Alice: Madness Returns – American McGee Brings Alice Back to Life
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Alice returns to Wonderland in this sequel to the 2000 hit, American McGee’s Alice. Only this isn’t quite the Wonderland that Alice left behind.
Set 11 years after the first game, Alice continues to battle her demons afer a fire ravaged her home and claimed her parents’ lives, leaving her the only survivor. The ordeal’s left her memory in fragments, and wracked with guilt, Alice slowly descends into madness.
As Alice leaves from a routine session with the orphanage’s psychiatrist, she runs across a white alley cat that leads her through the streets of London to her childhood nanny, Nurse Witless. If the term ‘childhood nanny’ conjurs ideas of cuddling and safe havens, don’t be fooled: Witless has been using Alice’s guilt as a weapon to extort money and other items from her. Turns out Nurse Witness is not who she claims, and she transforms into a twisted horror. Luckily, the ground beneath Alice collapses, and once again, she falls down the hole into the world of Wonderland.
Alice arrives in Wonderland to be greeted by the Cheshire Cat, who implies that there is a new threat, and only Alice can stop it.
Alice: Madness Returns is a third person adventure game that combines elements from the platforming and shooter genres with some twists that are unique to this dark, macabre world that Spicy Horse has created. Alice’s weapons range from the legendary Vorpal blade which resembles a butcher’s knife, to a pepper grinder for shooting enemies at a distance. An umbrella is used to defend yourself and deflect enemy attacks, while a clockwork bomb resembling the White Rabbit in a top hat and waistcoat is used to trigger switches for platforms and doors. You’ll use all of these weapons to slash, shoot, bomb, and deflect your way past numerous enemies and countless puzzles throughout the game.
As you progress through the game, each area becomes more difficult than the last with puzzles requiring a bit of thought and a good eye. Throughout the levels, clues will be revealed to you as to where you need to go and what needs to be done in order to make it to the next. One tool that helps you accomplish this is the ability to shrink at will. When you shrink down in size, your perception of the world around you changes; hints chalked on the walls and floors are revealed, and passages open up where there were none when you were larger. This is important as there are many side areas that contain collectible bottles and fragments of Alice’s memories that give you more clues as to Alice’s state of mind.
Spicy Horse has created an exceptionally moody world of muted colors, dilapidated structures and dark, disfigured creatures to make for a world that is as perilous as it is beautiful in a nightmarish way. Wonderland is a place that even Edgar Allen Poe or Tim Burton would admire in its horrific magnificence. American McGee and Co. have managed to capture the despair of a mind gone around the bend and bring it to life in the vision that is McGee’s Wonderland. Add to that the simple yet stunning music that accompanies you on your adventure, drawing you into the story with its suspenseful, mood-setting tones and you have an exciting combination.
Alice: Madness Returns is not without its drawbacks however. There are some technical glitches that can be somewhat annoying. Occasionally, when standing still you’ll find the screen jitters on its own as it decides which camera angle it wants to portray your heroine in. If you aren’t locked on to an enemy, the game will decide which target to fire at instead of going to the closest enemy or just firing in the general direction you want it to. Instead you’ll find that Alice will simply fire a flurry of projectiles in random directions going after every enemy a piece at a time. And occasionally you’ll experience issues with the third person camera bouncing off of walls or getting stuck at awkward angles during the moments where you really need its stability the most. This can be at times frustrating and push you away from the world you so badly want to immerse yourself into.
Despite the few minor technical glitches, Alice: Madness Returns is a game that has it all. A solid story, beautiful graphics and music, and fairly solid game play makes for an abundantly enjoyable experience. Some simple patching could fix the few issues that mire this otherwise wonderful game. As an additional bonus, EA has included in a new purchase of the game a code that allows you to download the original American McGee’s Alice. So if you’re afraid of being left behind in the story, fear not! You can catch up with the previous installment before playing the main course if you wish.
This game receives a 4.0/5.0
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