Let me take you on a journey to a strange and wondrous land. The world that I speak of can only be in a certain child’s imagination, that child, of course, being Alice. The world? Wonderland. Not, however, the Wonderland that Disney has portrayed. I’m talking about the Wonderland that American McGee and Tim Burton have created. Unlike the Disney version, this one is full of madness, fire, terror, destruction and one little girl’s quest to regain her sanity.
This week, I’ll be covering American McGee’s Alice and Alice: Madness Returns in a double review. Why? Because the only way to do justice to these games is by putting them back to back in order to compare and contrast. I’ll try not to ramble and just get to the core of these two games. However, I will try to put you in my shoes as I went through the crazy ride these games put me through.
American McGee’s Alice
In a brief description of this game, we start off with a cut scene of Alice in her bed, seemingly laying victim to a brutal house fire. Her parents and sister, tragically, do not make it; leaving Alice an orphan. After this horrifying incident, Alice is committed to an asylum for the insane. Throughout the game, though, we are not focused much on “reality”. We are focused on the land Alice has created for herself, Wonderland. This isn’t the Wonderland Alice once knew. This Wonderland, once full of magic and, well, wonder, is now in ruins. It is now up to Alice to venture through this barren land to regain her sanity.
Graphics/Style: In 2000, American McGee’s Alice hit the shelves on a PC platform. I can’t complain too much about the graphics, considering it was 2000 and we’ve been spoiled ever since HD games have taken over the market. What I will say about the graphics is that it put a twist on the Wonderland we’re all used to and that Rogue Entertainment put a lot of work into the production and the details. It may not look great to most people, but you should give the developers the credit they deserve.
Gameplay: I had trouble getting through this game, to say the least. When I played this game, it wasn’t the original PC version. Instead, I played it on a console. What I found out was that the game was definitely made to be played on the PC. It’s in the third-person perspective, but you always follow a little purple dot on your screen, which would’ve been easier to do using a mouse rather than a controller. This visual made it harder to look around, take aim on certain enemies, and just made it all-around frustrating. As for the difficulty besides the platforming elements, the bosses created very little challenge and the puzzles, though limited, were fun but easy to get around.
Alice: Madness Returns
What really can I say? There’s not much of a difference between the stories, besides instead of Alice being in the asylum, she undergoes therapy to recall the memories of what happened in that fire. Once again, Wonderland is under siege, but for a different reason. Something different is terrorizing her dream world. It is now Alice’s duty to recollect her memories of the tragedy so Wonderland can once again be hers.
Graphics: It has been 11 years since the first Alice made its debut, and the sequel shows that the limits have been pushed. The graphics are smooth and portray a very dark and menacing view. Despite being grim and macabre, its fantastic. It’s beautiful, breathtaking, and smoothly detailed. There were times where there were graphical glitches (very little), but they were lost in the overall. From the start of being in gritty, prostitute and drunken sailor-filled London all the way through the multiple levels of Wonderland, the visuals had me hooked.
Gameplay: Instead of the style we witnessed in its predecessor, Madness Returns gives us a refreshing kind of combat. The game has a lock-on sequence that brings you back to Ocarina of Time and is full of quirky weapons such as the vorpal blade (a butcher knife) and the pepper grinder, which, for all intents and purposes, is a Gatling gun. Though simple, the platforming did keep my interest. The puzzles were new and fun, for the most part, with the exception of an annoying few. My main complaint with this game is the lack of bosses.
Between these two games, there’s no contest that Madness Returns is the winner. Even though the first one may have had more bosses and slightly more of a challenge, the second one’s overall playability was better. In the first one, I couldn’t get into a single room without needing to save. If I had forgotten to do so and fallen into a hole, I was started over from my last autosave, which could be back pretty far. I doubt there will be any DLC work with Madness Returns, so there isn’t much replay value. However, if you are looking for a fun adventure, I’d pick the game up.
American McGee’s Alice gets a 4.5 out of 10. Had I played this on PC in 2000, it might have gotten a higher score.
Alice: Madness Returns gets a 7.5 out of 10.