• Review: Alice: Madness Returns

    Posted by Mike Yawney on June 28th, 2011 View Comments

    “It’s time for tea Alice!” With that classic line the Mad Hatter lifts up a tea cup in one hand pushes it towards the lips of one of his guests. Both the Dormouse and the March Hare lay awkwardly at the Mad hatter’s side, neither one moving a hair as the Mad Hatter insists they drink. The guests remain quiet, after all you can’t speak when you’re dead. Yet the Hatter continues to pour tea down the March Hare’s throat, ignoring the fact that his guests are only corpses, victims of Alice’s rage.

    This is the twisted vision of Wonderland American McGee brings to console gamers for the first time in Alice: Madness Returns, the follow-up to the cult classic Alice released for the PC back in 2000. The game sold more than one million copies and became a collector’s item. It’s easy to see why. The dark take on the classic children’s tale showed us a side of Alice Disney would never allow.

    McGee’s follow-up is just as dark and demented as the original game, yet it’s not the perfect experience fans of the franchise may be looking for.

    The game picks up right where the first left off. Our heroine has left the asylum but we quickly find out she has yet to be cured. She yearns to uncover clues as to what caused the fire that burned down her home killing her family. She quickly finds herself slipping into Wonderland to find the answers and uncover the truth.

    The world in which McGee takes us is horrific and beautiful at the same time. Pieces of Lewis Carroll’s story have been taken, twisted then presented through a dark filter. Some of the classic characters appear as abominations of their former selves. Dormouse’s feet have been replaced by wheels and the March Hare has mechanical legs. Wonderland’s signature Chesire Cat looks creepier than ever with blood on his teeth. It’s hard not to be impressed by the art style. It’s deliciously dark and demented.

    The game is a mix of fighting and exploration. Alice’s memories are hidden throughout the levels so you’ll have to thoroughly explore each one in order to piece together her past. While you may find a few in plain view, many others are hidden behind invisible doors which can only be seen when Alice shrinks with the help of the shrinking potion. Alice can also see other hidden messages and hints while in her shrunken form.

    Our protagonist has a range of weapons at her disposal as she explores Wonderland. The Vorpal Blade combined with a pepper shaker which doubles as a gun are your main weapons, but you also have access to time bombs and the Hobby Horse which can deliver quite a wallop, although it’s quite heavy and slow to swing. Weapons can be upgraded by collecting loose teeth which act as a currency in Wonderland.

    Combat is quite smooth. Alice is able to switch between weapons on the fly without having to bring up a menu every time you want to change your method of attack. It’s unfortunate the exploring portion of the game isn’t as smooth.

    Players will be faced with constant load screens. The screen’s only last a mere second or two but they tend to pop up quite frequent as you enter new areas. Even the load screens replace themselves with load screens. You are often flashed helpful hints at the bottom of the screen while you wait for the next scene to load. Sometimes those messages last for a mere second before another load screen pops up to replace the first.

    Other flaws also reveal themselves as you play through the game. We noticed subtitles didn’t keep up to the voices and the graphics look unpolished in some of the levels.

    Alice: Madness Returns is certainly an enjoyable game. It’s long (nice when you consider the upcoming summer drought) and if that’s not enough the game comes with a download code for original Alice for the Xbox 360 and the PS3. That right there gives added value to this title. What seams to be missing is the final coat of polish.  Alice can be a little rough along the edges, not in gameplay but in presentation which is strange for a game published by EA.

    If you enjoyed the original Alice you will certainly love returning to Alice’s dark and demented world. If you haven’t visited American McGee’s vision of Wonderland it truly is something to witness. Just be prepared for a few hiccups along the way.

    The Good

    Creative art style
    Smooth combat
    Unique story

    The Bad

    Frequent load screens
    Lacks polish



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