Before the influx of multi-media CDs flooded the market, even before Myst or The 7th Guest popularised it, a Japanese computer artist named Haruhiko Shono created a hallucinatory game loosely based on an equally hallucinatory children's book. Originally released in 1991 in Japan and 1994 elsewhere, Alice: An Interactive Museum stands as being one of the most trippy experiences ever put on CD.
Shono-san has garnered something of a reputation. His work of Gadget: Invention, Travel & Adventure (aka Gadget: Past & Future) has had far-reaching influence including movies such as The Matrix or Dark City - at least according to Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro. In fact, it was that game's original U.S. release in 1994 that spawned the impetus to release Shono's previous two games, of which Alice was the first.
You begin in a red hallway, a party going on in the room in front of you, the patron's shoes casting shadows through the cracks of the door. When you enter, though, it is empty save for a single window letting light in from the clear blue sky. Water drips into a small puddle on the floor and if you click on it a wardrobe will emerge. Sometimes this sturdy piece of furnature will contain nothing but moths. Most of the time it will store some books. Open one of them and you'll be transported into its pages and into a cluutered yet luxurious mansion. There are many things to click on, including several issues of Vogue and goldfish, but to get to the main part of the game you'll have to find a rabbit.
The rabbit will take you into Wonderland, or more specifically a museum in Wonderland. There are very few references to Lewis Caroll's tale with only this cottontail and a few other references scattered around. The true subject of the game is in fact the work of famed Japanese artist Kuniyoshi Kaneko (with the odd recipe and fine wine info scattered about). His often not-safe-for-work paintings adorn almost every wall you come across. Most will even have ammusing animations if you click on them, though this can increase their sordid meanings to almost unbearable levels. You can take off the belt of a half-undressed man or search through a number of depictions of sordid parties using a spotlight. I can get a bit uncomfortable at times, and I suspect that's the point.
The reason for going so deep in the rabbithole is to find a full deck of playing cards - 53 in total with the Joker included. Each has a clue or riddle that serves as a hint for a different puzzle or room. Some are explicit, relating directly to a puzzle while others are more obtuse. The game doesn't have a save function nor does it heep track of what you've found. You can find each and every one in any order you please and most are stumbled across as you explore rooms and paintings. In actuality, there's only one card you need to complete the game - the Joker. It gives you the code to a safe that lets you escape this museum of Wonderland. It's also one of the more hidden cards to find.
In the years since its release, Alice's reputation has grown significantly and now commands high prices on eBay, selling for anywhere between $500-$2,000 ($2,034 to be exact). As a rare piece of art, I'm inclined to agree it deserves that price. As an experience, no so much. As a game, not in the least. That being said, if you take away that price barrier to one of gaming history's most interesting exhibits, Alice: An Interactive Museum should be played by everyone. At least those old enough to handle artistic nudity.
Alice: An Interactive Museum is © Synergy Interactive Corp
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me