Down The Rabbit Hole...Again
Posted 1 year ago By - Jay Acevedo
It took ten years to finally see a new Alice game hit the video game market. American McGee’s take on Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece, released in 2000 for PC, set a precedent in terms of stylish visuals as well as immersive presentation and elaborate gameplay. And while the gaming industry has changed considerably since 2000, gamers were more than eager to make the trip back to Alice’s twisted world. But was it worth the wait?
Taking place right after the events of the original game, Madness Returns sees Alice being released from Rutledge Asylum and moving to an orphanage somewhere in London. Not completely cured from her mental state and still haunted by memories of her parents’ death, the heroine finds herself returning to Wonderland - with the help of her psychiatrist Bumby - in order to piece together the clues and uncover the truth behind her parents’ unfortunate fate.
What makes Alice: Madness Returns a very special to experience is the bizarre and gritty set-up. Environments - as well as the various characters giving life to McGee’s world - are distinctively different and carry enough charm to easily pull you in, particularly if this isn’t your first American McGee experience. Those who played the original PC title will feel right at home. However, looking past the macabre styling, graphics aren’t the most consistent and are often plagued with pixelated elements and low quality textures. On the other hand, the game’s key locations such as Wonderland, Victorian London and the Cardbridge are stunning and vibrant. It certainly isn’t an ugly and dated game overall, but there’s a reason why Spicy Horse Games carefully designed a mystical atmosphere; the art of masking...at least they pulled it off. Sadly, while it remains competent for the most part, the audio work (i.e voice acting, music) doesn’t manage to increase the game’s tone as well as it could have. A game that relies on style to this extent requires an appropriately stylish audio track and in this case the mark was missed by a hair.
Much like its predecessor, Madness Returns mixes third person weapon-based combat with platforming elements. Controlling Alice across Wonderland, making her jump on platforms, pulling levers, solving puzzles...the platforming side is not going to surprise anyone. It has its unique quirks in set-up and is very imaginative at times (for instance, Alice can sometimes shrink herself to find hidden pathways) but nothing truly groundbreaking. Invisible walls do prevent the exploration from being fun and satisfying.
Tailored to be effective against specific targets and encouraging combo strategies, the weapon selection available to Alice isn’t only effective but also well designed artistically. Alice begins her adventure with the classic Vorpal Blade and a Pepper Grinder gatling gun but additional weapons - like a goo-spitting teapot, rabbit time-bombs and the cool Hobby Horse (a mace with a horse head!) will become available later on the 10-15 hour playthrough. Alice can change dresses, each having the power to improve her stats and item drop rate. In case you wonder, weapons can be upgraded by trading in “Teeth” which are often dropped when fighting enemies but also found while exploring ol’ Wonderland. Combat does become repetitive after a while (like in most games in the genre) and the locking system isn’t always cooperative. Fortunately, Alice’s movements in combat are fast, fluid and responsive enough to make the experience rather enjoyable. Oh, and wait until you unleash her black/white/blood red “Euphoria” mode. Mental!
Finally, allow me to point out that each new copy comes with a redeemable code to download the original Alice onto your console. If you buy the game used, the option to buy the game for 800 MSP ($10) in-game is available. A great way to experience an all-time classic if you’ve missed it the first time around.
Madness Returns’ presentation won’t please everybody and the average gamer might feel out of place with the unique horror-theme. Since there are very few games on the market like it presentation-wise, Alice’s newest adventure is worth checking out. Keep in mind that gameplay isn’t the most revolutionary or flawless but between Alice and let’s say Duke Nukem Forever, I would suggest gamers go with the Alice.
+ Solid controls, combat system
+ Possibility to download the original game
- Platforming elements aren’t that imaginative
- Weird mix of beautiful and ugly visuals
- Invisible walls
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Release Date : 2011/06/14
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Developer : Spicy Horse
Category : Action-Adventure
ESRB : M
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