Monday, 7 October 2013

Game 35: Deja Vu II - Final Rating

I was feeling very disgruntled when I completed Deja Vu II. So much so that I thought it best to take a couple of days off before writing up the Final Rating post in case the last few unhappy hours discoloured the entire gaming experience. Now that the crankiness has subsided (a bit), I still don’t think it’s going to rate very highly, but I’m interested to know where it rates in comparison to the other MacVenture games. Let’s find out!

Puzzles and Solvability
I really was enjoying the puzzle aspect of Deja Vu II until about three quarters through. Prior to that I’d had to work hard to make progress, but the solutions were found through logic and thoroughness, rather than any sort of blind luck (or assistance). I did miss the envelope hidden within the vacuum cleaner bag due to what I consider to be unfair misdirection, and applying the magnet as a fifth floor elevator button is certainly difficult, but neither of these puzzles was unsolvable. Unfortunately, things went pear shaped towards the end, with absolutely no guidance as to what’s required of the player. Even though I was on the right track myself, I was continually put off the scent after receiving no responses to my attempts at getting the mob bosses to take each other out. Even when I’d read all of Zenic’s hints and spoilers, I still found it extremely difficult to finish the game, to the point where I could almost call it unsolvable. I say almost, because I imagine someone with a lot of time on their hands and a penchant for self-harm might find success eventually unassisted. It wouldn’t be much fun though! I would have given the game at least 4 (probably 5) for the first three quarters, but the horrible conclusion means I can’t go higher than 3.
Rating: 3

I don't mind puzzles that are challenging (like this one), but not giving the player any sort of motivation for what to do next is inexcusable.

Interface and Inventory
I’ve never liked the interface used in the MacVenture titles. If I didn’t complain about it much while playing, I guess that has more to do with me simply being used to it than any improvements. The small area at the bottom of the screen for dialogue means the player forever has to expand the window to read conversations in full. The exits system works well enough, but is only there due to the inadequacies of the graphical interface. The action interface is also clunky, particularly when every click counts (literally), making the player click multiple times to do simple tasks. Finally, there’s the inventory. Man, do I hate the inventory system in these games! The idea isn’t actually a bad one, allowing the player to drag items into the inventory and organise things as they see fit. Yet the small amount of space available (without overlaying the critical parts of the screen) and the necessity to keep items within other items makes for a really frustrating and at times game ending experience. It would all be more bearable if the player was given time to actually organise things, but taking time out to do that generally results in the time limit coming to get them. I gave the interface a 3 for the first game, but its five years later now, so it gets a 2.
Rating: 2

 It doesn't help that there are dozens of reasonable items found along the way that have no purpose (such as the Mercedes Benz keys, the perfume and the pencil).

Story and Setting
Any game that starts in exactly the same way as its predecessor better have some decent surprises up its sleeve! Deja Vu II feels like a rehash, with the player waking up after being knocked out, then catching a cab around Chicago collecting items for no apparent reason, before finally trying to put it all together towards the end. Sure, there’s Las Vegas to explore too, but that’s made up of only three locations. Letting the player gamble in the casino there was an obvious yet nice touch I guess. As for the story itself, maybe it’s my lack of crime story experience that made putting things together so difficult, but I still don’t understand how I was supposed to gain a clear idea of the correct path towards the game’s conclusion. I read all the ledgers and letters multiple times, but just couldn’t make much sense of it. As mentioned above, even if I had of figured out with any certainty what I was supposed to do, there was no indication while playing that the time had come to plant evidence rather than to look for more, nor was there any indication of where stuff should be planted. I’ve already punished the puzzles category for this, but the story category also has to be held accountable. As a final note, I think the first game benefited from the main character gradually regaining their memory. The sequel has no such device to forgive the confusion generated throughout.
Rating: 3

 Can someone actually explain to me exactly what I was supposed to make from all the ledgers?

Sound and Graphics
There is very little sound to speak of in Deja Vu II, which is really disappointing. Sure, the small amount of effects there are have of a much higher quality than they had in the original, but given everything previously sounded like a dying animal behind a wall of white noise, that’s not saying much. We’re in 1990 now, so I’ll have to punish games that make no effort when it comes to music and sound effects. The graphics however are ok. One of the things that made all the other MacVenture games so daunting was the low quality CGA graphics, which made the required pixel hunting all but impossible at times. I never had that problem this time due to the superior VGA graphics, and while I always wished that the main window would have filled more of the interface, each item is attractive and detailed enough not to draw much criticism. There’s next to no animation though, so Deja Vu II didn’t really push the envelope on the technology front. I gave the first game a 2, but pixel hunting through entirely blue and pink screens was like scratching my own eyes out. I’ll say 4 for this one, but that’s very generous.
Rating: 4

 Sure, it's a big step up in quality...

