Alter Ego (2010)

Alter Ego (2010), written by Josef Német, developed by Future Games, published by ND Games

I think it's just fair to give a warning beforehand, that if you are interested of playing Alter Ego you should be prepared for an unsatisfying ending, which feels like a cliffhanger for another game which will never be made. After a solid first half of adventuring as a stowaway Timothy Moore and a police detective Bristol, the story begins to skip and jump, giving up a feeling of the developers just didn't have enough money to do more gameplay and slapped in an ending, that is unsatisfying and leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

The game begins with Timothy getting caught in a ship he was a stowaway. On the harbour, a rough police officer is just about to arrest him when Timothe decides to escape by jumping in the sea and swimming through a sewer duct. Timothy is, in fact, a thief and is on his way to meet a buddy, with whom he plans to take a ship to America, the new promised land. But getting to America is not easy, as they need money, so not only does he need to find Brian, he needs to find a way to make a quick buck.

Detective Bristol, on the other hand, has just arrived at Plymouth to take over a new post as a new detective of the police force. His first job there turns out to be an investigation of the disappearance of a body of local nobility, Sir William, who has been suspected of being a serial killer. There's also the small matter of a couple of cadavers, whose death can be tied to the disappearance of the ill-famed nobility.

As you'd expect, the destinies of these two men entwine together and they end up finding out what really has been going on. And sadly enough, the way the game is structured with these two playable characters, the story that begins interesting enough suffers, as the further it goes, the less actual gameplay there is and more things omitting narrative there is. Then there's the ending, that is among the most unsatisfying ones I've seen in any medium.

As far as gameplay goes, Alter Ego is a point 'n' click game through and through, to an extent that despite it was a 2010 release, a lot of the puzzles are based on hotspot hunting. The puzzles themselves aren't difficult as such, as there's only a handful of things you can do any given time considering the linear structure of it, but at times the unintuitive way of controlling the game does turn some things a bit more laborsome than they'd really need to be. There's also a fair bit of ye olde style monologic applied on some of the puzzles.

Another crux of the design is the navigation. Some of the scenes are built such, that the actual exit point is almost obscured, so if you need to find an exit that is on the bottom of the screen, you might be forced to do some mouse acrobatics for not to trigger the inventory screen. In some locations, I had to manoeuvre the cursor a couple of time to the exit before I managed to avoid triggering the inventory.

Alter Ego is a game that could have been really good. At best it is a solid mystery game with great attention to atmosphere. In the end, though, it just starts to run out of steam and the finale is rushed and unfinished, leaving a bad aftertaste.

I can't really recommend Alter Ego unless you are a major adventure game buff, and even then it's with a reservation. If the last half of the game had been better, then I'd recommend wholeheartedly to adventure games, but not really for anyone else because of how a lot of the gameplay is constructed around some of the more annoying elements of the genre. Now though, it is a disappointing title, belonging to the long list of "could have been betters".