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Video Game / Déjà Vu

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Your past is such a black hole, it has its own accretion disc.

The first of ICOM Simulations' MacVenture Adventure Games, Déjà Vu: A Nightmare Comes True!!, originally released in 1985 for the Apple Macintosh, was the first Adventure Game with a fully mouse-driven interface. The game is in the mode of '40s film noir, and begins with you waking up in a toilet stall in a dive bar with a raging headache and amnesia. Who are you, what happened to you, and why's there a dead body upstairs?

A sequel, Déjà Vu II: Lost in Las Vegas, was released in 1988.

Not to be confused with the 2006 film starring Denzel Washington.

The first game was also included as part of a Compilation Re-release titled 8-bit Adventures: Volume 1 for PlayStation 4 on Oct. 31, 2017.


Déjà Vu and its sequel provide examples of:

  • Arc Words: In the first game, "you feel the odour of cheap perfume" or similar, whenever you are in a room frequently used by Vickers.
  • Asshole Victim: Joey Siegel. Most of what made him such an asshole was removed from the NES version; see Bowdlerise below for more information.
  • Badass Longcoat: You. Your coat is helpfully waiting for you, right on the first screen.
  • Ballistic Discount: Doesn't work. The gunshop owner has a shotgun, and he's faster than you are.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • In the first game, even if you do get your memory back and uncover the plot to frame you for murder, Sternwood and Vickers planted more than enough false evidence to make sure you'll look like the more likely suspect if you go to the police. Fortunately, you can dispose of the false evidence against you. If you don't get rid of all of the planted false evidence against you, then even if you have all the evidence you need to prove Sternwood and Vickers Guilt, it will be you who will be convicted and not Sternwood and Vickers.
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    • You have to do one yourself in the second game. You are trapped in the basement of the rival crime gang's laundromat business front. If you cut your bonds and escape out the front door, the thugs will quickly track you down and kill you. But if you cut your bonds, open the front door, and then go back and hide in the basement, the thugs will think you've escaped, and run out to look for you, giving you free reign to explore the laundromat and uncover clues and evidence.
  • Betting Minigame: Both games feature one and both are mandatory to play at least once. Luckily, it's nigh impossible to completely run out of money in either one, and the blackjack table in part II has an easy way to drastically improve your odds by proving to the dealer that you're an old buddy of his.
  • Border Patrol: In the second game, attempting to take trains to any city other than Chicago or Las Vegas results in Stogie rubbing you out at least until the endgame, assuming you've done everything right, in which case you have to skip town to anywhere before the mobsters start shooting at each other.
  • Bottomless Sewer: The best way to get rid of pesky evidence. Just watch out for that gator.
  • Bound and Gagged: Mrs. Sternwood in the first game. Also, you prior to the start of the game (See Strapped to an Operating Table below).
  • Bowdlerise: Many changes were made from the original game when ported to the NES and GBC versions.
    • The empty syringe is changed to empty capsules, which doesn't make any sense: you need special equipment to put medicine in capsules, and it is difficult as all get-out to give capsules to unconscious or sleeping people (On top of that, the description at the beginning of the game is still that of Ace having been given the drugs via injection, presumably because there wouldn't be any indication Ace had been drugged).
    • References to Sugar Shack's prostitution are removed.
    • References to Joey Siegel being tied with the mob are removed. The original game reveals Siegel ruined Ace's boxing career by fixing his fights for mobster gamblers. In the NES version, Joey Siegel is Ace's manager and just described as being generally unlikeable.
    • References to gambling (besides the hidden casino) are removed. In the original game, Ace owes considerable gambling debts to Joey Siegel that are genuine. In the NES version, the IOUs are phony.
      • This makes the mob hitman's existence a little more random as well.
    • Ace's memories of his childhood are made Lighter and Softer.
      • The memory of Father O'Malley at boarding school beating Ace is removed.
      • References that Suzy Q didn't just give Ace his first kiss, but she gave every boy their first kiss and grew up to be 'very popular' are removed.
      • Though the reference to Ace's dog biting him and sending him to the hospital for stitches remains.
    • The original game makes it explicit that Ace was acting as a middleman for a fictional ransom payoff when he was knocked unconscious and drugged. The NES version removes these references so it's only implied.
    • The cigarettes are changed to gum. The alcohol is changed to seltzer water.
    • The dead alligator's blood is recolored from red to black.
    • The blood splattered all over Joey Siegel's desk was removed.
    • Though the game still allows you shoot people and lose that way, some, like the bum, are mentioned to survive their shooting because you get tried for attempted murder rather than first degree. It also heavily censored the text if you shoot Sternwood or Vickers.
  • Broken Bridge: In the NES and Game Boy Color Versions of the first game, you can't enter Ace Harding's office until you've cured your amnesia or you die.
