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Déjà Vu I & II, by Infinite Ventures, $29.99
Reviewed November 2002

By the time Sue Grafton started her alphabet murder mysteries, the so-called “hard boiled” detective stories had already moved away from center stage and gone underground to some place closer to the sewer than the surface. Only the hardcore fans know how to find them. Déjà Vu is one of the few games that is based on the lives of private investigators. From the Shadowgate game engine, the Déjà Vu series is another installment of the graphic adventure games. Instead of putting your game hero in a haunted castle or a ghostly mansion, Ace Harding, the private eye will conduct his business in a city full of mobs: Chicago.

With its more modern setting, Déjà Vu series changed gears from fighting the undead to fighting real life villains and authorities. In the world of once popular hard-boiled private eye detectives, loyalty did not lie with either the police or the villain. They made their own rules and kept their own justice. The Déjà Vu games did a great job of creating Ace Harding, whose consistent struggle to keep his head above the water only got him deeper into the dark world of underground crime scene. You will see street robbers and underground mobs harassing Ace, sometimes even the police chasing your hero while he is racing time to figure out the puzzles. Solving puzzles in the Déjà Vu series involves traveling around town or even take trains, which is very different from the room searches in Shadowgate and Uninvited.

From his dimly lit apartment with the aroma of stale beer and popcorn, to the bathroom that seems to have not been cleaned in weeks, or in a dive bar he haunts, the games provide our hero an environment that’s both real and unbelievable. The environment is shared by both Déjà Vu games, which make it more interesting.
The two Déjà Vu games work like two chapters of a book. You will see some clues that are useless in one game but essential to solving puzzles in the other. The developers also did a good job at differentiating the two games by having you do the same things different ways. They both have gambling scenes, taxi rides and getting into locked areas, but you will not repeat how you did it the last time. Another departure in the Déjà Vu games from the Shadowgate and Uninvited is that you can take an unlimited number of items into your inventory. In fact, you must take almost everything in some cases because they are either the evidence you have to turn in to the police or incriminating items you have to destroy.

The graphics are sharp and stylish in these games. The design of having two games share locations is an intriguing aspect of the game. The game window looks very similar to Shadowgate and Uninvited where the menu buttons are on the bottom with the inventory window floating for quick access. There are a number of sound effects, helping to make the graphics feel more real. It takes about 7MB if you install both games. They support ARM, Xscale, MIPS and SH3.

The surprising new settings of Déjà Vu series broke the mold of other games from the same engine. The chapter-like series bring a refreshing aspect to the game. If you were ever a fan of those tough private eye detectives with their fast thinking and bad luck, you are in for a treat. You will get a chance to help your hero get out of jam and bring the criminals to justice. Just remember one thing, trust no one!

Playing Hints and Tips

You will need either money or an old friend to help you riding the taxi. Time is limited in both games. You must hurry! (For more hints, check out our game walkthrough message board.)

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ARM / XScale

 

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics Very interesting environment design ties the two games together. Graphics are sharp.
Sound Good collection of sound effects that fit the game well. Nothing too extraordinary though.
Fun Meter If you want to indulge your sense of nostalgia, this game will bring back the memory of Humphrey Bogart and Sam Spade. The fact that the two games work like a sequel is also refreshing.
Addictivity The puzzles and environment grab your attention very quickly and keep it tight. You won’t be able to put it down once you start it.


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