Thursday, June 30, 2011

Alice: Madness Returns Review

Score: 9/10
Length: 13-15 hours
Platform Reviewed: PS3

Alice in Wonderland is one of those Disney movies that nearly every person has seen either in adulthood or as a child. We have memories of the mysterious Cheshire Cat with his crazy smile, the crazy mad hatter obsessed with tea, the queen of hearts with her card soldier army, and many more memorable moments. Disney made the movie a very kid friendly place with a lighthearted atmosphere. The books the movies are based on aare much darker and more sinister. Over ten years ago, a video game called American McGee’s Alice was released on PC that took Alice’s story and made is darker and creepier like the novels.

Alice: Madness Returns is a sequel to the American McGee’s Alice. The story picks up nearly ten years after the events in the first game making Alice a girl in her late teens instead of a child. A giant train is plowing through Wonderland that is destroying everything and Alice must fight to stop it. On her journey, she comes across some familiar characters like the caterpillar, the Mad Hatter, and the Queen of Hearts. Each of them is a much darker twisted version of what you may be familiar with from the Disney Film. Most of the story is flat out bizarre, twisted, crazy, and not intended for children but very entertaining and will keep your attention.

Alice’s primary gameplay mechanics are platforming and fast paced ranged and melee combat. Alice has 4 primary weapons at her disposal that you will collect throughout the game. The Vorpal Blade will be your primary weapon on a majority of enemies as it does quick strikes. The Hobby Horse is like a giant hammer that does a slow but powerful attack that can knock down an opponent’s defenses. Alice also has two ranged weapons: the pepper grinder which acts like a machine gun and the teapot cannon that launches blasts that damage a large area at a distance. In addition to her weapons, Alice also has access to a mechanical rabbit that acts as a distraction for enemies that explodes when they attack it, a bomb to destroy walls, and something to hold a switch down.
Alice Fighting Card Soldier with Hobby Horse
All of the weapons are easily able to switch in and out in a heartbeat to allow the player to make use of multiple weapons on a single foe. This quick switching allows for quick combos like smashing with a hobby horse to remove a shield, then following up with a few quick Vorpal Blade slashes finishing the foe, then instantly firing on some ranged enemies in the air with your pepper grinder. Alice has the ability to dodge at any second even mid attack and mid jump allowing for very fast combat that requires precise timing. I personally found the combat to be extremely fun and one of the selling points of the game.

In between combat portions of the game, the player will use platforming mechanics to travel through Wonderland. Alice has several abilities to travel through the world including the ability to triple jump and glide. Many platforms are in the distance and will require proper timing of your glides and jumps in order to make the gap. The player can also shrink down at anytime to reveal helpful hidden messages and platforms and fit through small openings. The mechanical rabbit is often used to hold down switches or sliding platforms (the rabbit only lasts about 15 seconds), allowing Alice to quickly travel to the next location before it explodes. The platforming is fast paced, highly entertaining and feels fresh. Throughout the world are tons of collectables including bottles, memories, pig snouts, and challenge rooms (that extend your health).
Wonderland is very crazy place and the designers have done a great job to bring a dark, twisted, and beautiful land to life. Often times I found myself stopping for a moment to admire the absolutely stunning environments or gaze at the craziness around me. The environments are like a character on their own with each chapter being completely different in style from the next. Every time the player starts a new chapter they won’t know what to expect next which gives a sense of wonder and mystery.

On normal difficulty the average player should beat Alice in about 13-15 hours. I played the game on insane difficulty and it took closer to 20 because some parts are extremely hard but still very fun. The only problems I had with the game were a couple of glitches that were fixed by reloading a checkpoint and some parts of the story were hard to follow. Alice: Madness Returns was an extremely entertaining title that leaves lasting memories and I highly recommend this title to just about all types of gamers.

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