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Out of psychiatric care, our heroine Alice Liddell is now living a bleak life in Victorian London visiting her therapist Dr. Bumby to help her forget her traumatic past and the tragic loss of her family. However, Alice cannot leave her memories behind and we find ourselves being swept away into a corrupted Wonderland where an Infernal Train threatens to destroy Alice's world... and her mind.
A beautifully grotesque take on the classic fairytale, Alice: Madness Returns is a artistic masterpiece. With awe-inspiring worlds and gorgeous character design, this game is incredibly pretty to look at. The levels are very unique and each has their own distinctive theme (my personal favourite is the card castle in the sky). The voice acting is to be admired and praise goes out to Susie Brann who portrayed the troubled yet honourable Alice.
However, the same cannot be said for the level layout and combat. At first, jumping and gliding around onto platforms and pulling levers is fun but after 5 hours of doing it again and again, it can get very repetitive. The monsters that Alice has to fight are varied but the combat mechansims are frustratingly simple. Armed with an array of weapons such as the pepper-grinder (Wonderland equivalent of a gun) and the infamous Vorpal blade (goes Snicker-Snack!), are limited in their use and killing monsters eventually becomes a chore.
On the bright side, Madness Returns is a very swish game with little to no bugs. Personally, I had no issues with performance on the PS3 and it runs very smoothly. For those who have completed their adventure with Alice can play again+ which is a nifty feature that adds small items such as alternate versions of weapons and outfits. Also available is a cute DLC which extends Alice's choice of clothing to a Hatter dress and other inventive outfits, even a dress made of flesh!
To conclude, to those looking for fast-paced action and adventure, Alice: Madness Returns might not be your cup of tea. However, those seeking a compelling story, breathtaking visuals and a touch of madness will fall in love with this Wonderland.
Any game trying to enter the crowded first or third person shooter market needs to innovate to stand out from the crowd. Doing what the others do in a decent way is rarely good enough to bring in the reviews that drive sales. Just to clarify, first person shooters give you the perspective of looking at the game through the eyes of the protagonist. (Call of duty is perhaps the best known example of this genre.) Third person shooters give you the perspective of looking at the game over the should, or just behind the protagonist.
I personally feel that a first person shooter is already more immersive as it quite literally puts the player in the game. A third person shooter by comparison needs to be quite innovative to immerse the player. The Uncharted series of games succeeds as a third person shooter because of the quality of scripting and the immersive cut-scenes that are well acted and fluidly combine with the user controlled parts of the game to tell the story.
'Alice: Madness' returns is mainly a third person game and automatically then needs to do something a little special to create that immersive atmosphere. It tries, it really does and at times it works. There are times when you find yourself absorbed in the action and completely engrossed in the game but then there are other times when it just doesn't work. The unfortunate reason is that the developers have tried to innovate to make their game stand out from the crowd and yet it is this very innovation that breaks the atmosphere and provides a stuttering pace to the game. This isn't only a third person action game, at times in an effort to innovate, the developers have put in what can be most likened to platform sections of game play. This consistent switching between third person action and platform gaming is what stutters the game, taking away from the pace and at times completely killing the feeling of immersion that the player had developed.
Alice is a great character. This is a fresh take on gaming and enters the silliness of the worlds created in the Saints Row series. Weapons are bizarre and combination moves are ferociously fast and entertaining. The scenery in the game is incredible both in its quality and its inventiveness and it does look and play like a crazy, out of control world.
Another frustration in this game is the complexity of the maps. When you are trying to collect items finding passages that should be accessible but that through poor design won't let you past is just an irritating pause to the game play and again it is attention to detail such as this which detracts from what could otherwise be an award winning title.
Let me be clear, the game isn't poor and I reckon on there being thirty plus hours of fun and engaging game here. The problem is that in every market area it aims at it falls short of the best titles. If we consider it as a third person action game then it doesn't approach the gaming greatness of Uncharted. If we consider it a platform game then in this respect it just fails. Overall, it isn't that the game provides a satisfactory experience throughout but that it is wildly inconsistent with highs that equal the best of the games on the market and lows that then suddenly make you realise that in places this game has not had the attention to detail that it needed. A great idea is in there for innovating in this market but sadly it hasn't worked and therefore the game stands out for the wrong reasons.
Eleven years ago, American McGee's Alice was released on the PC. The game featured a much creepier, sinister and nightmarish version of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, with a distinct American McGee style. This year signalled the long-awaited sequel, Alice: Madness Returns.
