DEJA VU / Kemco-Seika / NES

Deja Vu was originally released by Icom Software for the Macintosh in the mid-80s, as part of their "Macventure" series (which also included Shadowgate and Uninvited). Japanese publishing house Kemco decided it would be a good business move to get the rights to these, and then release them on a platform that people actually wanted to play games on. Deja Vu abandons the horror theme of the previous two games, instead placing you in a murder mystery in the 1940s as a private dick with a nasty case of amnesia.

The game is basically the same as the Mac version - of course there is color now, but the trade-off is much lower resolution and detail. Perhaps the biggest improvement is the new soundtrack, by a composer whose name I have yet to track down (but, it would appear, the same person responsible for the Shadowgate NES port soundtrack). I'd imagine using the mouse to control the Mac version is also a lot smoother - guiding the cursor around with the pad here is slightly slow and clunky, but tolerable.

So you play as Ace Harding, two-fisted whiskey-drinking etc. etc. who wakes up in a dirty men's room stall with very little memory. You soon find you are inside a locked and deserted bar, and a cursory search of the place turns up a dead body slumped over a desk in an upstairs office, and a chair with restraining straps and a number of odd drugs nearby. From here it's pretty safe to infer that you're being set up for the murder, and you've got to use whatever clues you can scrounge to get evidence to clear your name.

The game is fairly short and simple ... the Deja Vu world is pretty small, consisting only of the bar, the streets outside (comprising about six screens), and a few remote locations you go to by cab such as Ace's office. The puzzles are pretty straightforward and easy, so most of the difficulty comes from randomness, though random deaths here are not nearly as bad as they were in Shadowgate. There's a bunch of random encounters that can happen on the streets, most of which you simply punch your way out of. More annoying is money, which you need a decent supply of for cab rides and gun ammo, and can only be resupplied by winning at a slot machine hidden in the basement of the bar (which, of course, is random). You seem to hit much more often than the average slot machine, but it will still probably require a little of the ol' save-and-restore to get the fundage you need.

While the story is hardly a masterpiece, I felt it was passably engrossing, and the game has a bit darker material than what you usually see in an NES game - drugs, booze, hookers, and plenty of punching people in the face abruptly, including women. All-in-all, the level of frustration and tedium is low enough, and the good bits of the game (the mystery and the music) elevate it enough so that it overcomes those things by a bit. It's still not a great game, and I imagine a lot of people will get bored with it about halfway in, but adventure and NES fans will probably want to give it a spin.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video