Incarcerated and alone, Richard passes his time watching old nature documentaries on his prison issue TV. It's okay, actually not a bad place to be, especially as the world outside has succumbed to relentless apocalyptic snowfall. Society has collapsed, chaos reigns, and survivors are forced into ever more desperate situations just to survive. So all told, boring though his existence is, it could be worse.
His sedentary life is disturbed by the arrival of Alice; a young woman and supposed murderer who occupies the cell opposite. Although initially reluctant to share her story, Richard manages to coax her into telling him the sequence of events leading up to her imprisonment.
This story is the meat of Richard & Alice; a point and click adventure set in a snowy wasteland. Detailing the trials facing a young mother and her five and a half year old son Barney, the game explores the lengths that people would go to to survive and protect their loved ones.
While the puzzles are quite simple (there won't be any need to go looking for a walkthrough) they are not the focus of this game. The focus here is unapologetically the story. The narrative flicks back and forth between the prison, as the protagonists' relationship begins to flower, and the past where Alice reveals what happened to her and her son in a harsh uncaring environment.
The dialogue is handled very well. Alice is a snarky, slightly foul-mouthed young woman, while Barney is all sweetness, light and bad grammar, coping admirably with the new world he finds himself in. Richard is believable as a lonely prisoner with rusty social skills who misses his wife and daughter. These relatable characters, deftly brought to life by Ashton Raze (writer of Starbound amongst other things), mean that each twist and turn in the narrative really hits home. In no game I have played has opening a toybox in an abandoned house been so fraught, and you have to applaud dialogue such as "Barney, you're sweet, but no playing with animal corpses okay?"
My playthrough took 3 hours, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute. The tale is heartfelt, moving, and darkly humourous at the same time. I haven't felt so close to a videogame character in a long time, and I am sad to leave the game behind. There is scope for a couple of playthroughs at least, as there appear to be at least two different endings.
You can buy it on Steam for a measly 2.74€ for the first week, so there really is no excuse. If Steam isn't your bag, get it at Get Games Go for the same price! You can find more information about Owl Cave Games here.