Alida: The Enigmatic Giant
Alida is a lovingly made homage to Riven by the multimedia artist Cos Russo. The game is set on an island called Alida on which a rock band, taken by their mega-success, have built a mega-size guitar. Troubles split the band up, years passed, and then the manager, Kivas, tried to get the band together on the island. Band member, Arin, went to Alida ten days ago and hasn't been heard of since. His wife, Julia, has sent you to find Arin and bring him home.
Alida is a first person perspective adventure with slide-show graphics. The graphics are beautifully pre-rendered, the giant guitar bestriding scenic rocky outcrops and gulches and a crater lake like a surrealist power station. The water ripples and the shadows dance.
Your character is not identified in any way, just as in Riven. The game is mouse controlled throughout, both for interaction and movement. There is a cursor available which enables you to move quickly to previously visited locations. This comes in handy as you will be covering a lot of ground both by your feet and by a number of artful devices. These range from lifts through mine cars to alien spheres flying through air and wall. There are numerous cut-scenes for when you are transported around and when you have successfully manipulated one of the mechanisms.
Ah yes the mechanisms. The gameplay is all about pulling the levers, pressing the buttons, plying the dials and permuting the switches you will find around Alida. As you solve puzzles new areas will open up. The puzzles require careful observation and much thought - also smaller puzzles dovetail together to form really big ones. As in Riven there are one or two failure endings as well as the successful ending. I would rate the puzzles as hard - I was very grateful for the generous help Cos Russo gave me by email as I played his game. I relish playing games with someone on hand to help and encourage. Being in touch with the game's author as you play is a real privilege. The puzzles are fair but mean. Solving some can require quite a few steps. Once or twice the game does not immediately tell you you've achieved something or could retry something you tried a while back.
Only once do you pick up an object and use it. You don't have an inventory as such. But when you play this game have plenty of paper and pens to hand to make notes. You'll need them. The site for the game (www.alidagame.com) has a number of useful diagrams on it that you can print off. It also has hints and pictures and background to the game, which took Cos Russo five years to make. There are no timed puzzles in this game and also no pixel hunting - but keeping your eyes open is very necessary. You can't die, but remember Alida has failure endings, so saving is a good habit.
There is minimal interaction with other people on Alida but there are a few journals and notes and recordings here and there to give you background information. The story (which looks forward to a sequel) has alien technology in it as well, which did make me wonder why the island wasn't crawling with scientists and the military.
There are plenty of background noises to make you part of this world, from birds singing to the many machines turning. Eerie music will at times accompany you but not obtrude - in fact the silence when the music didn't start after restoring a game was more noticeable. One or two of the puzzles involve sound by the way - these puzzles are not for anyone hard of hearing or deaf.
Alida played without any problems on my iMac under OSX 10.2.6. Installation was straightforward, for performance I copied all the CDs onto the hard drive (you don't need a CD to play then.) This requires 3380MB of hard disk space free.
As a result of it being programmed in SuperCard you can at times accidentally grab parts of the screen and drag them, but this doesn't harm the game. Game options let you turn off the water animations and also adjust the way the slide-show transitions operate for performance. The often spectacular cut-scenes can be skipped by holding down the option key beforehand. The cursor sometimes seems slow to change after the cut-scenes (due to waiting for them to really finish.) I changed screen resolutions each time I played which some games will do for you.
Alida does not feel skimped at all or rushed out - this is a fully developed game. Like Riven you are not only playing a game but also experiencing a world. A world conceived as a whole, as an entirety. The puzzles interlock to form one single puzzle. This is a work of art and technology.
Copyright © Peter Smith 2003.
All rights reserved.
At present Alida is available for Mac only, a PC version has not yet been confirmed.
Mac OS8/9, minimum Macintosh G3 233 or faster, Mac OS 8.6 or later, 4x CD rom or faster, QuickTime 4 or later, approx 185 Meg hard disk space, 21 Meg RAM free, and 640 x 480 screen 16bit colours.
OSX, minimum Macintosh G4 350 or faster, Mac OS 10.1.2 or higher, QuickTime 5 or later, approx 185 Meg hard disk space, 640 x 480 screen 16bit colours.