 ...but it's really just more of the same.

Environment and Atmosphere
The environment in Deja Vu II is so similar to the one found in the first game, that it often just feels like a graphical upgrade. It doesn’t help that the game starts in exactly the same way as the first one, and that a fair portion of it occurs in and around Joe’s Bar, with exactly the same locations and angles. I’d been looking forward to seeing St. Louis, New York and Los Angeles, but as the game went on, I realised I was going to be limited to very few locations across only Chicago and Las Vegas. Given the game involves trying to get out of a very sticky situation within a harsh time limit, with goons constantly on the watch, there should be heaps of atmosphere. I felt very little, which I can only put down to the constant restores, the sound deficiencies, and the lack of clarity around what I was supposed to be doing at any particular point. The laundry is a good example of a scene that should have been exciting, with the player having to escape from captivity and then probe the area without being recaptured, but the huge amount of trial and error involved just made it a chore to get through, with no easily-discernible payoff.
Rating: 4

The one really mysterious character in the game disappeared with no answers

Dialogue and Acting
One positive thing I can say about Deja Vu II is that the language used is fitting for the time and genre. There’s plenty of gangster talk, with threats and slang all over the place. This use of slang at times made it hard for me to figure out exactly what authors of certain documents were getting at, but a quick search on Google confirmed my opinion on each occasion. The downside to all this is that pretty much every character comes across as thicker than Glottis. “Wow, lookit that, Moose. A letter to the Big Boss, and a pitchuh of him too!” Oh well, who wants smart goons anyway! The room and item descriptions are fairly well done, with a nice mix of relevant info and humour, although nothing stood out as particularly funny throughout. I gave the first game a 6, but there’s no doubt it was a step up from the likes of King’s Quest at the time. In 1990, it’s not so impressive, and is treading the same ground the first game did five years earlier.
Rating: 4

 The designers tried to inject humour into proceedings, but it was generally too obvious to be really funny

3 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 20, divided by 60 equals 33.33, which is 33 when rounded down. That's the same score I gave Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess. More importantly, it leaves the game above Uninvited yet below both Shadowgate and the first Deja Vu game. I feel OK about that. All of those earlier games were more representative of their time, and even quite groundbreaking in the first one's case. Uninvited had very little to enjoy throughout, whereas Deja Vu II certainly had its moments. There's no easy comparison between this game and Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess, so I think I'll leave it at 33.

Did anyone pick that? Wow! Everyone, apart from Dave_the_Turnip with 32, predicted much higher ratings! I don't believe anyone had actually played the game previously, so perhaps no-one knew about all the flaws or how similar it really was to the first game. Or maybe I've been harsh! Either way, congratulations Dave_the Turnip. You win a copy of Loom, or the Hugo trilogy if you'd prefer. Let me know which you'd like and I'll send you the code.

50 CAPs for Zenic Reverie
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game release on GOG
• True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – For playing along and finishing
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on GOG
• Request for Assistance Award – 20 CAPs – For giving me no less than nine hints that I needed!

40 CAPs for Charles
• Technical Assistance Award – 10 CAPs – For informing me of the patch for Deja Vu II
• Shining Award – 10 CAPs – For finding my Shining reference
• True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – For playing along and finishing (or near enough)

35 CAPs for Laukku
• Kickstarter Award – 10 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure Kickstarter campaign
• Play List Correction Award – 5 CAPs – For informing me that the game order was incorrect
• Future Prediction Award – 5 CAPs – For telling it how it will be in the year 3245 AD
• Iron Maiden Award – 5 CAPs – For figuring out the band that played Deja Vu
• SCUMMVM Version Award – 10 CAPs – For telling me again (and being right) that I have an old version

35 CAPs for Ilmari
• Reader’s Choice – 10 CAPs – For coming up with a great new category
• Atlantis Award – 20 CAPs – For solving my Atlantis riddle
• Chambermaid of Sci-Mutant Dada Award – 5 CAPs – For drinking while surfing

25 CAPs for Lars-Erik
• Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game release on Steam

25 CAPs for Canageek
• Game Giveaway Award – 10 CAPs – For giving a game away, even if no-one wanted it
• Kickstarter Award – 10 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure Kickstarter campaign
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on GOG

25 CAPs for Kenny McCormick
• Thieves Guild Membership Award – 5 CAPs – He knows why
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game release on Steam
• President of the Theodore Defence Club – 5 CAPs – For sticking up for Theodore’s everywhere
• Fur Balls Unite Award – 5 CAPs – For taking on one of the greatest battle-cries known to man
• Myotonic Kitten Award – 5 CAPs – I shouldn’t laugh, but I did!

