RETRO REVIEW
Déjà Vu I and II – The Casebooks Of Ace Harding

By Chris Hatzopoulos - July 5th, 2009

deja vu

Step into a nightmare with the shoes of a man who is constantly threatened to die. These shoes are probably nicely-polished, slick dress shoes because this story takes place in 1941. Back in the ‘40s, Film Noir detective films were popular and this is what Déjà Vu is: a classic crime fiction where you play a hardboiled private eye trying to crack a case of MURDER and MONEY LAUNDERING.

Déjà Vu I and II for Game Boy Color is a point and click graphic adventure game ported from Mac/PC versions developed by Icom Simulations. Déjà Vu was originally released in 1985 as the first-ever graphic adventure game that won awards (at that time) while Déjà Vu II was released in 1988, continuing the nightmare.

The story begins in a bathroom stall with you having a nasty case of amnesia. A trench coat hangs on the door in front of you. After you take your coat and your GUN, you begin walking around and are presented with first-person views of static scenery. Every scene you walk through is nicely rendered and does a great job letting you know where you are and what the atmosphere feels like. Not only are the graphics well done, but the soundtrack is also appropriately eerie. Plus the colourful text perfectly describes people, places, and objects – which means there is a lot of reading to do. Reading and patience for solving puzzles are integral to get full enjoyment from this game.

Trying to figure out what to do next is what makes Déjà Vu fun. Problem solving through trial and error might have you seeing GAME OVER often, but that is part of its charm – dying! Progressing through the story and solving the puzzles, however, is very entertaining and rewarding. The interface, while seemingly dated or old-fashioned was actually ahead of its time 20 years ago and still functions well today. You control a pointer to “click” on scenery visuals, and there’s a menu system consisting of action commands and gathered inventory items.

As mentioned, this cartridge is split up into two adventures or Casebooks as the title suggests. Déjà Vu takes place in Chicago and Déjà Vu II continues in Las Vegas. Both parts are executed so well that it’s pretty much one big seamless game. With tonnes of weird places to visit, creeps to bump into and story to follow, it would really make an interesting PG-13 film noir flick.

Overall this cart is packed with value, and the two full games will take many hours to play through. Expect to pay only a few bucks for a used copy; it’s a steal even at $10. Fans of classic adventure titles may have already heard of Déjà Vu, but newcomers to the genre should also check it out, as the game works surprisingly well on the GBC. If you actually do play this game and really enjoy it, there are other games using this format, waiting to be discovered on your favorite retro gaming console!

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    4 responses so far:
  2. Posted on Jul 20, 2009

    Man, I used to -hate- this game as a kid. I always got stuck. I’d like to think I’d do better now, but I’m afraid to have to have that confirmed.

  3. By Tony
    Posted on Aug 7, 2009

    Apologies for my rush of comments on this site sometimes… You guys do an awesome job and there’s so many great articles here.

    Love that this game is getting attention. It’s a great deal and was when it was new. I had the NES variation… I don’t think II actually ever came out on the NES though?

    Interestingly, the GBC version adds some blood and stuff the NES one lacked.

    I’d love to see some of these games revamped for PC/Wiiware/XBLA/PSN. This, Shadowgate, The Uninvited, etc. They were fun.

  4. Posted on Aug 7, 2009

    Hey Tony – No worries on the rush of comments. I’m thrilled that you enjoy the site, and thanks for saying so!

  5. Hi Filipe – PC versions are waaaay harder than console versions which leaves hints. I actually had the cart for over a year before attempting it!

    Hello Tony – This version does indeed have improved graphics. Correct, Deja Vu II did not appear on the NES system.

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