Author’s Note: this is the third letter in a series about the PC game, Richard and Alice. The first letter can be found here, the second — written by Dylan Holmes — can be found here.
Dylan’s response to the letter you are looking at right now can be found here. (Spoilers abound.)
Yes, I also think we’re short a bullet. After you shoot the lock off the door, you have no more bullets. If you get the one from the lake, then it gets used killing Barney, and when Alice kills herself, there shouldn’t be a bullet. If you don’t get the one from the lake, then there shouldn’t be a bullet to kill Barney (although Alice doesn’t kill herself in that version).
In fact, I didn’t realize there were 5 endings until after I finished the game, but I knew there were two because I played through them both to see if the bullet mystery was solved that way. I thought perhaps if I didn’t get the bullet from the lake, there would be some other thing which involved getting extra bullets (I didn’t realize yet that Alice wouldn’t kill herself without the bullet from the lake, so I was looking for two), and I also wanted to double check that she shot Barney as opposed to using some other weapon. When Alice didn’t kill herself the second time, then I Googled and discovered there are five endings. Interestingly, each ending correlates to how much of the optional stuff you did or did not do. Suffice it to say, there are various notes and papers that the player is neither told about nor required to find, but if they do, it changes the interaction between Alice and Richard at the end of the game (depending on how many they find, etc).
I used to think the ugliness of games mattered, but after the popularity of Undertale, I began to wonder whether this was simply not as much of a thing as I originally thought. Maybe it’s true that the people who wouldn’t play it because of its ugliness alone are people who were never going to play indie games anyhow. Also, I liked certain things about the graphics in this game, they’re still way better than RPG maker’s to my mind. (I know this is weird, but I liked the way characters’ legs looked) And the sound editing was great! Especially when characters were walking in the snow.
I’ve been thinking about what you said about linearity — and I realized I’ve played one other game that has no dialog trees and only one possible action to move the game forward at a time, Drakan: Order of the Flame. That game doesn’t give you any choice either, and at every moment, it’s either succeed at given task and get next assigned task, or die and lose. Like the bullet in the box in Richard & Alice, there’s a sword in a cave in Drakan, and it is the only optional side thing you can get. Also similarly, within a given area you can move backwards, but after you’ve left that area, you can’t go back. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Rynn (the protagonist character of Drakan) has some choice in, say, which weapon to use, to fight aerial vs. ground, etc. And some other games at the time were probably similar, action adventure games that predated the open world infatuation? You would know about that. But anyway, my point is, what makes Richard & Alice unique for me is that it seems to take what I’ve only experienced as an action adventure trope, and turn it into a graphic adventure trope in terms of narrative and structural limits.
Overall, I liked the game, too, but when I think about it, I realize what I mean when I say “I like the game” is “I like the wit and intelligence and aesthetic judgment of the game writers and developers,” I like it in a meta way. At the end of the day, the content was not itself enthralling because the premise was exhausted for me and the characters neither surprised nor interested me (although they were complex and developed). I want to play more games by Owl Cave, but not a sequel to Richard & Alice.