20 CAPs for Elanarae LP (1 CAP per dollar)
• Cash Collection Award – 20 CAPs – For explaining how I could pick up all the chips in the casino

15 CAPs for Schide
• TAG Trooper Award – 10 CAPs – For reading through all 250+ posts on the blog to get up to speed
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam

10 CAPs for Draconius
• The Golden Question Award – 10 CAPs – Finally someone asked me!

10 CAPs for Andy_Panthro
• The Longest Journey – 10 CAPs – For coming up with a great new category name

10 CAPs for Dave_the_Turnip
• Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs – For predicting the score I would give Deja Vu II (closest)

10 CAPs for Jarikith
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game release on Steam
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game release on Steam

5 CAPs for Aperama
• Feels Like I’ve Been Here Before Award – 5 CAPs - For figuring out which Iron Maiden song I referenced

5 CAPs for Corey Cole
• Typo Pickup Award – 5 CAPs – For picking up an important typo in my Year That Was post


  1. Looking at the screenshots, has anyone figured out what the code directly above the text window is related to? First I thought it was the internal game code for the specific rooms, but then I see the same code across what looks like different rooms as well, or am I imagining things? Also there's the "Untitled" string used in the second screenshot above.

    1. They're the names of my save games. :)

      I started off giving them actual names, but the amount of restarting made it impossible to keep track of where I was. I started using 000001, 000002 etc. instead and that worked better.

    2. Hah, at least I confirmed that I haven't played it. :p
      Interesting that they show the name of the current save in the GUI at all times.

    3. I would also like to confirm that I haven't played this game either. Mainly because it appears to be bloody awful. I would have chucked it in after the six hour limit. Guess that's why I'm not doing a blog like this.

    4. I miss the days you could give names to your save games... nowadays all you get is a timestamp+location. Probably due to console ports. I love giving my saves creative and funny names.

    5. As a save fanatic I often have a three digit number of saves on certain games, and so I can't be bothered to name each and every one. Because of that I always end up just naming them with consecutive numbers anyway, so for me it's not a huge loss.

    6. I usually use a single save. I've been burned by that more than a few times, but haven't really changed that practice.

    7. Zenic: Play The Witcher, Fallout 3 or Baldur's Gate. You'll stop doing that, though for very different reasons.

    8. Laukku: I used to do that, but now I just make a new one each time, and a picture, location and level is more useful then 'Another one in the woods near Baldur's Gate', and faster

    9. Of those I've only played Baldur's Gate. Luckily it had auto-saves to assist me.

  2. I must say, it is a pretty game, and I love the setting and the fact it doesn't feel like a bad joke trying to make itself funny by pointing out how bad it is (Space Quest, I'm looking at you), so it gets my upvote.

    1. I mean, I know it is terrible and all, but it has some really good stuff in it, that I'd like to see other, better, games copy.

  3. A good indication for me of the wretchedness of the game's third act is that by then I was longing for a good old maze. I was convinced throughout that the endless desert would play a crucial part in the story, and that we'd be required to map it out a lá maze in Uninvited. Las Vegas, a desert, the 50's; that has to have some potential huh? Maybe it'd be the scenario of an exciting madcap run from the goons, ending in the discovery of an abandoned yet still functional Mercedes and the main character gloriously riding out in the sunset, leaving the bad guys to the buzzards!

    If only it'd been that exciting. I'd rather waste time mapping a maze than figuring out this confusing yawner about ledgers, pictures and letters.

    Some fun facts:
    - yes I carried around that slice of cold pizza for the whole game. Also a towel from the hotel room.
    - I also carried an assortment of bottles/glasses in case I could find a way to fill them with water (would be useful for the desert action sequence!)
    - Most infuriating red herring: the apartment door at Sugar's with the bum blocking the way. Second place: tie between the Mercedes keys and the safe deposit key. Third place: St Louis and Los Angeles. (As for the gun, at least I used it to blast a door open). Honorable mention: the door upstairs at Joe's.
    - Yes I did try mapping up the desert before realizing it was effectively endless.
    - Did you know... if you hang around in the desert long enough you are treated to a mirage of the Casino blonde-in-a-cage?
    - The verb "Consume" was completely useless (yes, I expected I would eventually use it to eat or drink water... in the desert sequence!!), whereas you could always find a workaround for "Hit". "Operate" and "Speak" worked every time for me.
    - Biggest facepalm: I kept trying to find a way to hide the pen knife in different containers, the dirty laundry, etc. so that I could use it on the ropes when tied up. The solution was far simpler.
    - Puzzle that finally crushed my spirits: the magnet/elevator button.
    - Biggest aural aggravation: the screeching sounds of trains arriving and departing at the station.

