Alice: Madness Returns
“Pollution, corruption, my Wonderland is destroying me. I’m insane.”
In this very artistic action adventure game, we explore the well-known fairytale Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, in a dark and obscure light. The sequel to American McGee’s Alice picks up 10 years after the events of the prequel; despite having defeated her own twisted Wonderland once, Alice is still not rid of her demons. Still troubled by hallucinations and the tragic loss of her family, Alice is once again challenged by her own twisted mind. The now adolescent Alice has since the tragedy been treated by Doctor Angus Bumby, and is ridiculed and blamed for her family’s death, by the younger children on the orphanage. While Alice has come to terms with her twisted imagination, she has never accepted the blame for the death of her family. While venturing through Alice’s Wonderland, pieces of Alice’s memory are gathered, and piece by piece Alice unveils what really happened, the night the blazing flames killed her family.
Controlling Alice through the madness
Every element in this game is enhanced and uplifted by the genius artistic graphics; the level of detail in everything from monsters, to doorways, is so high that you never grow tired of looking. The controls for Alice seem somewhat counter-intuitive in some aspects; for instance the default button for interacting with different objects is set to ‘c’, and not ‘e’ which has become somewhat standard for games now. The mouse sensitivity is very high and there is no option to configure it. That said, once you have gotten used it, the handling is very easy and fun. A large portion of Alice: Madness Return consists of navigating Alice while she gracefully jumps and floats from platform to platform, which isn’t as dull as it might sound. Alice is able to perform several linked jumps and float, which opens up for a lot of interesting challenges. Alice is also able to shrink at will, after drinking a shrinking serum. While shrunk Alice is able to fit through tiny openings, reveling hidden chambers and pathways. Shrinking also allows Alice to see otherwise invisible platforms and clues written on the floors and walls. Alice is also able to be nurtured back to full health, when shrunk inside a shrink-flower.
Killing off the demons one by one
Combat is by far the best part of this game, which is largely down to the arsenal of obscure weapons you have, but also the combat itself. Alice carries a bloody kitchen knife, a pepper grinder minigun, a teapot grenade launcher, a clockwork time bomb, a hobbyhorse – which acts as the unstoppable force in the hands of Alice and an umbrella which can reflect enemy attacks. The enemies themselves vary from mechanical, to ghosts, to beings that immerge from black sludge – which resembles the way enemies spawn in the Zelda games. Combat requires you to utilize almost every one of Alice’s weapons, in nearly every fight. Alice’s ability to dodge incoming attacks, by turning into a swarm of butterflies while moving at great speed, gives the combat a good flow and is very well made. The game features a lock-on system, which allows Alice to focus her attacks and use her umbrella to deflect attacks. While it works very well if you’re in combat with a single enemy, it quickly gets confusing and annoying tabbing through the enemies, trying to target the right one in a fight with multiple.
The game contains mature language and sexual references and as such it is 18+ PEGI rated, but the story and gameplay could easily be enjoyed by a younger audience. The elements making the game 18+, are so minor for the overall plot of the game, and could be avoided without sacrificing any of the story or gameplay – opening the game up for a larger audience. Another thing that really struck me as odd is the nature of some of the minigames, which to me seemed like they were made for children, but are placed in an 18+ rated game.
How much madness?
The game consists of 5 chapters, which amounts to somewhere between 10 and 15 hours of gameplay. While that is a decent amount of playtime for an action adventure game, the quality does not justify the quantity, as the gameplay never evolves; 10 hours in, the challenges are fundamentally the same as the ones you face 2 hours into the game. The amazing graphics, storyline and the creative elements such as the weapons, was what kept me playing after the repetitive content became boring. Overall the game is moderately entertaining for its’ genre; once the glory of the graphics and weapons dies out, the only thing keeping a player interested is the gameplay and the story, and it’s just not compelling enough to make you play the game all the way through.