As if Lewis Carroll’s books weren’t surreal enough, along came American McGee’s Alice in 2000 to reveal a darker, more menacing Wonderland. Its follow-up, Alice: Madness Returns, sees the air of doom get even murkier.
This time round, the grown-up Alice is in a grim Victorian orphanage receiving psychiatric help for the nightmares and memory loss following the death of her parents in a fire. So she swiftly returns to Wonderland in an attempt to access and heal those memories, only to find corruption is rife and her grip on sanity hanging by a thread.
Great visuals, old-style platforming
From the moment the creepily sinister Cheshire Cat arrives to act as Alice’s guide, you’re overwhelmed by the sheer creativity, colour and inventiveness of the art direction. There are five levels to explore, including a brilliantly vivid forest, an undersea land, the industrial revolution and early Japan. Several characters from the original Alice books emerge, as well as hosts of grotesque and mutated creatures who often attack her in waves.
The action is a mixture of traditional 3D platform game and third-person shooter, using a range of melee (Vorpal Blade, Hobby Horse) and ranged (Teapot Cannon, Pepper Grinder) weapons, as well as a defensive umbrella and a bunny bomb. A certain number of combos and upgrades are possible, and also thrown into the mix are some flip-switch type puzzlers, hidden paths (revealed by a shrunken Alice), as well as objects and a handful of simple mini-games.
A few glitches
While the game is visually enticing, both camera action and auto-targeting can be wayward, especially when Alice is assaulted by multiple enemies. Checkpoint re-spawning after death can place you frustratingly far from where you need to be. Yet with 12-15 hours gameplay ahead of you, there’s plenty to enjoy in this imaginative descent into insanity.
- Stunning visual creativity.
- Inefficient auto-targeting.
This second venture into a corrupt Wonderland is like visions of the caterpillar on acid - astonishing visual imagination allied to frequently challenging platforming and wave-style combat, spoilt only by the odd technical glitch in the gameplay.