Whilst the début game was great, it definitely suffered from a few flaws within the gameplay itself, but has Alice: Madness Returns managed to avoid this? Thankfully, on the whole, this is a worthy sequel that is much, much better than it's predecessor.
In Alice: Madness Returns, Alice, the games returning protagonist, has not managed to escape the demons and hallucinations that plagued her throughout the first game. This time around, Alice's own Wonderland creation inside of her mind has merged with her real Victorian London surroundings, thus creating an even darker and deeper caricature than we have seen before.
Soon after the games initial cut scene, it is clear to see that the game is a visual treat. Surroundings are packed with plenty of detail, and Alice's Wonderland gives off a surreal, twisted and damn right sinister vibe. Fans of the dark and macabre will love this. Not only does it show off American McGee's now recognised aesthetics, but it also, at least for me, presents itself as a darker version of Tim Burton. Think Tim Burton on acid perhaps. Players are thrust into a world full of gory creatures, great platforming moments, and some brilliant level design.
To fully understand the significance of Alice's mental struggles in this sequel, it is probably best to take a step back and mention the ending of American McGee's Alice. In Alice, this troubled dark child had apparently won her battle with her insanity. She has visited Wonderland and successfully fought the evil Red Queen. It appears that her insanity, which was provoked after a fire at her home killed her parents and sister, has been sedated. Or has it?
Race forward a few years and we find in Alice: Madness Returns that her recovery has not been a speedy one. Alice is still under psychiatric care, and her own memories of her families tragedy, combined with her visions of Wonderland, are in tatters. Whilst her psychiatrist pushes her to forget her troubled past, Alice has trouble doing just that, and soon enough, she finds herself once again duelling in her imagined world of Wonderland. However, Wonderland is not what it once was. The Wonderland she once remembered as a magical, wonderful place has been replaced by a ruined, terrifying and sinister world. Alice soon realises that Wonderland is in danger from the evil that lurks within. A product of her disturbed and fragile mind, Alice must save Wonderland in order to save herself, and vice versa. Rather than taking the quirky route of Lewis Carroll's classic novel, this Spicy Horse developed game has turned Wonderland into a world of nightmares, with plenty of psychological links.
Whilst the Wonderland segments of the game, which take up a vast proportion of the gameplay, are excellent, Alice's wanders through the grimy, soot-riddled streets of Victorian London is where the game thrives as well. Alice: Madness Returns manages to convey the seedier side of London, such as the brothels, as well as portraying a stark black and white, miserable, but somewhat darkly amusing depiction of London during the Industrial Revolution. Alice's London is full of filthy, craggy looking people, and is even less attractive than London depicted in Charles Dickens novels.
However, Wonderland itself is definitely Madness Returns' highlight. The game is divided up into chapters, which present a different theme in each one. For example, one area is set in the Mad Hatter's domain, a steampunk style factory where a clockwork style Mad Hatter resides alongside the a robotic March Hare and mechanical Dormouse. Another is an oriental style area, where Alice battles samurai wasps, and one of my personal favourites is the underwater level, where Alice uses her variety of weapons against drowned sailors, sharks and sinister fish. Alice: Madness Returns definitely thrives on it's visuals-from the excellent themed level design, to the Alice's matching clothing which changes from chapter to chapter.
Another great aspect of Madness Returns is the music. The score is full of creepy tinkling noises, and sounds atmospheric and creepy for the most parts. The tense thumping boss battle music also fits perfectly. Like American McGee's Alice though, occasionally some characters dialogue is drowned out by the overly loud music. I found this is particularly evident during the Cheshire Cat dialogue sections.
For the most part, the gameplay feels rather fluid, and is a vast improvement on the controls in the previous game. Alice initiates a graceful floating jump which floats her down to the next platform, which is fun to engage in. The combat is also much smoother this time around. Alice locks on to the chosen antagonist then selects one of her weapons-the Vorpal Blade, Hobbyhorse, Pepper Grinder or the Teapot to defeat them. Being a huge Zelda fan, a lot of the gameplay for myself reminded me of the Zelda series, from the lock-on combat, to one musical section in the underwater segment of the game. This section involved playing a tune by pressing the buttons on screen in the correct order. The way this was set out is clearly reminiscent of the Ocarina playing parts of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As well as the combat and floaty sections, Alice can also shrink down to a minute size to enter keyholes, where memories or treasures can be found. Come across a floating pig snout (I did mention this game was bizarre, didn't I?) and shoot them full of pepper in order to unlock new pathways which Alice can manoeuvre. The gameplay is a little challenging at times which helps to make things that bit more interesting, but occasionally mini-bosses are repeated which become incredibly easy to beat after a while (the large black ooze dripping creations being one of them). There are a few moments of "fetch" style quests which can get a tiny bit repetitive, but on the whole, it's a lot of fun.
