A good point and click adventure game is a hard thing to get right. Too easy and it's not going to keep the audience's attention without some other selling point. Too hard and most people will simply walk away (or use a walkthrough, which kind of defeats the point). While Rivers of Alice has a few things going for it, the game definitely falls into the latter category.
The best thing about The Rivers of Alice is it's aesthetic. The visuals are surreally beautiful. Everything looks like a it's been painted in watercolour and it's a real pleasure on the eye. The protagonist looks like a pale sketch moving around the environment and it only adds to the striking aesthetic. It's very minimalist but it works well.
The soundtrack and sound effects for the most part are done very well. Things start out with a feeling of unease, not unlike some of the ambient works of Aphex Twin. Things then pick up and get funky. There's a few other styles on show but suffice to say it's a highlight of the product. There is a slight smear on this however: I suffered some glitches and the audio occasionally cutting off.
Onto the meat of what this game is about, the puzzles. Or more importantly, their quality. While there is some well pitched head scratchers on show, the highlights being musical flowers and musical monkeys, I found myself getting stuck quite a lot. For context I've finished Broken Sword and the Monkey Island series (including the episodes) so I'm not exactly a newbie to the genre. Some of the puzzles feel just plain unfair and commit the cardinal sin of adventures games: instant death on failure. This is further exacerbated by being against the clock in one instance. Others are not necessarily hard but boring. The worst of these is a sliding block puzzle involving birds. While not super difficult, the whole affair was just tedious. Suffice to say i used a guide for a fair few of them.
Things are not helped by the system used to show what objects can be interacted with. A blue echo like animation is triggered when something is moused over and it's quite hard to see at times despite working very well on an artist level. What makes this worse is that objects need to to have the mouse held over them for half a second to show up, which makes things way too easy to miss. It's a shame as I think a better highlighting system would go a way to making the difficulty less pronounced.
Thankfully, the game does not outstay it's welcome. I managed to finish it in about 3 hours which felt right. You can add another few hours if you're dead set on not looking up solutions. I think this is about right for a game of this type and at its standard price point. I'd like to go into the story but I honestly have no idea what was going on. Nothing really seems to make sense. I have a feeling that's what the developers were going for though, as there's quite a few hints that the setting is supposed to be some kind of dreamscape.
Overall, I think The Rivers of Alice can be recommended to fans of the genre looking for a challenge or those looking for something with a unique feel. Outside of this audience however, I think the game is a bit of a hard sell and only really something that should be picked up cheaply by the curious.