Alida is an island off the coast which was going to be an amusement park with an enormous playable guitar built into it. The game begins with you learning that one of the band members responsible for the building the island recently returned and has not been heard from since. His wife has sent you to find him.
The island was built by a rock band (Alida) which had a hugely successful album and decided to create the island with some of their money. Each member of the band was responsible for a particular portion of the guitar, and they each had a vault associated with that section.
The game is a classic point and click in the Myst/Riven style. You must explore the island, find the clues left behind by the band members and find the ultimate settings for Alida. The graphics are lovely, the music is a pleasure to listen to and the puzzles will have you thinking for weeks.
Nothing is ever revealed about your character, no voice, hand or mirror image to give clues as to gender or age. There are a few FMVs which include people talking to you, but you never reply to their comments.
The first slightly tricky bit of Alida is the installation. This is because there isn't an automatic installation script, you need to drag a folder from a CD to your hard drive. It isn't difficult, but it certainly isn't usual. You have the option of installing all 4 CDs to your drive, which alleviates the problem of CD swapping entirely.
Once past the installation phase; this is a game of careful exploration, observation and detailed note taking. There are clues scattered around that help solve everything but some of the clues are not easy to find. Others may be hard to associate correctly with what you need to do. So be prepared to map the island carefully, and examine locations closely. It's easy to miss a button, or not observe the view when important to do so. Colour and sound play a part in some of the puzzles, as well as maps, drawings and notes left behind by the musicians.
Do remember to save the game using different names. There is at least one way, possibly more, in which you are trapped and unable to continue. Once you have that happen, you'll want to be able to load the game from a recent save.
It is a slow paced game, made much slower sometimes by repetitive background noises. There is a puzzle involving planets where clicking on the planet creates much background noise (presumably machinery moving) but you see nothing changing at all. It is good that the game employs a rocket mode to locations you have travelled to but not having to listen to all these sounds after the first few would be great as well.
It is a gorgeous game, but one of the more difficult that you'll run across. Not a game for the impatient or someone who needs instant gratification and thrills. I'd give it 4 stars for experienced adventure gamers or someone willing to use the hint site. I'd rate it at 3 stars for novices, the puzzles would probably prove to be too much.
At the time of this review, there was an official walkthrough of the game. At some stage, or maybe many, you'll find it handy to refer to this. There are also a set of diagrams that you can download to print. That's very nice for those of us who aren't graphic artists.
If you didn't know that this game was an independent product lovingly made by Cos Russo, you wouldn't guess it from the quality. The audio, the graphics and the puzzles add up to far more than many adventure games built by an entire team.
I was a bit disappointed that after all that effort and the guitar sounds exactly the same at the end of the game as it did at the start. Surely it should have changed just a bit.