Alice: Madness Returns – impressions

In a games industry seemingly crowded by first person warfare shooters and simplistic casual family games, it’s good to actually play something that isn’t interested in trying to appeal to the widest audience possible or re-create New York city or a war-torn battlefield.  This is happy just being a videogame.  A sequel to the widely publicised but rarely seen American McGee’s Alice, this time on all platforms rather than just the PC, has you controlling an adult Alice as she tumbles into Wonderland once again following her release from a mental asylum as featured in the previous game.  Fans of the stories by Lewis Carol will be immediately familiar with the dream-like fantasy world, but this is certainly no children’s fairy tale, with Alice portrayed as a much more violent and attitude driven girl happy to bludgeon her enemies to death with a Hobby Horse or slice them to shreds with a Kitchen Knife.

Developer Spicy Horse have crafted a lovingly dark tribute to the classic stories with each location (each with its own distinct theme) beautifully realised if not exactly graphically ground-breaking on a technical level.  This game harks back to the classic days of the 3D platformer, a genre I’m sad to say seems to be disappearing at a rapid rate.  It feels very nostalgic to play though, and has some great ideas, inspired by the stories such as shrinking to discover hidden paths and get into otherwise unexplorable areas, and along with a good variety to the monsters and some quality fight mechanics with imaginatively bonkers weapons, this so far is a joy to play.  I’ve barely been off it and only received the game yesterday.

I have also come across some interesting diversions from the standard platforming and fighting mechanics, such as a side scrolling shooter level, some interesting, if simplistic puzzle solving (which suits me), and challenge rooms where you are set upon by a wealth of monsters and if you survive you win a section of a rose – which I’d guess fills up an extra rose on you health metre.  Very Legend Of Zelda.  Granted, the ideas aren’t exactly new, so if you’re looking for something fresh or innovative, then by all means look elsewhere, but if you want quality tried and tested gameplay, a classic platforming hack ‘n’ slash adventure with no end of imagination and a gorgeous visual style … then I’d recommend this in a heart beat.

Apparently the game clocks in at a good twenty hours with five very big chapters.  It’s not terribly tough however, so play on HARD for a more satisfying experience.

Note: The game comes with a code to allow you to download the original American McGee’s Alice, which is a great free extra but the game hasn’t aged well, and compared to the new game, the fight mechanics and control system (converted from PC’s mouse & keyboard to the 360 (or PS3) pad)  is not particularly well implemented.

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