1954: Alcatraz: Indie Dev, Daedalic Team on Period Adventure

“It’s set exactly in 1954. I tried to be as realistic as possible with Alcatraz and San Francisco,” Mocsy said. “I live in the area, so I did tons of research. I went to the island [Alcatraz] a bunch of times, I read everybody’s memoirs from the period. So that’s my angle — I’m trying to be as authentic as could be; like, how could you actually escape from Alcatraz? And then, the 1950s were a great time in San Francisco because it was the Beat era, with these crazy writers and poets and painters, so it’s a super-cool scene.”

The story of 1954: Alcatraz is one ensconced in its time, but it’s actually two parallel stories happening at once. the first concerns Joe, a man imprisoned in impregnable Alcatraz. The second follows Christine, Joe’s wife.

“Joe is in prison for robbing an armored car, and he hid the money somewhere in San Francisco,” Mocsy explained. “So he’s going to escape. But he also has to get his wife, Christine — she’s a beatnik girl, she’s a painter and a writer — she’s gotta find the money before escapes, and line it all up for the big night. They could escape, be rich, be free forever if it all works out, but it may not be that easy.”

Players will control both characters and can switch between them on the fly, Mocsy said, and both will have a tough time working through their portions of the story.

“(Chrstine’s) adventure will also have real physical danger — it’s not just Joe that has to be up on rooftops and risking his life, she has to risk her life, too, to get the money,” he said. “By the end, they’ve both have gone through hell. They’ve seen death and they’ve have changed as people. You don’t know at the end whether they’re going to be together or whether they’re going to kill each other. It all comes down to the big finish.”

From a gameplay standpoint, 1954: Alcatraz looks pretty Daedalic-standard, which is to say, sporting an easy interface and a fair share of puzzles. Mocsy walked us through a few different moments in the game. In the opening portion of the demo, Joe is having breakfast in the Alcatraz cafeteria with a number of other prisoners, including the gruff and dangerous “Gas Pipe.” It’s visiting day, and Joe is hoping to talk with Christine about his imminent escape.

Things aren’t that simple, though. Mocsy popped open Joe’s inventory (where he can store objects he comes across, like in other adventure titles) and highlighted a glass shiv. After taking an insult from one of the other prisoners, Mocsy told us we had a choice of how to deal with things: ignore it, or escalate the situation with the knife at the risk of missing out on visiting day. We opted to let the insult slide, especially because the shiv was good only for a single use.

A few seconds later, in the visiting room, Joe finds Christine at the glass wall, a phone between them. With a guard just feet away, Joe is unable to really talk about his escape plans; to solve the puzzle, we used the shiv to cut the line between Gas Pipe and his wife beside Joe, which resulted in Gas Pipe screaming at his wife as she ignored him, oblivious. The guards hurried Gas Pipe out, and there were a few precious seconds to discuss the situation.

But Christine has problems of her own: namely, Mickey, a gangster aware of the loot Joe stole and looking to take it for himself. Joe opted not to tell Christine the whole truth about the money, and she found herself confronted by Mickey and his goons outside the prison. We chose to lie to Mickey, acting as if Joe had refused to tell Christine about the money, but that she believed he was holding out. It was a good enough story to get Mickey off her back, if only briefly.

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