    • In all of the versions of The first Deja Vu Video Game that is not on the Nintendo Systems, you instead die if you try to go upstairs to the second floor of the Sternwood Mansion when you still have amnesia.
  • The Butler Did It: Can be inverted if you kill off the Sternwoods' butler in the mansion (which naturally ends the game):
    This time, the butler's done to. And you did it.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': You can be in the most far-off parts of the game world, but shooting someone will always result in being arrested, even in a spot that explicitly states that the police avoid! Except in one instance where you have to.
    • If you use the syringe to kill, you won't get arrested until you go to the police.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the first game, there's a literal gun hanging in front of you in the first screen. It's a murder weapon you'll eventually have to get rid of in order to win the game. In the second, Stogie Martin's cigar rings he leaves everywhere become important. You'll have to plant one in an incriminating location to set off an Enemy Civil War.
  • Combat Pragmatist: It's possible to try just shooting the other person, but this will usually just get you arrested. Though it works nicely on both the alligator and that pesky hitman in your office.
  • Comically Small Bribe: You can try and give the EVIL gun-toting mugger a quarter to drive him off. Often he'll get mad and kill you. Though it does work in some versions due to a bug.
  • Comically Small Demand: The bum will give you (somewhat useless) information for a mere fifty cents. Justified by the fact that this is the 1940's; fifty cents back then was worth around $10 today.
  • Compilation Re-release: The GBC version.
  • Darkness Equals Death: Going through the bar in the sequel without the flashlight on or a lit match can randomly kill you.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The narration is pretty deadpan, but it will give you a lot of snarky shit if you try to do unusual actions, like eating non-food items, or using objects in a strange way.
  • The Dragon/Drop-In Nemesis: Stogie, in Déjà Vu II.
  • Enemy Civil War: The only way to beat the Mafia in the sequel is to get the two factions too busy killing each other to go after you. You have to instigate this.
  • Everybody Smokes: Surprisingly averted for a game set in the 1940s. See Politically Correct History.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Averted if you wear Sugar Shack's clothes in public, you will be arrested or thrown out of the hotel. It is the 1940s after all.
  • Evil Plan: Turns out to be an elaborate plot for Sternwood to knock off his wife and get with Vickers, Vickers to knock off Siegel and get with Sternwood, both of them to end up rich, and you, the poor amnesiac who can't remember his own name, let alone enough to defend himself, to take the fall. Phew.
  • Excited Show Title!: The first game's subtitle A Nightmare Comes True!! They needed TWO exclamation points for this one!
  • Extreme Omnivore: Ace can eat many things that people aren't supposed to eat, including quarters, keys, twenty dollar bills, pieces of paper (hope you didn't need that as evidence), and even bullets. You can reload your revolver by simply eating the spent casings, then popping in 6 new rounds. He can basically wolf down any object as long as its mass is smaller than a certain threshold.
  • Femme Fatale: Sugar Shack. And Marsha Vickers.
  • Flashback: You are plagued with them.
  • Foreshadowing: In the second game, the building you start in has a painting of two friends, who were tricked into killing each other. This is exactly what you have to pull at the end of the game on two Mafia bosses.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Your weapon of choice is a punch to the face. Justified, in that he used to be a boxer, prior to the detective gig.
  • Guide Dang It!: Due to a rather awful last minute glitch, you'll probably need a guide to determine just what evidence to keep and what to ditch. Dispose of everything except the diary (motive), the ransom note (method), and the memo with the timetable (corroborates the other two). This is made easier in the NES version in which when throwing away stuff in the sewer, it won't let you throw away any evidence you need so you can just throw everything except those items.
    • You have to dispose of: Gun 1, the murder weapon with your fingerprints on it. Map, a fake set of instructions on how to kidnap Mrs. Sternwood. Note 1, an IOU giving you a motive. File 5, a fake proposal for you to carry out the kidnapping in exchange for being let off the IOU. However, the game won't let you dispose of Gun 1 if you haven't used it to shoot open the bungalow, the doctor's cabinet, and the hitman in your office. In the case of the doctor's cabinet, you can actually get stuck if you use a guide: you only need to open the cabinet to find out what medicine to take. If you already know the medicine name, you can just take it and skip that part. But skipping that part means you can't dispose of the gun because the game thinks you need to do it and won't let you dispose of the gun until you do.
    • In the first game, shooting another person will always result in game over... except for the one time when you have to.
    • There is also exactly one lock that can be blown open with a gun. All the others require the correct key.
  • Guns Are Worthless: In the second game, you can find your .38 Special if you know where to look, but it serves absolutely no purpose in the game, other than giving you a few more ways to lose.
