Alice in Wonderland the instant classic, no doubt a fertile crescent of ideas and premise with which to create an exceptional game. It’s predecesor, 2000’s American McGee’s Alice, was a fairly well-received success selling approximately 1.5 million copies, with the general consensus on the title being that it was a dark and macabre take on Lewis Carroll original vision of Alice’s world, and that fact sat just fine with most purchasers of the game. The one widely agreed upon drawback of the first “Alice” game being that it was, by most accounts quite an average and straightforward platformer at best, and that when viewing the game strictly from the perspective of it’s merit based on the gameplay mechanics and level design, it could have been interchangeable with any number of run of the mill platforming titles. That being said, the graphics of the 2000 original were considered exceptional for it’s time, enough so that it aptly compensated for the mediocre gaming. With this new 2011 sequel, the main question would be does Alice: Madness Returns provide a game that provide innovative, imaginative gaming that mirrors the quality and creativity that the visuals of the original is known for?
Click here for Sample of our Alice Madness Video Walkthrough
In Alice: Madness Returns, a decade after Alice’s release from Rutledge Asylum, “old ghosts” return in the form of repressed memories involving the fire that killed Alice’s parents. The stress of these returning memories causes Alice to again seek solace in recesses of her of own disturbed mind which manifests itself as Wonderland, and it is there in Wonderland that Alice must confront old acquaintances and new nemesis’s if she hopes to determine the truth about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths of her parents, and hold together her own crumbling sanity in the process.
The gameplay of Alice: Madness Returns follows a similar format to that of it’s predecessor in the form of 3rd person, occasionally puzzle solving, but mostly platforming style gaming. Alice has a respectably mixed arsenal of old and new weapons at her disposal over the course of the journey. The famed Vorpal Blade is back for basic hack & slash, a pepper grinder that functions a rapid fire Gatling gun, a hobby horse serves as a “mace-like” bludgeoning weapon, a teapot weapon doubles as Alice’s grenade launcher, and there’s also the player controlled detonating device which explodes upon command appropriately named the Clockwork Bomb.
Controlling Alice is quite player friendly and fluid, making Alice: Madness Returns a title that a gamer can pick up and play quite readily. The Cheshire Cat returns to act as Alice’s mentor and guide throughout the adventure, and other faces familiar to Wonderland such as the March Hare, Dormouse, and famed antagonists Tweedledum, Tweedledee, and The Queen of Hearts are all accounted for. There’s also are new characters interspersed as well, consisting mostly of Alice’s psychiatric staff, such as Nurse Witless, Doctors Bumby and Wilson, and a kind, portly lawyer named Radcliffe.
When it comes to the actual nuts and bolts gaming of Alice: Madness Returns, it appears that not that much has changed a decade later, as the sequel has much of the same strengths and weaknesses as American McGee’s Alice. Alice: Madness Returns is, at least visually, a compelling, creative visual feast once again, and it’s upon this strength that provides the gamer with reason to progress, if for no other reason to get to view the darkly beautiful backdrops that this platformer plays out in front of. There is a little more variety in Alice: Madness Returns than the original “McGee” version, with the odd 2-D sliding puzzle, and slanted, sliding pick-up levels to break up what can, again get a little monotonous if the gamer ever stops to really consider the quality of the game on the merit of the variety of level design alone, which thanks to the stunning visuals, only happens on the most generic levels of Alice: Madness Returns.
Sadly, there are times when the visuals alone just aren’t enough to distract from average or generic level design, and those can be the ones when protagonist Alice’s progress is halted by what can appear to be an invisible barrier, or in some levels Alice’s character should be able to shrink and pass by areas of branches that her character is clearly small enough to fit through, yet she does not, and it’s in instances like this that no amount of impressive visuals are enough to rescue the title from gamer frustration, and it can really dispel the beauty of the illusion of Alice’s world, which is unfortunate. During these times the gamer can almost instantly see what the game must have looked like during it’s bare bones “alpha” phase, and once the magic is tarnished, it can be quite difficult to return to the former point of view that Alice is truly free to roam in this beautiful nightmare.
When not bothered by these invisible barrier issues, the game really shines, when they crop up, it slams back down to earth as another “me too” platformer. Alice: Madness Returns, in a nutshell is a visually beautiful platformer that disguises fairly average game mechanics and level design in impressive eye candy, probably a buy for Alice in Wonderland nostalgia buffs only, a decent weekend rent for gamers that already enjoy platformers and don’t mind repetition. One last worthy note for those considering the purchase, buying a new copy of Alice: Madness Returns for either Xbox 360 or PS3 will contain a one time only redeemable code, good for a full download of the 2000 original, American McGee’s Alice, an additional perk worth 800 Microsoft Points or $9.99 on PSN, something that may just sneak Alice: Madness Returns into the “buy” category for the avid platforming gamer.