Over the Alps Review
‘THERE’S A SAYING IN ENGLAND: WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S FIRE’
When Over the Alps first released, it flew under my radar. Undeservedly so: not only does it look great, it features writing from some of my favorites in the medium (such as Jon Ingold, of Heaven’s Vault and 80 Days fame). Fortunately, I subscribed to Apple Arcade this week and Over the Alps immediately drew my attention. Although the adventure game currently has two stories (with a third on the way), I’ll focus only on the first one in this review.
Set in Switzerland on the eve of the second world war, Over the Alps is a standard spy thriller. As Mr. Smith, a British agent with an uncertain task, you’ll run from the police, pursue (and escape from) Nazis, and exfiltrate members of the Italian resistance. There’s also bits of the mundane in between these, such as confessing to a priest or listening to a man’s woes about how his wife smells like goats because of how much time she spends taking care of them. These add some welcome contrast to the high-stakes adventure, bringing some relief to the story without lightening it excessively.
The story is told through postcards that Smith sends to a friend back in Britain named Aubrey. Told in the first person, Over the Alps never swerves into unreliable narrator territory, but it does often leave things to your imagination—an elegant way to imply certain things without showing them. As you depend on Agent Smith’s recounting of these events, it’s interesting to see how things are viewed under his perspective.
The game’s aesthetics all tie neatly into its postcard theme: from the font and user interface to your choices being represented by different stamps. These stamps are color-coded and each represent a different facet of your character’s personality: whether you’re more of a British gentleman (the blue stamp) or a no-nonsense agent who shoots first and asks questions later (the red stamp) is entirely up to you. If your actions are up to snuff as a British Intelligence Officer is something else entirely, and there are people in the game to remind you of that…
Over the Alps plays out as a Choose Your Own Adventure game, and it doesn’t change the formula much. Comparing my playthrough with my girlfriend’s, the story reaches the same finale, with differences in character interactions and places visited. It was nice to see that toward the end your choices could have meaningful consequences, however. It’s also worth noting that the game is available in fifteen different languages, a respectable endeavor considering its word count.
Despite its short length, these variations allow you some limited replay value. Going back to the story aware of each character’s motivations allowed me to spot some breadcrumbs I couldn’t have noticed the first time. I’ve grown to love short games, however, and at less than three hours, Over the Alps is a perfect fit for a lazy afternoon or restless night.
It’s difficult to say what I liked most of Over the Alps, precisely because there’s so much to like. It isn’t groundbreaking, but it is polished, beautiful and extremely well-written. Its short length and UI felt like perfect fits for the smaller, portable screen of a cellphone. While its destination is always certain, what you do getting there is up to you.
Over the Alps is available on Steam here.
You can also play it on Apple devices by signing up to Apple Arcade.