  • Have a Nice Death: The game has no shortage of snark for avoidable deaths.
  • Hit Flash: Punching something will give a screen-filling SOCKO! Shooting (or getting shot) will give a screen-filling BLAM! And you get a screen-filling KABOOM! (or the like) if the bomb in the Mercedes goes off.
  • The Immune: Sugar Shack has done so many drugs and built up such resistance that she's unaffected by anything you try to inject her with, including straight-up lethal substances like the heart palpitation or nerve gas medication.
  • It's Always Sunny in Miami: The first game supposedly takes place in Chicago right after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (which places the timeline as December 7th, 1941). Yet, there's no indication that it's winter and everyone is dressed for warm weather.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Your big difficulty in life.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to its sister games. It's still fairly violent and has plenty of ways to die, though.
  • Luck-Based Mission: In all of the versions except for the Nes and GBC of the first game, it is possible that the police will drive by and arrest you while you are walking around, naturally this gets you convicted and ends your game in a loss, Unless you cure your amnesia and get all the evidence you need and dispose of all of the bad eveidence against you, If you get arrested while walking but your memory is restored, you got all the evidence you need, and you get rid of all the bad evidence against you, then you win instead.
  • The Mafia: Your biggest worry in the sequel.
  • The Many Deaths of You: A lot, even some that you wouldn't expect. For example, offering a lit match to a bum in the second game causes him to explode, killing him and yourself.
  • Made of Explodium: The bum in the second game. Give him a lit match and he will explode, nuking half of Chicago.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Carrying around the empty pack of cigarettes in the second game will invoke this for your character.
  • Naked Nutter: You can be this in the second game. Ignore putting on your clothes, then run out (or get kicked out) of the casino and break random windows. You'll be arrested for indecency and vandalism and it is game over.
  • Naked on Arrival: Almost—you begin Déjà Vu II wearing only your underpants. Fortunately your clothes await on the bathroom door.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: Walking around outside might get you accosted by a gun-toting mugger. Fortunately, you can scare him off by punching him in the face (though eventually this'll stop working.) If you try to shoot him, he's faster, which makes sense since he's pointing his gun in your face already.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: The three blackjack dealers. Rudy Kowalski is Ace's friend and will help him win if he can prove it, Ziggie Schwarz complains that he's been running cold all night, and Junior Lewis mostly has a blank expression and doesn't say anything special in particular.
  • Nintendo Hard: Less so than Shadowgate or Uninvited, thanks to it's non-supernatural setting and a lack of Moon Logic Puzzles. A determined player can conceivably beat this one without ever consulting a walkthrough.
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't: The reason you're relatively safe around the gun-toting mugger. He'll catch on eventually, though...
    • The mugger is clearly using a revolver (which lacks a safety), and the game tells you after the third attempt that you're dealing with a bluff artist (though he WILL shoot you the fourth time). The only options that don't result in death are to either punch him (works three times) or give him some money. He'll be happy to leave with just a $20 bill.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Stogie uses this to be SUPREMELY annoying. Run into the desert? Nope, he'll get you. Hop a train out of town? Nope, he'll get you. Basically, if he wants you, he'll magically find you.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Hi, Joey.
  • Police Are Useless: They are EVIL EVIL EVIL EVIL in the second game, where if they catch you for any reason whatsoever, they will have Stogie EXECUTE YOU. Or, if you are wearing the police uniform, execute you themselves. In public. Hell, in Chicago, they will have you arrested and executed merely for entering the police station! Justified as both the Chicago and Las Vegas police departments are both bought out by the Mob.
  • Politically Correct History:
    • Even before cigarettes were censored to gum in the international NES versions, smoking in the original game will have the narration mention how you will probably get cancer, and consulting your file in the doctor's office shows that the doc is trying to get you to stop.
    • In the second game, you can find a pack of cigarettes, but offering them to other people in the second game will cause them to mention how they don't smoke, and/or how someone will find out that smoking will kill you. In the 1940's, smoking was not considered unhealthy.
  • Press Start to Game Over: In the first game, you get your gun in the opening scene. And you can immediately use it on yourself.
  • Press X to Die: You could "Use" a weapon item with anything in the interface. Including the button that represents yourself.
    • You can also turn yourself in to the police at any time, which will just get you arrested and falsely convicted if you haven't done everything you have to do.
  • Private Detective: That'd be you.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The mugger points his gun straight at you to show that he means business.
