Either as a child with a wild imagination or an adult with access to recreational drugs, I’m sure most of you have experienced Alice in Wonderland. The titular character is a young girl who is dragged into a strange world and meets a lot of crazy creatures. Quoting the story is also the world’s laziest shorthand for surrealism, but I digress. The story has been adapted so much that you’d think that nothing new could really be done with it. Well, after playing Alice: Madness Returns, I’ve dedicated my life to discovering the source of whatever the game developers had to be on to make this game.
Alice: Madness Returns is the sequel to American McGee’s Alice. Our hero has gone insane after she blames herself for causing a house fire that killed her family. The game takes place between Victorian London and a Wonderland that has gone to hell. It’s up to the player to guide Alice through this fever dream Wonderland. The player will uncover the truth behind both the strange world and Alice’s madness by collecting memories of her past and helping characters in need. Why? Apparently pills don’t do the trick.
The visuals of Alice: Madness Returns blew me away. I found each chapter presented a visually stunning, yet abstract world. Being an Alice in Wonderland fan, I was able to appreciate this crazy Wonderland look. There’s everything from a luscious forest to an underwater wasteland, from a card bridge in the sky to a torn down Queen of Hearts castle and even an insane dollhouse on this fantastic journey. Whatever your sick little mind can think of can’t possibly be compared to the sights in this game.
I found controlling Alice as easy as denying my own impending mental breakdown! Alice can double jump and glide majestically through the air. That has nothing to do with Wonderland, though. That’s just plain ol’ video game physics. Each jump is gracefully executed with butterflies surrounding her as she glides and twirls through the air. Plus there are many levers the gamer has to pull to reveal the direction to continue moving. I personally liked to call out, “Pull the lever Alice!” before Alice flipped the levers. This usually followed me yelling, “WRONG LEVERRRRRR!” after I fell to my death. To add to the fun, you can shrink Alice down to pea-size. This handy trick helped me avoid certain enemies, fit through keyholes to advance to another area and finding hidden platforms when there is no other way to advance.
When I wasn’t floating majestically or referencing The Emperor’s New Groove, I was fighting for my life. Alice fights with an arsenal of upgradable weapons you collect throughout the game. My favorite weapon is the first weapon you collect: the Vorpal Blade. The blade always has blood on it because Alice is more concerned with looking like a badass than being sanitary.
Thanks to a cold and a lot of nothing to do, I plowed through Alice: Madness Returns in a week. Each level was divided into many sublevels, where I had to solve puzzles and fight enemies. While these tasks are enjoyable at first, they soon become very repetitive and boring. All of the fights and levels had a similar feel and while each level appeared different, each had a similar combat format and adventure. The similarity made every level seem much longer than it actually was.
After the game’s introduction, the story became very difficult to follow. I was unclear of what was going on. It wasn’t until almost the end of the game I realized what the plot was. While recovering memories gives you insight into Alice’s past, all of the fighting and wandering around between cut scenes made it difficult for me to pay attention to the story. I eventually forgot why I was doing what I was doing and just did it, only to discover why I did when the level was over.
Despite the game’s repetition and difficult to follow storyline, I enjoyed playing Alice: Madness Returns. I was hooked once I found out Alice would go insane so I ultimately found the answers I was looking for. The game’s ending helped make it worthwhile. I recommend this game to true Alice in Wonderland fans and for anyone just looking for a freaky gaming experience. If you aren’t already salivating at the thought Alice in Wonderland on acid, go pick up a copy of Alice: Madness Returns, crank up your heavy metal playlist and let the madness begin!