Déjà Vu


Review by · July 17, 2000

Dick Tracy’s got nothing on the fine people of Kemco. Deja Vu was one of the first detective games for any system and had more puzzles than any game of its time. You want guns? They’ve got guns. You want mystery? They’ve got mystery. You want a game? They’ve got a game. You want a review on it? Well, I’ve got that.

It’s the mid-1900s. You awaken from a painful sleep inside of a men’s room stall. Hanging on the door, you see a trench coat, a few odds and ends, and a .38 caliber that’s been freshly fired. A strange pain is felt in your arm, and after rolling up the sleeve of your shirt, you see a small puncture wound. Suddenly, in a horrifying epiphany, you realize that you have no idea of who you are or anything about yourself! Obviously, they didn’t want to spoil anything in the opening story.

Gameplay follows the same pattern that every item-finding game has. You are given a list of commands to use, like open, take, hit, etc., and you have a list of items that you have collected. You can use these two lists to interact with the world around you, which is represented by a single screen for every area you go to. You search your surroundings for items, pick up whatever you can, use the newly found item on an obstacle you found earlier, and then explore even more. You might find a locked door somewhere that you don’t have a key for. In this case you, would go back and find a key that you might have missed, or you might have to use more imaginative means when a key can’t be found.

This game was made very well in some ways, but was a little sloppy in others. It involved every option you had to choose from and had far more items than you could ever hope to use, making this one of the NES’s hardest games. Creativity is necessary if you hope to find all the evidence you need to convict… well, you’ll see. The challenge involved made this game very confusing and gratifying to beat. However, I also thought that it was a bit hard to understand your goals, leading to hours of searching areas you’ve already been to. I think they should have added some sections of the game where you could interrogate people to understand what to do next, because the plot of the game only seemed to develop when you had a flashback of some sort.

By the way, you have 7 quarters when you first start, but you need far more than that to successfully beat Deja Vu. At one point in the game, you will find a casino. There are three slot machines in here, and only the one on the far right can be played and won. Save before playing, and if you lose, reload the game, because you need all the change you can get. DjV was not original, but it did require a lot of creativity and was a worthwhile waste of a few days, so Gameplay gets an 83%.

Here is a game that probably was not meant to have graphics in the first place, and if it was, the NES was not the best choice for a system. Like many games of its kind, the items you need often blend into the background, making it hard to tell if you can take something or not. The backgrounds were only decent, even for the NES, and the game itself is somewhat small. Not only was there no motion or special effects in the entire game, but there was also very little of what was left over. In the game’s defense, however, I must say that it is not a visual game at all, but a mental one. I know it’s not fair to give Deja Vu a 25% in Graphics, but life’s not fair, and besides, they don’t really matter in this case.

The music in Deja Vu was better, but still mediocre. It matched the settings of the game well, but had no feeling or emotion to it. There were few songs (Or maybe I just forgot most of them) and none of them were above par. The sounds were even worse, mainly due to the fact that they didn’t exist. Gunshots and punches were replaced with Batman-style word bubbles containing various onomatopoeias (Things that sound the way they’re spelled). Audio effects weren’t needed, but the makers of the game could’ve tried a little harder. Sound/Music receives a near-failing 61%.

Here is where the review turns around a bit. The story told in the game is quite strange until the end, when everything is explained. Bodies will turn up, secret files will be found, and memories will return throughout the game, often adding a layer to the mystery instead of thinning it out. The game is too short to have plot twists, but it does take a while to understand what’s going on and to put the pieces together. There are a few other characters in the game, but you hardly interact with any of them. This was probably due to the primitive materials the makers had to work with at the time, but the problem is still there. Kemco intended to make a mystery, and in spite of a few bad choices, they made a decent one. Storyline gets an 86%.

Deja Vu was originally made for the computer, which means that it was supposed to be played with a mouse. By converting this method to the four-way D-pad on an NES controller, Kemco shot the game in the foot, so to speak. Control is slower and more constrained than it was meant to be, and although this isn’t a big thing, it probably should be mentioned. Control gets a 70%.

Deja Vu did well when it came to the topics of Gameplay and Storyline, which makes up most of the game. However, Graphics and Sound/Music were not worked on because they were really unnecessary, but these are what hold the game together. DjV was never meant for this system and didn’t endure the trip to cartridge form very well, but it wasn’t a failure. Overall, Deja Vu gets a 76%

Gameplay – It’s like watching an episode of MacGiver. 83%
Graphics – We didn’t need them and we don’t really want them. 25%
Sound/Music – We could’ve used this. 61%
Storyline – It beats the Hardy boys. 86%
Control – Annoying, but not unbearable. 70%
Overall – It’s the ultimate time-waster. 76%

Overall Score 76
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Andrew DeMario

Andrew DeMario

Andrew went by several names here, starting as a reader reviewer under the name Dancin' Homer. Later known as Slime until we switched to real names, Andrew officially joined RPGFan as a staff reviewer in 2001 and wrote reviews until 2009. Andrew's focus on retro RPGs and games most others were unwilling to subject themselves to were his specialty.