#39: Déjà Vu (Game Boy Color)

I guess I’ve had a thing for point-and-click-type games of late.

The original version of Déjà Vu (Sometimes given the subtitle of “A Nightmare Comes True!”) was released in 1985. In contrast to early Sierra games or text adventures, which had what Homestar Runner referred to as the “You Can’t Get Ye Flask” problem (Or, more plainly, “Guess the Verb” Syndrome), Déjà Vu was noteworthy in that you pointed at everything, and I mean everything. Looking at stuff, taking it, opening things, etc. were all done by pointing at the relevant word, then at the object you wished to interact with. Later point-and-click games from other companies would refine this in various ways, but suffice to say that this was an important step forward.

Déjà Vu would be re-released numerous times; the NES version was the first one I beat, and the reason I’m not counting this as a new Game I Beat even though I’ve never played this version before now. The version I’m discussing today is part of a collection, Déjà Vu I & II: The Casebooks of Ace Harding, released in 2000 for the Game Boy Color.

At the core, the versions of the game are more-or-less the same. You play as the titular Ace Harding. In Déjà Vu, you wake up in a seedy men’s bathroom stall with no memory of who you are or how you got there. As you go from location to location, you’ll pick up items to try and piece together the puzzle of who you are, and why someone hates you so much to try and erase your memory. The basic sequence doesn’t change regardless of the version you play.

While the graphics have been upgraded from the NES release, this is still based primarily on that version. The computer versions of the game placed you under a time limit, where you had to recover your memory before you blacked out and died. The NES version, and this version, removes that limit, although you do die if you visit a specific location before getting your memory back. Another way you can tell this is based on the NES version is the censorship–early in the computer versions, you come across a syringe that you use to inject drugs. The NES version, as well as this release, turns the syringe into “Capsules”, which can lead to a small continuity error later on.

To accommodate the smaller screen of the Game Boy, Deja Vu separates its inventory screen from the rest of the action–you have to scroll down below the main action window to get to your items. One bit of convenience is that, if you don’t have an action selected, you’ll automatically take one of a couple default actions depending on what it is you’re looking at in the main action window.

Deja Vu’s music does a nice job of conveying the mood of 1940s Chicago (Specifically, December 8th, 1941). Given that the game is meant to evoke a film noir, the music aids in this as you go from place to place.

I’ll be honest here–I have no idea how hard this game actually is. I say that because I used a walkthrough from Nintendo Power back in the day to beat the NES version, and remembered enough of it that I didn’t have to truly think about what I was doing, why I was doing it, or how it all fit together logically. I just “did it”, for lack of a better phrase. Once you know the sequence, the game is beatable in well under a half hour, but for a first time playthrough, expect it to take several hours. Luckily, you can save your game at any time, and if you happen to mess up so badly that you die or get arrested (Which you probably will), the game will drop you off just before that point so that you can avoid making the same mistake twice.

In contrast to the other “MacVentures”, Shadowgate and Uninvited, Deja Vu takes place in a more realistic setting. This makes it one of my favorite games in its genre–being grounded in realism means you don’t have to make as many leaps of logic to figure out the game. While I remembered the sequence from days gone by, and didn’t have to think about how much sense the sequence made, in thinking about it now, there’s nothing that you can’t deduce on your own. I’m not sure I would recommend this version in particular, but you should find one of the versions and play it. It was released on multiple PC formats, and you can EBay for the NES or Game Boy Color versions.


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