Alice: Madness Returns
By EA and Spicy Horse
Genre: Third-person action/adventure
Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence
Back in 2000, a video game designer named American McGee released his take on a possible sequel to the classic Victorian-era books by Lewis Carroll, known as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There; about a little girl who has many surreal adventures and experiences many dangers within her own imagination. The story goes that soon after Alice returned home from her adventures, her black cat, Dinah, tipped over an oil lamp and started a fire that destroyed Alice’s stately home, and killed her parents and sister.
Having already an overactive imagination, poor Alice was driven into insanity by this tragic event, and was brought to Rutledge Asylum, there to stay for many years. Wonderland suffered as a result; the inhabitants became slaves under the oppressive thumb of the Queen of Hearts. Battling through many regions including the Fortress of Doors, the Vale of Tears, and many other lands that have seen oppression by the Queen, she finally realizes that the Queen is the embodiment of her survivor’s guilt, and defeats her in a final battle of epic proportions.
Well, it turns out that Dinah knocking over that lamp may not truly have been the cause of that horrible fire; Alice still feels guilt, and her sanity slipping away yet again as her stay at Rutledge was commuted to a halfway-house in the grimy streets of London. Now in her mid-twenties, Alice must again face the dangers of corrupted Wonderland and many strange and horrendous enemies.
The game play now seems to be laid out like modern Legend of Zelda or Darksiders; behind-the-back, locking on to enemies with the ability to make combos out of your attacks, collecting items to extend your life meter (sanity, again) and other conventions. But this derivation doesn’t hurt the game at all; its dark and disturbing atmosphere combined with familiar conventions make it a joy to play.
Numerous memories (one or two lines spoken by the main characters in Alice’s life) as well as several different kinds of bottles lie scattered through the game as your collectables. There are also numerous enemies you’ll encounter throughout the five chapters, all of which are chronicled in the Memories section of the main menu. And, if you bought the game new on the consoles, you’ll have a code to download your free copy of the original American McGee’s Alice! (If you have a used or rented copy, you’ll have to pay 800 Microsoft Points or $10.)
If you don’t mind being quite disturbed by your gameplay experiences, and you want to explore a gloomy, spooky world, but still be entertained in the process, you should definitely check out this game. The first game’s also a wonderful set-up for the sequel, so I will give both games five stars each.