by Kabir Kaler
Today I am going to tell you of a game that is the essence of insanity. Of course I am talking about Alice: Madness Returns.
The game is an action/adventure game with platforming aspects, along with 2D visuals and game play.
The story revolves around our favorite character from Wonderland, Alice, and how she must save her beloved Wonderland and her sanity from being obliterated. On her quest to do so you will meet many nostalgic characters such as the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat (who both look demented), not to mention new ones such as the Doctor. Your interactions with each of these characters give you a piece of the puzzle to help you recover your repressed memories you are so desperately trying to get back. The time you spend with each character varies: some like the Cheshire cat and the Doctor are throughout the game, while others last only a level.
The visual design of the game is stunning. Each level in Wonderland has a dark, twisted look that retains its unique flair due to the different colors and contrast. The forest is one example which represented the innocent Wonderland before tragedy struck, compared to the doll house which is one where “Oh Hell No!” is an understatement. The enemies, like Wonderland, are dark, twisted while still colourful. Their animations are clean and without any lags or glitches.
There are two types of cut scenes; one in game and the other artistically dark, in a children’s book style. Imagine looking at a children’s book, in which people can move around, then apply a dark overtone with gothic distinctiveness. The color aesthetic doesn’t change, but with the narrative and the animations you don’t particularly notice. The cut scenes that are used the most in the game are the children’s book and it represent Alice’s past and the tragedy that she is trying so hard to remember and her present where she is and what hardships have happened. The in game cut scenes represent Alice’s life outside Wonderland and represent her real life. The visuals do get unfocused and funny, which is noticeable but this is few and far apart; which doesn’t hamper the visuals in a major way.
You have weapons such as the vorpal blade (which is a curvier chef knife), which can be used by itself or in tandem with your other weapons. You have the capability to upgrade your weapons with teeth (and no, you can’t pull monster’s teeth to get money) both white and gold, which you find in crates or from defeated enemies. Due to only having a handful of weapons, the action portion of the game does get repetitive but thankfully due to the many types of enemies this helps relieve the repetition and adds a bit of a strategic element.
Each enemy has different strengths and weaknesses. An example is airborne enemy who is faster and more of an irritation and an armored enemy who hits hard and takes a lot to kill. You can kill the irritating monsters first and save the strongest for last or vice versa. Personally I do the first because if the airborne hits you no worries, but if the armored enemy hits you there is worry. For me it helps if all the distractions are gone so you can focus fighting the strong one. The one thing that this game is missing is the boss battles. There are mini bosses you fight on occasion but they are not as challenging or tough as having an actual boss fight. There is one boss that you fight but that scenario is one found at the end of a journey (and it will be one you remember).
The adventure aspect is a linear style which makes you go to point A to point B with hidden collectables, such as lost memories, bottles, and pig snouts which lead to a mix of items. While you are running you will hit an invisible wall that stops you but if you go back and forward it disappears. This happens a few times and doesn’t permanently stop or block you from exploring an area.
The camera is very flexible and helps you in a lot of situations. During the platforming, your camera stays where you put it and if it gets in an awkward position, you’ll be able to move it easily. You can also use the camera to get a chance to look at the scenery, (which I recommend at every chance because the scenery is awesome). You can lock on to an enemy and it goes to the closest threat with the ability to switch enemies easily. When locked on, you are unable to move the camera so if your camera gets in a bad position due to you backed in a corner or otherwise, you must let go of the lock and move to a new position and lock on again. You can fight an enemy regardless if you are locked on or not; it just helps focus which enemy you wish to fight first.
The puzzles are simplistic and few but you’ll face them throughout the game. These provide a small distraction and some of them even have a skip button if you so desire to use it. Some are in 2D and are short and sweet, having different designs and gameplay while others tend to drag on which makes them a little annoying.
The way the game is presented makes it feel like you are in Wonderland. The sounds of the monsters, the voice acting and the soundtrack (which is downright creepy), are well done and feel real and authentic. The vibe of a girl losing her sanity is shown throughout the game through the visuals and dialog. This game is rated M and uses this to its full potential. The dialog is very mature; involving the mention of drugs, sex and violence. The action has blood and is shown well, and many characters have gone insane and is known the minute you either hear or see them. This is a game that prides itself in its visuals and its one that should be.
Overall, I would say this is a good game; not the greatest, but at the same time definitely isn’t the worst. The visuals are high quality, even if they do go out of focus, the soundtrack and the dialog are sinister and good quality, and the gameplay is smooth but repetitive. The one thing about this game is that unless you like playing games on a harder difficulty or like to collect everything like trophies, this game doesn’t have a lot of replay value; although this game does come with a code for the prequel; American McGee’s Alice, which was on PC in 2000, now remastered; worth about 10 dollars. You get two games for the price of one albeit one that is old. This game is good for at least 8 hours depending on how you play. I give Alice: Madness Returns 7.5 nightmares out of 10.
Now with game reviews a lot of the time they reflect the writer’s preference of games and is purely one sided; saying I don’t like, I like it etc. While I do like this game, I am not saying go buy it immediately. I am saying just try it out; maybe rent it or borrow from a friend. This game was one I loved looking at, listening at and playing.