Across the Grooves is an interactive graphic novel that puts you in the shoes of Alice. Having lived a relatively normal existence thus far, Alice’s life is turned upside down when she receives an odd package from her ex, Ulysse. A vinyl record is contained within, and when Alice plays it, she’s launched back into the past to relive old memories. Upon returning to the present, she finds that certain aspects of her life have been drastically altered.
From this point on, the game effectively plays out like a mystery story, with bits of romance thrown in here and there. You’ll visit numerous locations, from the starting point in Bordeaux to the centre of London and up to Glasgow, and you’ll meet many different characters as you search for answers. There’s a real sense of magical-realism within the game, as it deals with aspects like time-travel and alternate realities, but it’s very much a grounded experience and focuses more so on the relationships that centre around Alice’s life.
Across the game’s six chapters, you’ll find yourself making all sorts of decisions that may affect Alice further down the line. Many of these decisions can also have a direct impact on Alice’s personality, and these are communicated via four symbols at the top of the screen: a spiral, a lightning bolt, a flower, and a skull. It’s never really clear what each of these symbols represent in terms of personality traits, but you can certainly make educated guesses based on the choice you make at any given moment.
What’s unique about Across the Grooves is that it utilises music within its story. As the lyrics are tied directly into the game’s plot, they often don’t quite match up to the melody, and it almost sounds like an improvised piece of music as opposed to a deliberately written piece. Having said that, we loved these sections regardless, and we wish they showed up a bit more within the story.
Mystery stories, by nature, have a lot of exposition and dialogue involved in order to help push along the narrative, but this is ultimately Across the Grooves’ biggest flaw. The majority of the game is taken up by back-and-forth dialogue sessions between the characters, with very little in between. This is fine for a while, but we quickly noticed very little deviation from the ‘talking heads’ camera angle during dialogue sessions – and since most of the game is comprised of this, it eventually feels a bit monotonous.
When it comes down to it, Across the Grooves is a nice take on the visual novel genre. It’s got a unique storyline, and we really dig the handcrafted art style. Each chapter takes roughly an hour to complete, and if you want to play it again to experience different choices, you can easily skip through the text if you wish. If you’re after a mature tale with interesting characters and solid writing, you may want to check this one out.