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Alice: Madness Returns
by ScareMEal
Reviewed on Mon, 10/24/2016 - 00:24am
ScareMEal Total Reviews: 5
Reviewer Rating
This dark tale of Alice has all the creativity and charm to expect from the source material, but lacks the polish to really shine.
American McGee may not be a household name, but he has dipped his hands into the design of some of the most recognized shooters of the 1990's. With his credentials spanning across DOOM, DOOM II: Hell on Earth, Quake, and Hexen, not to mention numerous ports of those games, he certainly isn't a stranger to working on successful game series. It's somewhat odd, then, that his name is more associated with his 2000 adaptation of classic literary work, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson). American McGee's Alice was a dark followup to the original tales, with Alice Liddel losing her family in a house fire and struggling to cope with her loss. Alice was sent to an asylum where she was under watch of doctors, but in her mind, she went back to her Wonderland, which had grown dark and twisted with the trauma Alice had experienced.
Though it averaged an 8/10 from most notable reviews of the time, the game didn't receive a proper followup for nearly a decade. McGee worked with Spicy Horse Studios and Electronic Arts to develop a sequel to his cult classic and in 2011, it finally released. Having never played the original game, I had little knowledge of what to expect from Alice: Madness Returns. The game opens with Alice visiting her psychiatrist. As her Wonderland becomes even more dark and chaotic, the doctor encourages her to let go of the old Wonderland and accept the new, as Alice sees her flesh torn from her face while drowning in a river of black ooze. This game doesn't hold back on setting up a dark and gloomy atmosphere. In fact, the atmosphere is probably this game's biggest strength. From the grimy, polluted streets of Victorian era London, to the mechanized cathedral train spreading chaos through Alice's mind, to the eerie derelict dollhouse village, the art direction remains strong and distinct. It always feels like a world that once had wonder and charm but that is slowly being eroded away due to the turmoil Alice is enduring. I constantly looked forward to seeing what new area of Wonderland I would be guided to, just to see how it was damaged and dilapidated.
Unfortunately, the rest of the game doesn’t hold up as well as the art direction. Throughout most of the game, you will be primarily hopping between floating platforms and fighting abominations of Alice’s subconscious. The platforming segments are sufficient, but they leave much to be desired. Much of the platform puzzles will either involve holding down a switch while you do another thing or using your shrink power to find invisible platforms. The shtick gets a bit old after a while and the game as a whole just doesn’t break up the overly long and slow platforming segments enough to keep things from feeling stale, especially since the game lacks that final level of polish. There are areas that look like they can be reached, but you aren’t actually supposed to so you'll fall through them. Sometimes the controls will lock when changing sizes. There are occasionally parts of the floor that aren’t smoothed out so you get stuck in place when you clearly should be able to keep moving. It’s those little things that really drag down the experience, and since it’s in the most important and time consuming parts of the game, it’s all the more noticeable and irritating. That’s not to say it doesn’t try to break things up. There are occasional moments where you’ll get to do slider puzzles, logic puzzles, a clunky rhythm game, and even some side-scrolling segments. The change in pace is welcome, but a few of these mechanics felt poorly constructed so they sometimes end up serving as little more than a roadblock to progression.
Easily the most frequently used element in game besides platforming segments are combat sections. Combat is actually fairly well done, with a small but varied selection of weapons to choose from and many enemies being designed to be strong against some weapons but weak against others, forcing the player to adapt multiple strategies, sometimes on the fly. It’s also neat that the weapons change their look as you level them up with the teeth you collect from fallen foes. This wouldn’t be a traditional 3D platformer without some profuse items to collect. The most common item scattered around Wonderland are the aforementioned teeth, which are used to purchase upgrades so your weapons can be more powerful. Bottles are scattered around that work toward unlocking concept art. There are also shattered memories that provide more background to the characters and events of the game, which is good when you haven’t played the previous game.
I’m not sure there’s much else to say without nitpicking the game. It’s got a fantastic art and sound direction, with levels as varied and interesting as a Wonderland should be. Sadly, it’s held back by poor pacing and a lack of mechanical variety. If you think you would enjoy the dark direction American McGee takes the Alice tale and can look past the glaring flaws you’ll find a fun game with a lot of creative ideas and a twisted sort of charm to it.
Positive points
Negative points
  • Fantastic art direction
  • Fitting soundtrack
  • Creative uses of staple Alice characters and locations,
  • Poorly paced platforming segments
  • Controls sometimes lock up or glitch out
  • Not much point to collect everything,
Not Rated
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About this Item
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Item Link:   Go there
Genre: 3D platformer, action-adventure, psychological thriller
Release Date: June 14, 2011
0 Community Ratings