:D
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You have to break this one pretty much immediately. It sets the tone for the rest of the game.
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Um... duh? It's an RPG, you don't have to tell us that!
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...what frog? I haven't seen any frog...
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There's no good reason to break Rule #3. Keep your distance.
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Hey! No fighting in school! No name calling!
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This textbox blew my freakin' mind.
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This one didn't blow my mind, but it did make me laugh.
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The different sub-endings grant you priveliges to make replays easier. Great system!
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My best run of the updated version..
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...and my best run of the original release.
This is a review of Alice Is Trapped.

I held off on this review because I wanted to give people plenty of time to play it. I absolutely love Alice Is Trapped, I'd suggest it to any of you and I'm definitely going to be getting into spoilers so consider this your last chance to back up, check it out and then come back for the love-in.

Everyone done? No peeking? For realsies? GOOD! Alice Is Trapped is RMSephy's entry to the Halloween Contest, my favorite entry to the Halloween Contest, and a sequel to Alice Falls Asleep. Alice apparently fell asleep just a little too long, and has now found herself locked inside of her school. Talk about a nightmare!

To get out, she'll have to solve puzzles to unlock doors, battle the darkness within her soul, and dodge a crazy old frog who just wants to eat her. All of this while making sure not to break any of the rules helpfully written on the chalkboards, and while also taking heed of the miscellaneous advice doled out by various notes strewn about the corridors.

One of the coolest things about the game is the way the rules build on themselves. You practically have to break Rule #1 to get anywhere and the game acknowledges it, forgives you for it... and then the room for Rule #2 is designed so that you follow Rule #2 before you even knew what it was, and conspicuously offers you a way not to break rule #1 while you leave AND expands your knowledge of how the maze is going to work. So are you supposed to obey the rules or not? You're never sure, and it makes for a somewhat uneasy atmosphere where even minor decisions you make while exploring feel like they have extra weight to them and potential consequences.

Not that the game is meant to be terrifying, and it definitely isn't. Sephy opted for his trademark sense of humor instead, and his decision makes the game feel inviting somehow, like it wants to share its secrets with you. Even if Alice does find her way to a "BAD END", she pops up at the entrance to the school fresh as a daisy thanks to her "Respawning" classes, and keeps all of the items she collected because of a generous insurance policy. The game secretly autosaves as you progress, so you're guaranteed never to be set back by a bad decision, which is great because there's multiple endings to discover and it allows for Sephy to have a few instant death traps that would be obnoxious if they meant having to re-solve a million puzzles.

One of my few complaints would have to be the sound department. Swan Lake repeats constantly throughout the game, and while it is a nice reference to the classic Dracula movies and somewhat atmospheric in its own right, it does start to drag a little as time goes on. Maybe there could've been a pair of headphones, or a jukebox or something after a certain period of time to add a little variety. The croaking frog sound effect you hear during the chases is actually pretty ominous, especially if you've already found out how long his tongue is.

The visuals are simple but nicely polished. The maptiles are reminiscent of Legend of Zelda, which fits nicely with the camera-scroll style that he borrowed from the original NES installment. Together, they really make the exploration feel good and it's such a simple visual effect. Even though the battles tend to be simple looking they don't feel cheap, and in fact, the game as a whole does a good job of having just enough work behind it to make it feel serious.

Not counting the "bad" endings there are 3 sub-endings to find, each of which grants Alice a new ability, and a fourth, "true" ending which requires you to apply all the lessons you've learned and beat the final boss. Now, here's where things might get a little confusing. I first played this game on October 20th. Sephy made an updated version on the 26th, which I played for this review. In the updated version, beating the final boss gives you the option to continue with all of your progress and try to find anything you might've missed, or to erase all of your progress and start a new game.

In the original version, there is no option to erase your data. It's just something that seems like it might be a good idea, based on the checklist of things you did or didn't do. I know in my case I almost immediately broke the unwritten rule and deleted my save, deciding that a Super Metroid style "0%" run was in order. It felt like this great, meta play on the theme, ignoring the rules, the notes, the battles and just trying to get out of the game without touching anything and laughing at how perfectly the maps were designed to let you do just that.

I like that the update makes the fantastic map design that much more obvious, gives you a means to win the game without having to do any grinding and even changes the final score report so that you truly can have a 0%, but it also loses the "getting away with something" feeling of deleting your save manually and going through again to see if anything changes. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about that.

Meta-Commentary aside, it's a really fun game that does a great job of engaging your imagination, staying accessible, and not overstaying its welcome. I do think it would've been cool if things had changed just a little bit more on the second playthrough (the mirrors in the bathroom, for instance, mention "bad ends" regardless of whether or not you've had any) but there's just enough of a change to make it feel worthwhile, and just looking for it was a lot of fun. It kind of makes me feel bad about Virtual School 2 which promised multiple endings but had none.

This is a game that has jokes, but is too nicely assembled to be called a joke game. It's a game that has a certain degree of replay value, but isn't exactly something you could sell. It's a unique kind of experience, something I think is a very pure expression of what OHR Games, Indie Games, Amateur Games, whatever the hell you want to call them, are all about and a kind of experience I hope doesn't go away as the C. Kanes, Motryas and Scare Sprees of our community set sail for big bucks on Android phones and Ouya.

Awesome game, check it out.
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