Synyster Graves

Alice: Madness Returns

by on Feb.07, 2012, under Xbox 360

Alice In Wonderland is probably one of my favourite Disney films of all time. It was dark yet colourful, and made precisely no sense whatsoever. Similarly I enjoyed Tim Burton’s version of the film, even with Johnny Depp looking particularly insane with his crazy orange hair. So what Alice fights a bloody great Jabberwock at the end, the whole back story of Alice In Wonderland is brilliant. Hence my decision to get this game.

Alice: The Madness Returns is a third person action/platform game and is the sequel to American McGee’s Alice, which was originally on the PC. You play the role of Alice Liddell, now a troubled and angsty teenager who is the only survivor of a tragic fire which killed her entire family. Suffering from bouts of amnesia and anxiety, Alice sub-consciously blames herself for the tragedy and is haunted by her percieved guilt over the demise of her family. She constantly finds herself drifting in and out of a delusional state which transports herself back to Wonderland, a magical kingdom she once frequented as a child, only to find it this time being torn apart from a rampaging train causing widespread ruin throughout the whole land. It is down to Alice alone to stop the ruin from destroying Wonderland.

Pick a card, any card. I kill you!

The game has interim periods where you run around the streets of Victorian London, essentially in the real world, looking for the answers which caused the death of your family. Inevitably you digress into another mental episode which is the start of each level. The graphical difference between the real world and Wonderland is to it’s credit, making it a very artistic endeavour; the real world of London essentially in a drab greyscale, compared to the vibrant colours of the Wonderland levels slowly being eaten up by the syrupy black of the rampaging ruin.

As platform games go I struggle, as I’ve never had the patience or the skill to adeptly leap from moving to platform to moving platform and this game was no exception. Slight criticism being that I can’t tell where I’m supposed to jump to half the time as the springy, randomly appearing mushrooms which launch you skywards like a member of Team Rocket only for you frantically spinning around in the air like Didier Drogba in a penalty box looking for a platform. The other annoyance of the layout is the insistence of having invisible walkways everywhere which are only viewable in the Shrinking Violet mode, which renders you defenceless as you cannot attack or jump while in this mode. Interesting concept, but in practice it’s more annoying than pragmatic.

Oink Oink... searching for snouts is a tedious slog

And then there’s the collectibles, or more like death by collectibles! There’s pig snouts which need peppering, along with bottles, memories from various aspects of Alice’s memory and the hidden challenge rooms dotted all about the place giving you a variety of goodies upon collecting them all, if that is actually possible! Granted it gives a challenge of scouring the landscape looking for pickups, but there’s just too many to go for, and this becomes very annoying for a completist gamer such as myself.

The combat in my opinion is overall very good and fluid, but is ruined by the overzealous “auto-targetting” system, which tends to lock onto the stupidest it finds, rather than the immediate threat in front of you. The coupled with the mercilessness of some of the one hit kill traps everywhere provides a challenge, but not one which will keep you inspired to keep trying, more like turn off the console, cool off, and then possibly have another crack at it when you’re feeling less homicidal is not necessarily a good thing. The range of weaponary is original and entertaining though which makes up for it more, with grenade launching teapots, shockwave causing hobby horses and a snickety-snacking Vorpal Blade provides a very cool arsenal for Alice. Alice can also costume change in the main menu, after initial completion these have their own perks, which is a nice touch.

In summation, Alice: Madness Returns was a fun filled and exciting action game with amazing backdrops and decent combat sequences, marred only slightly with the over-abundance of collectibles and painstaking jumps to avoid traps which is nearly impossible to make half the time. There is replayability too as the combinations of the outfits and the upgrading of weapons to equip you for the neverending quest to find all the collectibles continues as well as a version of the original American McGee’s Alice available to play. Overall a good game, but requires some patience to plug your way all the way through it multiple times.

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