Déjà Vu (video game)

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Déjà Vu
A large brown Fedora hat and a glass of liquor on a table with the title of the game "Déjà Vu" in large letters.
Box art for the computer and NES versions
Developer(s)ICOM Simulations, Inc.
Kemco (NES, GBC)
Composer(s)Hiroyuki Masuno, Kento's Group (NES)
Koji Nishikawa, Masaomi Miura (GBC)
Platform(s)Apple IIGS, Macintosh, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amiga, MS-DOS, Game Boy Color, PC-9800, Pocket PC, Famicom/NES, PlayStation 4, Windows 3.x, Xbox One
  • NA: October 1985 (Mac)[1]
  • NA: 1987 (MS-DOS)
  • JP: 1988 (Famicom)
  • NA: 1990 (NES)
  • NA: 1991 (Windows 3.x)
  • PAL: 1992 (NES)
1999 (GBC)
2017 (PS4, Xbox One)

Déjà Vu[2] is a point-and-click adventure game set in the world of 1940s hardboiled detective novels and films. It was released in 1985 for Macintosh – the first in the MacVenture series – and later ported to several other systems, including the Amiga. Initially, the game featured black and white graphics, and later releases introduced color.

Plot and gameplay[edit]

Macintosh version of Déjà Vu

The game takes place in Chicago during December 1941. The game character is Theodore "Ace" Harding, a retired boxer working as a private eye.

Ace awakes one morning in a bathroom stall, unable to remember who he is. The bathroom stall turns out to be in Joe's Bar. A dead man is found in an upstairs office, and Ace is about to be framed for the murder. There are some clues as to the identity of the murdered man and to Ace himself. A strap-down chair, mysterious vials, and a syringe are found, suggesting (together with a needle mark on Ace's arm) that an interrogation has taken place.

Outside the bar, Ace encounters adversaries including a mugger, an old acquaintance with a grudge, and the police. Ace's boxing background proves to be a valuable asset. Ace must find addresses around Joe's bar and then make taxi rides to a few locations (including his office) to gather more elements and unravel the story. It involves a kidnapping in which Ace has played some part, but his memory lacks important details.

Ace's memory and mental condition progressively deteriorate, so the player is required to obtain an antidote to the drug that caused the memory loss. After that, Ace has recurring flashbacks filled with information that help the player to evaluate the evidence and take action accordingly. The memory deterioration is handled differently in the Nintendo platforms compared to all others, in all others the player has a limited amount of time before Ace's brain reaches vegetable status and has to live the rest of his days in a hospital for "helpless mental invalids" with a hard death coded on the second floor of Sternwood Mansion. Nintendo platforms mostly remove the vegetable status mechanic and also removes the Sternwood Mansion death if the player goes there without curing their amnesia giving the player all the time they need to get cured but instead has a hard death coded if the player goes to Ace's office while still suffering from amnesia in which the vegetable ending from the other platforms is immediately initiated. These changes apply to both the Nintendo and Gameboy Color versions.

This game and its sequel, Deja Vu II: Lost in Las Vegas, require significant lateral thinking. Some situations are based in common detective techniques, while others require simple violence. Unlike other MacVentures titles (such as Uninvited and Shadowgate), no supernatural events are involved.


NES version

Déjà Vu was the first ICOM Simulations game to use the MacVenture interface and engine.

Numerous ports were made, including versions for home computer systems in 1987 and the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990. Versions of the game and its sequel containing new graphics and sound were released for Microsoft Windows in the early 1990s, and later as a combined single-cartridge release for the Game Boy Color in 1999 under the title Déjà Vu I & II: The Casebooks of Ace Harding, which was also released for DOS, Windows 3.x (1992), and Windows Mobile (2002). The Game Boy Color version has even more censorship and creates its own detail such as renaming "Joe's Bar" to "Joe's Place" and adding details that were not present in other versions to the point of contradiction, most notably with Ace's "Suzy Q" memory and "Father O'Malley" memory. This version also changes the ending of the first Deja Vu game to better seamlessly lead into Deja Vu II.


Déjà Vu was reviewed positively in Macworld, which called it "a well-crafted game that's bound to draw you into its intriguing, albeit seedy, story." Macworld noted how the game's point-and-click interface set it apart from text parser-based adventure games, freeing the player from "having to second guess the program's vocabulary and syntax".[3]

Digital Press gave the NES version 6 out of 10, approving the puzzle-solving while have average opinions on graphics and music.[4]

Macworld inducted Déjà Vu into its 1986 Game Hall of Fame in the Best Adventure Game category, praising the game for avoiding the common adventure game pitfall of puzzle-solving overwhelming the game's literary possibilities: "Aside from its debt to the film noir tradition, it discards verbal pretensions and lets you mouse-and-window your way to a solution to a hard-boiled murder tale."[5] The game was named the Best Entertainment Product by the Software Publishers Association 1986.[6]



  1. ^ "1985 Index" (PDF). Computer Entertainer. Vol. 4, no. 10. January 1986. p. 6.
  2. ^ Accent marks do not appear on the original game boxes or in-game logo, where the title is written as Deja Vu. However, accent marks appear in the text on the back of the box and in the logos for the NES and Game Boy Color ports. Some sources also add an additional subtitle of "A Nightmare Comes True!!", a tagline that is absent from the in-game logo and NES game box.
  3. ^ Lavroff, Nicholas (January 1986). "The Scene of the Crime". Macworld. Vol. 3, no. 1. San Francisco, CA: PC World Communications, Inc. pp. 120–131.
  4. ^ Bueno, Tony (November 1999). "Random Reviews". Digital Press. p. 14.
  5. ^ Levy, Steven (December 1986). "The Game Hall of Fame". Macworld. Vol. 3, no. 12. San Francisco, CA: PCW Communications, Inc. p. 120.
  6. ^ Lewis, Peter H (29 April 1986). "Peripherals; Software Gets Its Day in the Sun". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  7. ^ "Jeux & stratégie 47". October 1987.

External links[edit]