Hey, dames and thugs, I got a tip for you. If you like your eggs hardboiled then you will love this game. This clever story makes movies like "The Maltese Falcon", "The Big Sleep" or the recent "Memento" look like "Sleepless in Seattle". It's got everything you could want in an adventure: mystery, hidden passages, dangerous characters, and lots of exploration. The plot is a little clichéd, even as detective stories go, but that makes it even better. You wake up in a bathroom stall with no memory of who you are. Could there be a better mystery? The plot gets even better, but I won't give that away here. Everything is very smartly done, including the sharp and often cynical writing. Grab your pencil and paper and start taking notes, because the designers have made sure the clues add up.
The scenes are presented with a mixture of graphics and words. This mixture is just right for a lower resolution system like the Commodore 64 because the graphics paint the picture with broad brush-strokes, and the dialogue fills in the important details. Almost every visible object can be examined, often revealing important clues to help solve the mystery. Point-and-click interactions are limited to 8 verbs much like Maniac Mansion. At the time, I think people were sceptical that a game could be broken down to such a simple means of input and still provide complex and challenging puzzles. Deja Vu silenced those doubts with style.
The game has a few flaws that hamper most older adventure games, but thankfully they are rather mild in comparison to some games of the day. There are a few times in the game where you can get killed without any real warning, making me wonder if programmers were slightly more sadistic than today's breed. For example, at the start of the game you can be killed just by walking into the street. How often does that happen in real life? (Don't answer that.) Because of this you need to figure out ways to get around the neighbourhood without being noticed, and that turns out to be a lot of fun.
Another boondoggle from adventures of the 80's era are dead ends. Sometimes it's possible to use up "one shot" objects or even lose them, and when that happens there is no hope of solving the game. Thankfully this is pretty rare.
At the start of the game there are a limited number of moves you can take to regain your memory, which is intended to increase the sense of urgency in finding a cure. Personally, I don't like this limitation, but at least the designers were fairly generous in the amount of moves they give you. Once a cure is found you can take as long as you like to finish the remainder of the game.
I have a dark secret I need to get out in the open. I have never much liked adventure games where you had to type in commands. Sure, I enjoyed playing partway through Zork and partway through Hitchhikers Guide, but try as I might, it was always hard to tell the computer to carry out your actions. Not only do you have to fight puzzles you aren't quite sure are being properly explained, you also have to guess the correct way to phrase it. And that leads to frustration, which leads to anger, which leads to hate, which of course leads to the dark side and you smashing your keyboard all over the room.
Deja Vu overcomes this problem spectacularly with a radical new design, for 1985 (the Commodore version was released in 1987). The user interface is superb. You can drag objects right from the scene into your inventory, or you can drag objects back into the scene. This is great, because if you are carrying too much you can drag a few objects out of your inventory and leave them in an area. Later, when you actually need the object, you can come back and pick them up again. Not too shabby, considering how much memory the old c64 has.
The "operate" verb functions much like "use" in Maniac Mansion, allowing you to use an object or even two objects together. Overall the GUI is a little more user friendly than Maniac Mansion, however. All objects can be double clicked, which will provide a default action on the object (usually examine). In the case of doors it will either open or cause you to go through if it is already open... very intuitive! The drag and drop concept is put to good use, allowing objects to be hidden behind other objects. This means you can sometimes drag an object from the scene to reveal more objects.
Some objects are containers, which can be opened using a brilliant windowing system developed before Windows was even a twinkle in Bill Gates eye. When you open an object a new mini-window appears showing the contents. You can do anything to the contents, including opening them to produce more windows with even more objects. You can even drag objects out of containers or put objects back in. This opens up the possibility of using some objects as containers to carry more objects than your inventory would otherwise allow. Then you can drag windows over objects and... what was I talking about?
Just to give an idea of what this can lead to, I opened a coat hanging on the hook in the bathroom stall, and inside were 7 quarters, a pair of shades, a lighter (with J.S. inscribed), a handkerchief (with J.S. monogram), and a wallet. I opened the wallet and it contained $20, a security card for a penthouse suite, and a key to an office. Right away I was intrigued, just by the selection of objects. Who is J.S.? Is this even my coat? I tried on the glasses but they didn't fit, so maybe not. Where is this office and penthouse, and what will I find there? I opened the gun, and inside were 3 unused bullets and 3 empty casings, telling me the gun had been fired three times. Intriguing... Touches like that really make you want to find out just what happened inside this seedy bar.
It would be hard to find a better detective game for the Commodore 64. There could be improvements to the graphics and sound, but you won't even notice once you get sucked into the world. No other game has made me want to explore a seedy neighbourhood more just to find out who you really are. Once you do find out, the game has a nice twist in which you have to set things right to win the game. This is easily one of the best adventure games ever for the Commodore 64.
|GRAPHICS - 7/10|
|The artwork is outstanding, but it could have been stronger in some aspects. It is quite obvious the port from the Apple Macintosh to the Commodore was done with little imagination, which is the fault of the programmers, not the game designers. It's like the programmers didn't realize the strengths of the Commodore 64: graphics and sound. For some reason all Icom games (including "Uninvited") only use a paltry 4 colours for all scenes (white, black, blue and brown), which barely takes advantage of the Commodores full 16-colour repertoire. This might be an attempt to save disk space, considering 4 colours only requires 2 bits to represent, whereas 16 colours requires 4 bits. Regardless, it's a pity because more colour would help. The graphics are still excellent, and it's easy to tell what the objects are in a room, but they could have overachieved. If you want to get creative you can use this deficiency to your advantage by imagining you're playing a black and white movie.|
|SOUND - 2/10|
|Music and sound are DOA before the game gets going. There's the occasional sound such as a gun shot or a toilet flush, but overall this is one deathly quiet game. You will also be hard pressed to find any music. About the only thing I recall is an uninspired Death March tune that we've all heard a million times before. The game "Killed Until Dead" proves that occasional music in the detective genre can really help set the mood. It's a shame they didn't inject tunes at milestones. However, this is not unusual for adventure games of the day so maybe I'm being a little too harsh. I guess this can be looked on as a good thing since you can pop in a CD with some moody jazz music that would go well with the genre.|
|PLAYABILITY - 10/10|
|As adventure games go, this one is tops. It has excellent puzzles, an excellent interface, and a great story. What more could you want in an adventure game?|
|OVERALL - 9/10|
|It's easy to become immersed in this shady world. It's lots of fun to explore offices, dig through drawers and find out who you are. One of the best adventures for the Commodore 64!|