"Wine cellars, back room casinos and more serve to set the plot somewhere just after Prohibition ended. Throw in a few alleys that connect everythingóyou canít just walk boldly down the street when youíre wanted, after allóand you still donít have more than what amounts to perhaps a city street or two. Itís only the secret passages and such that make this quest feel any larger than it is."
Itís one thing to wake up in the morning with a pounding headache and wonder what you did last night. But what if your memory didnít recall attending that college party? What if your memory couldnít even account for your name? Ace Harding, the protagonist in Deja Vu, has precisely that problem. He wakes up in a bathroom stall with no more than a trench coat and a pistol for company. The minute he stumbles from the stall and looks into the dingy restroomís mirror, the nightmare begins.
As the player, youíre along for the ride. Thereís a deep mystery here, one that involves betrayal and murder. You lie at its center, and youíll have to travel through a series of locations to find just what happened that you canít remember. Who was killed? Why? How come so many people want you dead? Why didnít they just murder you? The world of Deja Vu is full of such questions, and the only way to answer them is to explore.
Doing so means navigating a menu-based system straight out of the old computer adventure titles (which is what this title began as). Youíll use the controller to select an action from the menu. Then you must move it across a picture to select a target, or across a small window with boxes that point out Ďclickablesí to the unperceptive. Either way, the experience rather quickly grows tedious.
It also grows fairly dangerous, at least for Ace Harding, which is the gameís saving grace. Between the vintage cars and seedy saloons, youíll find an assortment of dangerous mobsters, women on the take, alligators and other assorted dangers. And since you canít really go to the policeótheyíd arrest you in an instantóyou have to brave it all alone. Fortunately, you can save just about whenever you like, so you never have to backtrack far if you remember to do so.
Speaking of backtracking, the neighborhood youíll explore isnít particularly large. It mostly consists of a few buildings that look like they were pulled out of a James Cagney film. Wine cellars, back room casinos and more serve to set the plot somewhere just after Prohibition ended. Throw in a few alleys that connect everythingóyou canít just walk boldly down the street when youíre wanted, after allóand you still donít have more than what amounts to perhaps a city street or two. Itís only the secret passages and such that make this quest feel any larger than it is. If youíve ever played an Infocom game, you have an idea of Deja Vuís scope.
But games like this arenít just about size. Theyíre about experiencing something different, and itís in that manner that Deja Vu truly excels. Thereís not a moment where you really feel safe, even though you know things are menu-based. What if you go into the next screen and thereís a gator, for example? What if you respond poorly to the vixen in the red dress and she shoots you? Between worrying about those hazards that may cut your journey short, and wondering what will happen when youíve fully unraveled the mystery, youíll likely get quite a bit of enjoyment out of the game. You just have to remember to keep your cool. Ace Harding certainly wonít.
Staff review by Jason Venter (February 01, 2005)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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