Alice: Madness Returns platforming sections are broken up by the occasional puzzle, and different gameplay ideas, such as a side-scrolling underwater shooting section, and the paper-craft style oriental side-scrolling platforming. Whilst these sections are only brief, they help to keep the game refreshing, and break up the repetitiveness which sometimes is felt in parts of the gameplay.
Although Alice: Madness Returns is a great game, it is not perfect. The game suffers from a few frame-rate issues at times (most notably during the London sections), and sometimes the textures do not seem to flow as fluidly as perhaps they should. Sometimes the platforming gameplay can get a little frustrating (it can be hard to judge a jump at times, due to a badly placed camera angle). Levels can get a little repetitive at times, but on the whole, Madness Returns is a fun game to endure. The game is certainly a visual treat which is full of macabre imagery, and thrives on creative ideas. It also largely improves on it's predecessor in style, graphics and gameplay.
Alice: Madness Returns can be completed in around 9 or 10 hours, but thankfully the game comes with a code to download the original Alice, a port of the original PC version. This version has not been updated for a HD audience, and the gameplay may seem a little dated and flawed at times, but this sinister, creepy and eye-catching style is present once more. Oh, and it includes a few bonus achievements/trophies, if you're into that kind of thing. Sadly this game did get a little overlooked upon it's June 2011 release, so I urge you to check it out now.
-Also featured on 8-Bit Girl: http://8-bitgirl.blogspot.com/2011/12/alice-madness-returns-review.html
Also listed on Ciao under "MonsoonBaby88"
I bought Alice: Madness Returns when it was released, having already played and loved the original Alice from all those years ago. Whilst it may not be the perfect video game, it's certainly decent and offers good gameplay throughout
The game starts with Alice as an adult, still trying to remember her past, whilst a rather suspicious Dr Bumby attempts to make her forget. It's not long before you are plunged into the colourful and vibrant Wonderland. I must confess, I adored the level of detail in the levels - you could tell how much effort went into the project. Gameplay wasn't too shabby either, with a mix of platforming, puzzle and combat to liven things up now and again. I won't give away any of the plot, but you do meet with a variety of familliar faces but be warned - the concept of "friends become foes" that was present in the 1st game has reversed so "friends become friends?"
Graphics are relatively decent, however I was disappointing to find that the game wasn't in full HD. It is also made clear that the game is not trying to recreate reality (in the London bits of the game) as the characters are still distinctly computer-generated, unlike other games for the PS3.
The soundtrack was rather good as well, providing an unsettling ambience to each level - each song seemed to fit perfectly with the level, whether it be a gloomy and melancholic London or the Eastern themed audio of the caterpillar domain.
Would I recommend it? I probably would, especially to fans of the original game as this is a worthy sequel.
I rented this game for this review, and expected huge things.
I first heard about this game at the 2011 E3 Expo. From what I saw, I was expecting a brilliant and well crafted game, with beautiful artwork and that hint of Tim Burtonesque design. I was wrong.
When Alice: Madness Returns arrived, I was excited and put the game straight into my console. After avdubious loading time, i began the game. It all started well with brilliant Adobe After Effects style canimatic sequences as a voice over of Alice and her psychiatric doctor discuss her mental state. The colours are vibrant and stand out. When the game started proper, I was in a gothic and slightly German Expressionist version of Victorian London. That lasted all of about 2 minutes and I was thrust into the lavish and lush design of wonderland. If this review was just about how pretty this looks it would be an 8/10. Unfortunately for the creators, it is not.
In the first sequence in London I realised quickly that the controls were very limited. It seemed outdated and had no real turn-around animation for the character, so that one second you are facing forward and then if you tap back it instantly goes that direction. This I dismissed as just being stiff controls for the beginning section. Upon going to wonderland more controls did become available, but this added extra problems rather than fixing anything. The collision detection on objects is atrocious as well; on the firstr level in wonderland, I walked straight into a rock without any effort and got stuck behind scenery.
To top off this, fighting enemies is both cumbersome and technical; there is a good dodge command, but most of the time there are too many enemies to dodge from. Also, you have to manual aim at 'pig-snouts' in order to shoot them and unlock areas to progress to, which sounds ok until you are mid fight and unable to go anywhere to avoid your enemies.
Overall the game feels rushed. After demoing it to good reviews at E£, they wanted to get it on the shelves as soon as possible, and it feels as though there was no Quality Assurance testing to make sure that it played nicely.