    Overall: the game was a chore to play. Every single little satisfaction derived from unlocking new areas was quickly followed by disorientation at the sheer amount of false leads and useless objects standing in for proper puzzle design. The result is a game that proceeds spasmodically, mired in trial and error, and with a ticking clock to boot. The low rating is well earned IMO.

    1. More fun facts:

      - You can feed all the food to the beggar.
      - You can give money to the beggar.
      - The door upstairs to Joe's leads to Joe's office, which you've already been to, so no need to get access.
      - The desert in the GBC version is just a big rectangle, easily mapped.

      Had I known there was a timer on the game, I would have guessed much lower. As it was, I guessed it'd get the same as the first Deja Vu.

      I hope Hugo is a better time. I'll come back and join in for Loom.

    2. Judging by the Adventure Gamers review, Hugo seems to be at least as bad if not even more so. At least it's apparently very short too, meaning that Loom will come sooner. I can't wait!

    3. Isn't this just a perfect start for 1990, two awesome games in a row? I skipped this one, but I'll join the game with Hugo so that Lars-Erik's gift won't go to waste.

    4. I don't recall the Hugo games being particularly bad and about the only shareware alternative for Sierra-ish adventure games. They are definitely extremely short though. If I remember correctly, even a brand new player could complete a Hugo adventure in an hour.

    5. There is also a Saturday Crapshoot on it. I played it back in the day, but my spelling wasn't good enough to get anywhere.

    6. No, really.. Hugo is actually rather terrible, guys. It's fun to try and say it isn't.. but it's not. I notice that there are two sub-ten minutes Youtube playthroughs.. it sounds about right. If you know everything, it's dead easy. (Trick, get ready. Feel ready to have every last cliche you can think of from random horror movies come to life. Think about what would happen in random horror movies.. and that's probably your answer.)

      I didn't get into Deja Vu 2 (due to a lack of time) but Hugo is kinda hard to want to get into. It kinda reminds me of a game I had in my primary school.. it was one of those pseudo-image filled IF games (kinda like the Legend games - Spellcasting 101 etc) where I managed to clock in about 15 seconds for one of the several successful endings (it was mostly directional motions, one 'dig' and voila. I can't remember... it had a submarine in it called 'Nautilus', but that's all that comes to mind somehow.) Still. I'd say that past Deja Vu, you've got an easier task ahead. I'm expecting this to be scored better just because it was after this.. well, this drivel! :)

    7. When I think of bad or terrible, I think of poor controls, unintuitive puzzles, and generally a poor experience. As short and easy as it is, Hugo is a playable game.

      When you're 13 years old downloading shareware games at 1200 baud (That's over 10 minutes per 100k under optimal conditions), you see a lot of truly horrid games. Hugo was a rare find, even if you were saying "That's it?" after half an hour or so.

  4. And there we have why I don't regret not having played this one :p

    Thank you Trickster for the sacrifice ;)

  5. New adventure game on GOG for pre-order

    Looks a little platformy, but certainly pretty. I can't believe how many adventure games are being made lately! Who said the genre was dead!!!???

    1. Yeah, really looking forward to this one. I've been following it through the Kickstarter, and it seems to be shaping up nicely.


    1. Oh, so that's what Mystery Game X was. For some reason I'm not that excited. Hopefully they'll surprise me.

    2. "I think there’s a strong chance that if we create a good game that does well with the critics and in sales, we can persuade Activision to allow us to do a new GK game."

      my favourite adventure game

      being remade

      with possible new sequel

      too exited for coherent sentences


    4. Okay, now that I've calmed down and looked at it a bit more, I'm somewhat less exited about it. They're replacing the original voice cast and the art direction is frankly pretty bad. Also, I "love" how they spoil everywhere the fact that Tnoevry orpbzrf n fpunggrawätre :-P (I guess that's because it's well-known in the sequels. Talk about late-arrival spoiler.)

  7. Yes! 20 Points! Huzzah! :D

    While I did enjoy the old Macventures way way way way way back on my uncles Amiga I never got in contact with Deja Vu 2 until I got my own PC and found it on some abandonware site, and yeah I wasn´t thrilled either.
    Beat it with a walkthrough at the end and I was like "What the heck did I just do and why?".

  8. Hmmmm...Moby Games has gone through a significant upgrade. It's all aesthetic rather than functional change, but there's one very noticable difference. Every game has HEAPS more ratings now!!!

