One of my favorite games of last year was the adventure title Shadowgate. Its horror theme, clever writing, and outstanding music brought a style of gaming, typically found only on computers, to the Nintendo. Déjà Vu is made from same team and although its interface is nearly identical, the theme and setting are very different. This game was first released on the Mac five years ago, but has been polished for the Nintendo, adding background music and full color visuals.
Déjà Vu is a murder/mystery set in 1940s Chicago. Your character awakes in a bar bathroom, with no recollection of who he is or what’s going on. You find a dead body in the bar and quickly realize you’ve been drugged and setup for murder. You spend the game trying to discover who you are, what has happened to you, and uncover who is responsible.
This game plays identical to Shadowgate, as it is a point and click adventure. There is no real-time action in the game. All the skill you need here is some critical thinking. You’ll need to explore each room or space you enter and use commands like Take, Use, Speak, Hit, and Exam. You’ll acquire a large inventory of items, much of it ending up to be useless, but things like keys, money, medication, weapons, and notes are essential.
Much of the game takes place at Joe’s Bar (which includes the offices on above floors and the basement casino), but you’ll eventually make your way outside and explore various parts of the city. By reading notes and journal entries you’ll obtain addresses, and you can pay taxis to bring you to these new locations. Once at these places, you’ll unravel the clues to your identity and who is trying to frame you.
You won’t encounter any monsters or supernatural entities, but you’ll run into a handful of people. Some are helpful, but most are trouble that you’ll have to deal with, usually with violence. There are several ways in which you can die, but more often the incorrect action will result in you being arrested. Although this game has plenty of adult themes, it is not nearly as grisly as Shadowgate.
This game runs into some of the same issues as Maniac Mansion, in that the point & click style can get very tedious and certain tasks can become redundant. For instance, traveling by taxi you’ll have to get in the car, speak to the driver, select the address, wait for arrival, and then remember to pay with your coins. You travel back and forth between places a lot, and this entire process should have been streamlined.
Another grievance is when you open a drawer, exam and read a letter or diary, and then later on realize you forgot to take it as well, as its required to be in your inventory. There are just too many steps required to accomplish a simple task and this can really slow down the game.
The colorization and music are major improvements over the outdated black and white computer version. The graphics as a whole though are not very impressive in comparison to the many beautiful games we’ve seen on the Nintendo this year. There are no moving characters or settings, as each area is a still frame. Castle Shadowgate certainly had a lot more excitement and originality than the nearly deserted 1940s Chicago that Déjà Vu offers us. The music is very good and is composed by the same team in charge of Shadowgate, but doesn’t offer as many songs, and is not nearly as impactful as that marvelous soundtrack.
Although I far prefer the horror style of Shadowgate, or the comedy offered in Maniac Mansion, Déjà Vu still does a pretty good job of storytelling, and there is some interesting writing and a few jaw-droppers here and there. Murder, kidnapping, and drug use are subjects not usually found on the Nintendo system.
As someone who hasn’t played a whole lot of computer games, I’m loving that the Nintendo is getting exciting versions of these games. I enjoyed Déjà Vu quite a bit, but it never had the wow factor of the eerie Shadowgate or the zany Maniac Mansion. Although this game is well done, it certainly does not live up to the those terrific titles. This one is on the short side, and is not nearly as challenging or puzzling as the aforementioned games either. Still, if you’ve conquered the rest, then this one is definitely worth checking out.
Déjà Vu Review
- Graphics - 5/105/10
- Sound - 7/107/10
- Gameplay - 6/106/10
- Lasting Appeal - 4/104/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
I do recommend playing Déjà Vu to anyone who likes this genre and I promise you’ll enjoy the experience, but its short length and tedious moments hold it back from being a must-have. A rental might be a better option, as skilled players should likely breeze through this game in a few sittings. This game’s theme is geared toward adults and might be a perfect gift for your dad, who might not have as much gaming experience.