New for PlayStation 3, Alice: Madness Returns takes place 10 years after the events in America McGee’s Alice. After the death of her entire family in a house fire, Alice is confined to an insane asylum for 10 years. A psychiatrist there encourages Alice to return to Wonderland, which sets her off on her journey. Alice at first wanders through the streets of a gloomy London before following a white cat, which will lead her away from her miserable existence. Alice once again finds herself in Wonderland, and, as the Chesire Cat tells her, Wonderland has changed.
As Alice embarks on her journey through the ruins of Wonderland to find the source of her insanity she encounters danger upon danger. It seems as though everyone hates Alice. Everywhere she goes her life is in peril. The best thing about Alice: Madness Returns is the immersive fantasy land Alice gets to explore. There are tons of different locations for her to look at and travel through. Alice can shrink to find hidden clues and passages, she can float gracefully, and also jump on invisible platforms. All of this adds to fun and challenge of moving Alice from level to level. The imagery is creepy and at times a bit frightening — blood splatters and gruesome creatures constantly attempt to block Alice on her journey.
While Alice’s movements are actually very fluid, particularly when she is ducking or slashing with her Vorpal blade, the controls can be frustrating. The camera moves unexpectedly at times, ruining the view. Also the jump-floating takes some real practice, and until it’s mastered you can find yourself endlessly circling back time and time again.
Another downside of the game are the invisible walls. There are places where it seems like Alice should be able to explore, but she can’t. The game could have provided a little more freedom of movement here. Additionally, Alice doesn’t pick things up or examine that much of the cool-looking items that surrounds her. Beyond that, her battles from level to level are tactically similar, without much variety as you blast characters with a high-powered pepper grinder. But the change in scenery and adversary makes up for it pretty well.
Except for some frustrations with the controls and invisible walls, the game is relatively fun, even if not the most exciting in terms of action. I like the detailed graphics; all the different locations Alice goes through are superbly designed. The opening setting of old Victorian-age English streets, filled with paupers and tramps, is elegant and spooky.
Alice’s ultimate objective is to save Wonderland and in turn save herself. Casting Alice as such a tormented soul adds to the game’s overall feeling of unsettling doom. Wonderland is a part of Alice’s mind. Her psyche is full of hideous things such as killer dolls, spurting leeches, and cannibalistic queens. Ridding Alice of her torment provides the motivation to find the way to the end, making Alice: Madness Returns a very satisfying experience.
Alice: Madness Returns is rated M (Mature 17+) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence. This game can also be found on: PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.