Developer: Miwashiba (△○□×)
Publisher: AGM Playism
Alicemare is a brief little adventure game centered around a group of orphaned children who find themselves trapped in a nonsense dream world, where the main character, a shy young boy named Allen, must venture into the emotional closets of his fellow orphans in hopes of setting them free from this curse. It is a seemingly simple and direct premise, but one that is surprisingly heavy with the amount of material it tries to cover. From the characterization and background of the other children, to a greater overruling plotline that… honestly lost me very quickly.
Part of me wants to call Alicemare a dark reinterpretation of Alice in Wonderland, as the game is at the very least inspired by, if not partially named after, the famous Lewis Carroll novel, and even includes some reinterpretations of characters from the book. With dark in this context alluding more to Grimm’s fairy tales than, say, the edgy adventures that American Mcgee cooked up. Yet, I feel more confident in describing the game as a web of western folklore and fables bundled together with a few biblical references for good measure, filtered by a small Japanese team with the goals of… I have absolutely no idea.
While the intentions of many developers are rather candid and can be determined from a game rather quickly, that is not really the case for Alicemare, and I do not mean for that to be interpreted as a positive. The game has such a cluttered, messy, and vague surface layer when viewing its story, while also retaining this seemingly overly convoluted backstory and greater lore that I honestly could not force myself to onder or look into after all was said and done.
Part of the reason for this is the game’s overall presentation, which still retain hints of the personality featured in the developer’s previous efforts with LiEat, but underplayed and given a more subdued darker tone, without being especially interesting at the same time. It is a story with much tragedy, and a sense of childlike sweetness to compliment it, but its small cast of characters, greater mythos, and general approach taken to constructing its world all fell flat to me, and caused me to grow disinterested rather quickly considering how this game is barely 3 hours long.
Throughout that time, the main form of gameplay is that or traversal and puzzles that fall into two very distinct camps. Simple easy to solve puzzles that just require some logical thinking. Along with more complicated ones that would have easily doubled the length of the game, or just stopped me from progressing, if I did not have a guide by my side to provide me with answers that, most often than not, I still did not understand in relation to the puzzle. Speaking of guides, this is one of those games that require the player to go down very specific paths if they want to uncover the true ending, and get the other ones while they are at it. Otherwise, a second playthrough would be required, but thankfully it does not take very long.
As for the presentation, this is very much an extension of the presentation seen in LiEat, with detailed sprite art that is very deliberate in its moody color pallette, and manages to stand out thanks to it. Yet the internal resolution of the the game, and desire to keep maps a certain size, the sprite art feels as if it is working with an uncomfortably low amount of pixels, resulting in a lot of details being omitted from the characters and environment, and causing the game to look a bit basic. Furthermore, this decision even negatively affects the text, which can on occasion be so small that it is near illegible. Also, the amount of dark purple featured in the game can border on garish at some points.
Normally when a developer makes a successor such as this, I tend to have a series of expectations in mind when approaching this title, and unconsciously compare its quality to what came before it. Though, even if I was not to compare it to LiEat at all, I would still not really recommend Alicemare, as I simply cannot find much positive to say about it. It has potential for a greater narrative that might exist if one does sufficient digging, but I found it as a rather bland escapade devoid of much in the way of memorable qualities, which is kind of a shame considering the potential I can see in the developer’s work. I mean, anybody who made the Danganronpa Re:Birth April Fools gag has to have at least some kind of talent.