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I can't recall my first experience with a point and click adventure game, but I know for certain that it wasn't Déjà Vu. I hadn't come across it before in any capacity, despite it being the first game in the MacVenture series, kicking off all things point and click on the Macintosh and paving the way for point and click as a genre on any platform. Suffice it to say I hadn't got a clue what the MacVenture series is either...
All of this complete ignorance puts me in great stead for playing Déjà Vu, where I'll be taking control of an unknown protagonist with no idea who he is and how he got into the bathroom stall he wakes up in.
Let's dive right in.
To the story. Not the toilet bowl.
I played Déjà Vu via its port on the NES, offering pretty much everything you'd see on the original Mac release, but squished into a smaller space. The controls are dead simple, the clue being that you point at something and click something. On the Mac it was purely mouse driven, whereas on the NES its a little more of a case of your d-pad inputs snapping to selectable menu items and the like, but still essentially the same.
We do indeed start in a bathroom stall and we're left to explore our surroundings. If you think you can pick something up, try taking it. Try looking at it, try hitting it... it's the evolution of the text adventure, only without having to type anything at all.
Actions you can take are always visible in the menu, though which ones will work in any given situation is up to you to find out. There is a map/radar of sorts which allows you to see how many exists a room has as well as where they are, giving you another method of navigating the world beyond clicking on the images (which is the point, so get used to doing it).
A typewriter gives you some flavour text for whatever you see, and it provides you with feedback for which actions do and don't work with whatever you're clicking on. All in all, it seems like it's pretty good for getting around, so why the frustration?
I understand that I'm playing as a guy with memory loss, but could I at least have some pointers at the start of the game? Fumbling around and picking things up is fine, but having some hints would be a godsend in some situations. Perhaps it's just me whining, and I do get that a confused player nicely mimics a confused protagonist, but there has to be a line somewhere.
As the game goes on, you do learn more and more about who you are, and as a player you learn more and more about what works and what doesn't, but you can still be caught out by not taking the right item at the right time, and how you're meant to know that is beyond me - probably through failure and trying again.
You certainly have a lot of items to work with and find uses for through your story, but getting some of them can be a hassle. In real life, if you open a desk drawer you might find an envelope full of important documents. In a video game, you might open a desk drawer and see an envelope, but the very act of opening the drawer triggers the envelope to throw up the documents in front of your face to read at your own pace. It's one or two actions: open the drawer, take all.
Not so in Déjà Vu. If you find something in a box that could contain something else inside it - an envelope, a wallet, etc - there's a good chance you could (or even have to) open that as well, just to get the items inside, which may or may not be of use to you. Point, click, point, click, point, click, point, click... I hope you didn't select something else by accident. I hope you can think of a use for those items. I hope you're engrossed by the story enough to plough through.
It is quite the story, not that I understand all of it. I had to watch it in the end, having taken too long struggling with the game to get anywhere (you know, because I'm stupid), but it has its moments.
Without spoiling too much, you're a boxer turned private eye who has been set up for a crime, so not only do you have to find out who you are - and then cure yourself so you don't forget again - you also have to work out why you're being framed and figure out how to get out of it before it's too late.
It sounds like perfect material for a point and click, which is probably why it was made into a point and click. I would have preferred it to be a more accessible point and click, but that really is just me. It's perfectly playable, and it'll be up to the player to try and work out how to make any progress - though as I say, it can be an arse to do so sometimes.
Déjà Vu won't be for everyone, but I think it has its merits, even if it's tough to get into. It's not a long game if you know what you're doing, but seeing as so many of us don't have a clue it does feel like we're exploring our environment alongside our character. Until you start to wonder whether you're less capable at simple tasks than a man with memory loss at least.
I can easily recommend it, and given a different childhood I might have been all over games like these. As it stands, I'm just not in the right zone for them, but can't deny that what they offer - like text adventures - can be just as engrossing as a novel.
Have a look into Déjà Vu, and hope you never wake up in a bathroom stall yourself.
Developers ICOM Simulations would go on to make a number of Beavis and Butt-head point and click adventure games. In other news, there were Beavis and Butt-head point and click adventure games...
Déjà Vu, developed by ICOM Simulations, Inc., first released in 1985.
Version played: NES, 1990, via emulation.
Version watched: NES, 1990 (darkchiron)