Nova-Box's third visual novel is a breath of fresh air, not only because of the mature themes it touches but also because of the intelligent use of music and time-traveling. What doesn't come as a surprise is how good the game looks, featuring a hand-drawn European comic-book-style that really suits the story. It does look similar to Nova-Box's previous game, yet it also feels more polished and vibrant.
This Is Not Wonderland, Alice
6 short chapters are enough for Across the Grooves to tell us the story of Alice, a woman who one day receives a mysterious package from her ex-boyfriend: an old, mysterious vinyl that allows her to travel back in time, reliving the moment Alice and Ulysse broke up and giving her a chance to fix things and—to Alice's current boyfriend's dismay—save her previous relationship.
Now, Alice needs to find Ulysse to try and understand the real meaning of this gift. However, as we know from dozens of other works of fiction based around time-traveling, messing with the past is not always a good thing.
In this new reality, Alice travels across Europe looking for Ulysse while also learning more about this magical vinyl, also known as the Crowley Record. For obvious reasons, a lot of people want to get the vinyl even if that means breaking the law and putting Alice's life in danger, and that's where things get really interesting and a little dark.
Songs Do Tell a Story
In this game, you'll make a lot of new friends and enemies, and if you know how to play your cards, you'll end up having a lot of one-night stands too... both with men and women. We really enjoyed Across the Grooves' mature approach to things, especially since it shows how easy it can be to conceive deep characters and real situations. All characters are flawed in their own way, and all of them could be very well playing with you... just like you're playing with them.
Being a game where music is so important, we also enjoyed all the references, from world-famous bands like The Beatles to other not-so-popular performers like Davendra Banhart, Herman Düne, or Sleater-Kinney (aka second-rate Sonic Youth, according to one of the characters). Another nice touch is how some parts of the story are told by song lyrics, even giving you the chance to make a choice in the middle of a song and affect what's happening with both the scene and the soundtrack.
Every time we find ourselves in front of a game where our choices actually make a difference, we can’t but smile and enjoy the ride. And given that you can finish the whole story in a few hours, you can play it again and try different things to unlock alternative dialogues, scenes, and endings.
So, what’s the secret behind Alice, Ulysse, and the Crowley Record? Find out playing Across the Grooves!