Alice: Madness Returns – Has it really been 11 years since we were graced with the joy of American McGee’s Alice on PC? As someone who is more of a console gamer than a PC gamer, back then, American McGee’s Alice was just too good to resist. The game was creepy, gothic, funny and engaging, and by using the Quake 3 engine, it was a game that was definitely advanced for it’s time.
Now here we are in 2011 and we have American McGee back, brining us more trippy gameplay from the dark and unnerving Alice, in Alice: Madness Returns on Xbox 360. The story kicks off with Alice as a teenager, under the watchful eye of Dr Bumby, a psychiatrist. For those who have played the first game, this probably isn’t too much of a surprise, since Alice’s mind and her adventures in wonderland have clearly taken their toll on her idea of reality. The story progresses from there, and it’s not long until Alice is thrown back into a world of gory, creepy, gothic horror.
Alice: Madness Returns, is a solid platformer which has its fair share of hack and slash goodness. The controls feel effortless and you can easily shrink Alice down to enable her access to smaller areas in the game. The weapons such as the Vorpal knife and the pepper-grinder, are sufficiently gruesome and weird that they fit perfectly into the overall feel of the game. At times there are plenty of enemies on screen and the AI is pretty good, so the controls and the weapons work perfectly well together to make hacking and slashing your way through levels quite enjoyable. You can lock on to target and kill them at long range, as well as hop around on different levels to avoid them if you need to. As well as Alice’s excellent fighting abilities, she’s also perfectly capable of jumping and floating effortlessly around the levels. The checkpoints are strategically placed so that it doesn’t become infuriating if you need to do part of a level again and the fact you can’t fall off ledges helps ensure you make it through many levels unscathed. There’s no multiplayer in Alice, which is probably how it should be, but there are cute rhythm mini-games in it, although you don’t need to play these if you don’t want to.
One of the most impressive aspect of this title is the graphics. From the beginning, it has a very surreal feeling to it, reminiscent of the French animated classic “The Triplets of Bellville”. NPC’s are as full of character in their faces as the characters you can interact with and you feel that Alice’s madness pours out through the depiction of these characters beautifully. The backgrounds and levels of the game are also absolutely gorgeous to look at, accurately representing Alice’s troubled mind. The game grabs you with it’s aesthetics and although there are a few pop up issues here and there, the frame-rate is solid throughout.
As with the graphics, sound plays an important part of this title and the creepy score which accompanies the game is spot on. It adds to the overall experience and the dialogue from the characters is great. At times it becomes a little cliched, but there are some stand out characters, including of course the dryness of the Cheshire Cat. Alice herself sounds a lot like Lara Croft which is always a nice bonus.
Female Character Angle
Obviously the female character is the lead character in this title, so it’s always welcome to see that. Alice is a very interesting character and her background and decent to madness is quite gripping. Through the 15 hours or so it takes to play the game, you’ll find yourself becoming more and more intertwined in Alice’s psyche and she’s definitely a character that can hold her own on screen.
Alice: Madness Returns is a welcome return to gaming for American McGee. The game is eerie, interesting, gory, surreal and extremely dark. It’s a very close likeness to Lewis Carroll’s original vision for Alice and the levels and gameplay compliment this perfectly. If you haven’t played the original, you can still pick this up and will enjoy it as it’s a solid platformer with great aesthetic touches.