    For example, when I put my list together, I found the following (three games chosen at random and only DOS votes taken into account)

    Altered Destiny had 14 votes
    Hugo's House of Horrors had 26 votes
    Loom had 143 votes

    After the update, I find the following:
    Altered Destiny has 70 votes
    Hugo's House of Horrors has 133 votes
    Loom has 874 votes

    This change will obviously significantly effect the amount of games on the list, so I may need to adjust my criteria. I'd like to get onto the next game, so does anyone else want to see if they can figure out what has happened? I find it hard to believe that the amount of people voting has increased so dramatically in less than a year.

    1. At a guess I'd say they now count all the votes on all the categories separately.

      Altered Destiny has five categories it can be rated in (14*5=70)
      Hugo's House of Horrors has five (26*5=130)
      Loom has six categories (143*6=858).

      I think you'd be ok with dividing the number of votes with the number of categories each game can be rated in and just keeping the current limit.

    2. Lars-Erik sounds right.

      I'm not sure if it's just me being used to the previous version, but I don't like the new Mobygames.

      And it's not just the interface - I thought I'd try searching for a game I know well to see if I could get used to it and Ultima V doesn't seem to exist anymore. How can you delete one of my favourite games, Mobygames. Hooooowwwwwww :)

    3. Okay. I lied. It does exist, but not if you search for "Ultima V" or "Ultima 5" I think they've called it "Ultima: Warriors of Destiny" for the purposes of searching so there is no "V" or "5" in the title.

      Still not a fan of the new layout - I'm a big fan of the content on Mobygames though so I'll get used to it in time.

    4. I'm fine with you dividing by the number of categories, as long as you round up.

      However, I still say you should count votes from ALL the platforms.

  9. New adventure games and sales:

    The Wolf Among Us: Comes out Oct 11th, on sale now for 10% off

    Goodbye Deponia: Unlocked on Oct 17th, on sale now for 10% off. (What is with all these presales on adventure games?)

    Ok, this one is just a sale, not a new game: Jack Orlando: Director's Cut: 50% off.

    Betrayer: Do Early Access (Aka beta/alpha/we want to be minecraft) games count? Either way, it is 33% off and looks like something you shouldn't play near bed. Or alone.

    Knock-knock: For some reason not even listed as an adventure game, but man, it sure looks like one.

  10. You didn’t explain why you deducted half of the points for the first three quarters of the game. Too hard for the casual adventure gamer? Reading your posts I thought that this part was painless and logical. I agree though that the Puzzles and Solvability category should be punished for the hint-less ending. But deduction should be made from higher value.

    Regarding interface the Mac remake is played in higher resolution and there is much more space for windows and items. Managing stuff within containers is done much better. However, giving the 1st part of the series only 3 points for innovative, prospective interface is very harsh. At the time other titles struggle with parser and “guess-the-verb” mechanics.

    I like revisiting places which appeared in previous titles but only when graphic artists creatively changes them. It is nice to see how the location changed over the weeks/months/years.

    And last but not least rating Dialogue category so low because it did not change at all from the 1st game is… weird. I wonder how modern games would be rated as dialogue system does not change over the years.

    You also start pointing out that this is the 1st game of the 1990. Yes, it is but it does not mean automatically that it should break boundaries. I think you are comparing the game to the non-existent ones (at the time) which is brutal.

    1. >rating Dialogue category so low because it did not change at all from the 1st game

      As I noted elsewhere, it seems to be a trend to punish games for not evolving. I guess that's the reviewers' way of avoiding ending up giving too many 10's later on as things improve - and it places more emphasis on groundbreaking and thus historically important games. Another thing is that games tend to get compared to not only similar ones from earlier years (or from the same series/company) but also the most recent competition. Overly harsh? Maybe.

  11. I believe this approach is an absolute dead end. As some aspects of the games stopped evolved many years ago and some of them (ekhm…Dialogue system… ekhm) reached its best in 90s we are going towards “1s” instead of “10s”.

    1. I think we reviewers have no consensus whether and how to take notice of the evolvement/originality element. Personally, I've mainly tried to use the bonus plus/minus points for it - plus points e.g. for games with something novel in them, minus points e.g. for sheer plagiarism.

      As for Dialogue category, that covers a lot more than just "the dialogue system" (which personally I would include more with the Interface category), namely, the quality of the dialogue itself and generally any text in the game - and the quality of acting, if there is such. These are rather more difficult to quantify than the dialogue system - it is easy to see, when dialogue is crude enough to deserve just 2, but the higher scores are much harder to differentiate.