  • Sewer Gator: You can be attacked by an alligator while in the sewer.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: A better way to put your gun to use than on people, actually.
  • Shout-Out: Stogie remarks that he'd never seen anyone wearing purple underwear before. At least he didn't call you "Calvin."
    • If you look at the frying pan in the first game, you'll get a message that's a parody of one of Nancy Sinatra's songs:
      This pan is made for frying, and this is what you'll do if you don't stop wasting time!
    • The sequel lists Ace Harding's address as 1060 West Addison, Chicago Illinois. This is the real-life address of Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.
      • This might also be a reference to The Blues Brothers where Elwood gives that as a fake address.
    • The girl who gave Ace his first kiss was named Suzy Q.
    • The Sternwoods' Big Fancy House is explicitly said to look like Tara from Gone with the Wind. This movie may be a bit of a Running Joke with ICOM Simulations, since their game Uninvited contains a female ghost who looks like Scarlett O'Hara.
  • Stalked by the Bell: Before you find the antidote in the first game, you will turn into a drooling vegetable if you jack around. The second game, the mafia will kill you if you don't figure out a solution to the money problem.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Siegel, oddly enough, has a chair with restraining straps on the top floor of his bar. Yes, it was put to use. On you.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • In the second game, you can break all the windows you want. Now try and vandalize the police station. We dare you.
    • If you try to shoot any of the two muggers in the first game, they both result in game overs, as the gun-toting mugger will shoot you before you can pull the trigger, since he already has his gun out, and shooting the brute will get you arrested, as pleading self-defense doesn't work because he didn't have a weapon.
  • Ten-Second Flashlight: The sequel has one which is used in the bar. Justified, as the game mentions you took poor care of the flashlight, causing the batteries to be corroded, not to mention that the battery technology of the 1940s is lacking.
  • Timed Mission: From the beginning of the game, you have a limited number of moves to discover the antidote before the amnesia drug you've been injected with turns you into a drooling vegetable. Once you manage to find the antidote, though, you're free to Take Your Time. In the sequel, you have a limited amount of time to win the game before the Mob makes good their threat to find you and kill you.
    • The NES and GBC versions remove the time limit. As long as you don't enter your office, the amnesia won't kill you.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay
  • Unsound Effect: "SOCKO"
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: At one point, you'll gain access to a doctor's office, and all manner of drugs, from heart murmur medication to nerve gas antidote. Said medications have rather lethal side effects for anyone who does not have heart murmurs or nerve gas poisoning. You can apply them to any character who will hold still long enough for you to jab the syringe into them. Yep. Best of all, this doesn't draw the attention of the cops, so you can potentially go around murdering multiple characters with no immediate consequences. It does prevent you from getting the good ending, though, as you are immediately condemned as "a dangerous lunatic armed with a loaded syringe" the moment you try to clear your name.
    • There is one line the game doesn't let you cross. The game doesn't allow you to "operate self on unconscious prostitute." Trying will get you a short flashback to a memory of Ace being disciplined by Father O'Malley and how he can't bring himself to do it, because religion has "done its job."
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: You start the game with a pistol and three bullets, and are free to shoot anyone you want with it. Doing so pretty much results in an instant game over, though, either due to the arrival of the cops or the other guy being quicker on the draw.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The plot is, more or less, a simplification of the plot of The Big Sleep. Even the names of the characters are references to the film. Martha Vickers is the name of the woman who played Carmen Sternwood, and the Sternwood family was central to the plot of the film.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Yep, but since she Would Shoot an Amnesiac Gumshoe, you have no choice but to deck her one.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: You have to commit numerous crimes in the game in order to prove you are not guilty of kidnapping and murder, including burglary, breaking and entering, and assault. The game doesn't imply you will ever face consequences for those. However, if you kill anyone with the syringe (which, unlike shooting them, won't get you arrested immediately), you will get arrested when you go the police station at the end to try to prove your innocence.
  • Wrongly Accused: You'll probably want to be avoiding the police.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: There are plenty of ways to die; many avoidable, some darkly amusing.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: The GBC version treats part II as an Immediate Sequel. Beating part I leads directly to the next game, following an interstitial cutscene of Ace getting roughed up by mafia goons and brought to Las Vegas very shortly after he regained his memory and cleared his name.


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