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We all fell into Juno's abyss, like a black hole

Your adventure begins when you're secretly dropped off on the island of Alida. The story centers around four young men in the band Alida who attained phenomenal success with their first CD release. Loads of money coupled with wild imagination resulted in the band's construction of a guitar-shaped island theme park.

Alida was abandoned when money woes and paranoia set in and the band split up. Now, several years later, the band's manager suggests a reunion on the island. Soon thereafter band member Arin leaves for the island and is not heard from again. His wife Julia sends you to Alida to find Arin and bring him home.

Alida is an intricate first person 3D graphical adventure game. With its wondrous and ornate graphics, unique and bizarre locations, clever and thought-provoking puzzles, all backed by an entrancing original music score, as you search for Arin, you will soon find yourself lost in Alida.

We got too close and couldn't turn back
~ from the back of the box

Never has there been a Myst clone more Myst-like than Alida: The Enigmatic Giant. Released in May 2004 for MAC and a few months later on PC, this highly atmospheric adventure game was created by a single person over the course of five years. Citing Riven: The Sequel to Myst as a major influence, the ambitious Australian artist Cos Russo has somehow managed to fill a whopping 5 CDs with a game that comes very close to rivalling its own inspiration.

Like Cyan's influential series, Alida takes place on a lonely abandoned island filled with convoluted mechanical lock puzzles and hidden pages of a piecemeal story. Decades ago, a new rock band tapped into the current zeitgeist and created the world's best-selling album making each of the four members the richest people in the world. With their newfound wealth, they decide to buy an island, let loose their imagination and create a top-tier tourist attraction. This took up so much of their time and money that a second album never came and their standing on the world stage declined. The band member's relationship fracture and they split up, each taking a section of the island for themselves before abandoning it completely. On the promise of a comeback, one of the band members returns to the island and is never heard of again, prompting his wife to hire you - our silent and nameless protagonist - to go and find him.

The T-Flyer gets you around the island in an impressive, fully animated fashion.
You just have to find them first.

It's an out-there premise, even by the mystical world-creating standards of Myst, but the similar theme of man's hubris is still a compelling one. We begin on a balcony looking out to sea, the whole island ready and waiting for us to explore. It's quite daunting at first, with a good chunk of it available from the get go. We can access the ruined houses of the previous tenants, each musicians sea-side cabin in a nearby cove, underground bunkers and an impressive structure built in the shape of a massive guitar.

I found myself lost with how to progress. So much information was thrown at me with little context that took a while to congeal into a specific direction. Clues found on one side of the island won't have any use until much later where it provides the answer all the way on the other side. Take the turret puzzle which gives us access to the guitar's peghead structure. We are presented with three blank spheres that can be turned in four directions. Manipulate them correctly and a ladder will open up. The movements are such that mere trial and error will make it a chore, so we'll have to hunt down the answer. Said answer is found in one of the seaside cabins that is a quick ride on a train-like T-Flyer away, past the ruined houses and through a linear cave system. I lost count of the clicks.

There are a lot of long tunnels to click through, and each have way more stops than you might expect. Most are unnecessary, but once you've travelled through once, you can "rocket" to the end if you have the feature turned on. This saves a lot of time but don't be fooled, Alida has a slow and contemplative pace that is not for the impatient. For those that are, the trip becomes a tangible exploration of a fantastical place.

Hints about the game's overall backstory are found in diary pages, newspaper clippings and other texts (left).
Cyphers and clues are dotted around, though the only human you'll see is the trapped Australian band member (right).

For a game made by one person, there is an awful lot of detail lovingly put together here. The static screens are mostly motionless with only the ripples of a calm sea to add detail to the backgrounds. Regardless, the place feels alive. This is mostly down to the exceptional sound design and score, which was again mostly done by Russo himself with the odd help in sound mixing here and there. Musical cues add the awe, while the background noise of local wildlife, lapping waves or echoing wind provides a real sense of presence. It left me wanting to explore the whole island.

Much of the game is about this; exploration. But to get to blocked off areas requires solving puzzles that mostly fall into the obtuse side. None of them can be completed with trial and error (unless you're really luck or truly love drudgery) but it's good to know that specific clues will be found somewhere. It's not always clear what clues are. The worst one I came across was the animal sounds. Found near the four cabins, you will notice a contraption that details the sounds of birds and insects. You can supposedly hear them in the outside area nearby, but they're hidden amongst a cacophony of unrelated sounds. It was difficult to pinpoint even as someone with good hearing, let alone anyone who has auditory issues. Thankfully, this Special Edition that originally came on DVD has a complete walkthrough bundled in which was a godsend, even if it is formatted as an off-line webpage.

This Special Edition features a robust collection of special features (left).
Including a lengthy and insightful interview with the game's sole creator (right).

Beyond the walkthrough, Alida includes a lot of other special features. From the main menu, you can access a Making Of which provides preliminary designs and sketches, the soundtrack and an enlightening interview with Cos Russo himself among a wealth of other information. In fact, there's so much that it takes up a quarter of the Special Edition's overall sizer - 1.06 GB to be precise. It's not presented in the highest of resolutions, but I recommend combing through the images, audio and video files just the same.

Despite being a near rip-off of Myst right down to the picture of the pre-rendered island on the front cover, Alida: The Enigmatic Giant is one of the finer additions to this adventure game sub-genre. The sheer atmosphere and location design does enough to keep you invested even after the obtuse puzzles have kept you pondering for far too long. All the more impressive when you consider this is a one-man project. High marks.

To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber runs natively on Windows. Runs in 640x480 resolution only. QuickTime (included) required. Manual included. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 2.95 Gb.  Install Size: 4.33 Gb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ


Alida: The Enigmatic Giant is © Dejavu Worlds
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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  1. Ah, memories. I loved this atmospheric beauty back in the day, despite its being quite esoteric in places. Great review as well by the way. Looking forward to revisiting this captivating Myst-alike once again after all these years. Many thanks in getting this playable once again. People who haven't sampled its delights are in for a treat.

    1. They certainly are! I've had the game in my backlog for a while but only for this review did I spend the time to play it. A great game.

    2. My dude, I remember telling you about this one on facebook! So gladly to see it preserved in your awesome site.

  2. Looks like another great game dusted down and brought out of the archive. That striking artstyle is evocative of the era. Impressive that it's the work of mostly just one man. Sadly I'm rubbish at this kind of game, but I'll give it a go.

  3. Cool. Could not find this game when it came out. This was the days of big boxes in physical stores.
    I always wanted to try this game. It looked interesting.
    Thank you for adding it to the Collection Chamber.

  4. Great job, thank you! Horror adventure game Scratches is now abandonware. I would love to see it getting the collection chamber treatment. You can find it at myabandonware.

    1. I have the physical disc around somewhere. Definitely worth a revisit at some point.

  5. Hi. That looks like a game right up my alley. Thank you! Alas I have a problem: I'm unable to select a drive to install the game to during setup and get the error message "The drive or UNC share you selected does not exist or is not accessible. Please select another." Am I missing something?

    1. Hello. I've not come across this issue, but from what I gather after a Google search it could be due to a previous half-installation (the ones I've come across mention GOG Galaxy after replacing a drive). Without looking at your computer, I'm can't be sure it's the same cause or solution.


    2. Yeah, it's rather strange. And the strangest thing is: I previously installed the game on an external drive, then downloaded the installer again and tried to install it on my HD but now it doesn't work anymore. Anyway, I have a working installation so I'll simply copy that one over to the HD. Thank you for your help.