Alice gets violent again
Alice: Madness Returns is a sequel to American McGee's Alice, a game that offered a dystopian take on Lewis Carroll's fairytale of the same name. Released in 2000 on PC and Mac, Alice was well-received thanks to some elaborate design, atmospheric music and a setting that was both disturbing and interesting to explore at the same time. Due to its critical and commercial success, a sequel was rumoured to be in development shortly after the release of the first game, and it looks like we finally have it. But does the decade-old franchise have any takers in 2011? And does it successfully make the jump to next-gen?
Madness returns to Alice 10 years after the events of the first game. She is still struggling to recover from the mental scarring and emotional trauma of losing her family in a fire, spending the decade in a mental institution (or so we're told), and now, Alice sets out to overcome her nightmares and investigate the circumstances surrounding her family's death. Her mission transports her from gloomy London to the game's version of Wonderland, a ‘colourful' and interesting place that will feel familiar to those who have played the first game, and thanks to some slick graphics, it looks better now than ever before. Dark, bleak and filled with enemies that want to decapitate Alice, Wonderland hasn't been as dangerous before either, but thankfully, Alice returns with some serious firepower. Bombs, cleavers, gattling guns and the ‘tea pot' cannon are just some of the weapons that give the phrase ‘armed to the teeth' a whole new meaning. Each weapon can be upgraded several times by downing enemies (and collecting their teeth, interestingly) as well as collecting the contents of crates as well. The combat system works surprisingly well, save for a ‘lock-on' system that is determined to make your life hell, but despite a certain degree of monotony (the narrative is to blame for this), it can be fairly satisfying. The game also sports a ‘hysteria' mode that renders Alice impervious to damage for a short period while also turning the world black and white (and red, of course). But then again, Madness Returns isn't just about combat.
There are a fair number of environmental puzzles, platforming sections and several mini-games scattered throughout the game to add a bit of variety to the mix, and while there's some interesting stuff here for sure, there's nothing that will blow the player away. The differentiator for Alice: Madness Returns isn't its uniqueness or innovation, but its length. Now, that would seem like a bad thing if the gameplay was completely broken and visuals horrid — but that's not the case here. How often can you pick up a game outside of the RPG genre that gives you more than 15 hours of game time on your first play-through? But then again, this brings us back to the question of whether the game itself has a broad enough appeal in this day and age. Yes, there's a lot of game in Alice: Madness Returns, but it hasn't really kept up with the times. There aren't enough upgrades, the level-up system is watered down and there isn't really much of a reason to go back to playing the game a second time just for hidden items. The narrative isn't on par with a game of this type either, and the combat, while solid, does get repetitive. On the other hand, if you like performing triple-jumps, solving clever little puzzles and raining death on enemies using a meat cleaver for hours together, you're probably going to enjoy Alice: Madness Returns.
Alice: Madness Returns is available for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
Keywords: video games