“Alice: Madness Returns” is a sharp looking game from EA and Spicy Horse that combines a steady pace, interesting plot and easy to use weapon system in a solid, quality title.
This is the sequel to the critically acclaimed “American McGee’s Alice, a PC title released in 2000. Both installments take place in an alternative universe based around the classic Lewis Carroll story, “Alice in Wonderland.” Not that either game is intended for children. The creative take on the well-known story is a dark one, full of violence and brutal imagery that would give most young ones a night of terror. If you never thought the Mad Hatter capable of killing the March Hare, be ready for a change of heart.
But for adults looking to experience a third-person shooter/platform game similar in style to the phenomenal Tomb Raider or Devil May Cry franchises, “Alice: Madness Returns” will satisfy.
For starters, the quality of level design cannot be understated. The fact that almost everyone out there is at least somewhat familiar with the “Alice in Wonderland” story, characters and setting, provided developers a chance to mix the familiar with the unique, the beautiful with the terrifying. Thankfully, they seized upon this opportunity in crafting level after level that bring vivid visuals time and time again.
Equally interesting are the various types of enemies Alice encounters. Like any good game, the baddies come with varying levels of difficulty and require the player to deploy a variety of techniques in successfully dispatching them. The weapons used in achieving this end also deserve praise. Alice is left with a good mix of tools at her disposal that represent differing levels of effectiveness at different ranges and in different situations. The vorpal blade, for example, is perfect for eliminating a group of Insidious Ruin though it’s probably best to switch to the pepper grinder when battling an Eyepot.
The ability to seamlessly switch between yielding different weapons is also well done.
Another well crafted portion of the title can be found in Alice’s ability to change sizes. Sometimes required for level completion, the ability can also be deployed to explore secret areas and discover unlockables. While in a shrunken state, Alice is also able to see hints and other items not seen at full-size, such as invisible platforms that can be incredibly helpful navigating a difficult leaping section.
However, the sections that require timed leaps are frequent and repetitive. This is a drawback, but other aspects of the game, like the fantastic way familiar characters are presented and an even pace, more than make up for the problem.
This is a creative spin on a classic tale and a welcome addition to the third person shooter/platform gaming category beloved by many. No, this isn’t God of War and it probably won’t win any awards, but the title is ambitious and, despite a few minor problems, is a quality product well worth the time.