And so eleven years after the original American McGee’s Alice, along comes this sequel or remake as you will called Alice: Madness Returns. This time, a great darkness has taken over Wonderland in the form of a menacing steam train and Alice goes on a journey inside her head to save it. I’m sure there’s some deeper metaphor in there somewhere but I just can’t put my finger on it right now.
What Alice does deliver is a tight 3D platformer which actually does away with most of the frustrations associated with the genre. There’s also a heady mix of combat which plays very similar to any of the recent 3D Zelda games. What’s good about the platforming sections is if you fall off, once Alice shatters into butterflies you’re put back on the platform before you fell instantly without a loading screen or a long track back in sight. It’s also easy to judge where you are in 3D space which means you’ll only be falling off if you make a mistake.
There are items to hit to reveal health and teeth to upgrade your weapons and plenty of moving platforms to negotiate, secrets to find and keyholes to run through once you’ve made yourself small by holding down the left bumper.
Combat sees you fighting creatures with a combination of your Vorpal Blade, a Pepper Grinder gun, a teapot and a clockwork rabbit bomb. You can also bash things over the head with your hobby horse. Combat also feels tight with different enemies needing different tactics and weapons used on them, and if you get low on health you can even click the left stick and go absolutely mental on them in a last ditch effort to stay alive. To mix things up slightly there’s also the odd puzzle or riddle to solve and some rather boring side-scrolling sections to pad things out a bit that seem to be all the rage at the moment.
Presentation’s a mixed affair though. Whilst Wonderland itself is full of weird and wonderful sights, there are issues with textures loading up in front of your eyes. The sections where you walk around London in the real world also look really bad. Maybe it’s a design choice but characters just look weird and really low resolution. What is a joy to watch though are the 2D cut-out cut-scenes that maybe should have been used more in-game apart from during a few of those side-scrolling levels as they’re absolutely gorgeous to watch.
Alice: Madness Returns isn’t a bad game by any means. The gameplay is solid enough but it just isn’t varied enough to keep my interest. The game’s rather long and repetitive with fetch quests that only seek to elongate the game even further. It does feel good to play though even if it outstays its welcome so it gets a very good 7 out of 10.
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