Review by Vladi
In favor of Halloween, I figured I should cover a game worthy of the occasion. Without further ado, we delve into Alice: Madness Returns!
Alice: Madness Returns (2011) was developed by Spicy Horse studios and released by Electronic Arts. This bad boy has been released for Xbox, PS3, and PC, so you can enjoy it on multiple platforms (because, yeah?). It’s a sequel to American McGee’s Alice (2010), a macabre spin on Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
Our main character, Alice Liddel, is suffering from severe trauma from her parents’ deaths. She has been institutionalized in a psych ward for orphans, under the watchful and very creepy eye of Dr. Angus Bumby. She begins to have hallucinations from her previous visit to Wonderland. With her life and sanity falling apart around her, she decides to delve back into Wonderland with the hope of salvaging her sanity. Liddel does she know (GETTIT?!) that Wonderland is also deteriorating, not unlike herself.
The gameplay is actually REALLY fun. It is an adventure game where you have to battle your way through foes of varying difficulty. The battle controls are not too unlike the Devil May Cry series, where you have quick dashes, evasive maneuvers, and multiple weapons with which you can bludgeon your enemies. You have the Vorpal Blade — Alice’s classic weapon (a quick and agile dagger used to slice ’em creepy fuckers), the Pepper Grinder — a culinary automatic machine gun, the Teapot Cannon — heavy artillery of scolding tea (alas, no crumpets), the Hobby Horse — a children’s toy to smash even the most resilient enemies into compact piles of death, and last but not least, the bunny rabbit time bombs; because fuck childhood!
I should also point out that unless you are playing this game on easy mode (may the shame of your ancestors run through you), the battles can be quite challenging. While some of the enemies can be quickly dispatched with the classic button mash, a lot of them have various defensive capabilities and maneuvers that will actually make you work for your kills. Also, there are mini bosses or pack leaders, which will make head-on combat quite impossible, requiring you to use various degrees of tact and thought in your mindless carnage. Both challenging and fun!
Also, for most gamers out there that reach their limit trying to combat through hordes of annoying little bastards, this game gives you reprieve. “How”, you ask? By allowing Alice to go full PMS mode, and no amount of chocolate or cuddles will save these sorry sods from certain death. We are given Hysteria Mode, something similar to Devil Trigger from Devil May Cry. Time slows down, we get inverted black and white colours, and Alice is shown in her true macabre glory: bathed in blood, an avatar of horror. Besides being outright fun and emotionally satisfying (something has to feed the ego, right?), Hysteria Mode is also very visually appealing. Really cool concept, 10/10!
And lastly, I wouldn’t have a clean conscience if I didn’t talk about the environments. They are absolutely GORGEOUS! You get a great variety in terms of theme/decor/colour/design. Truly, every new level is unique and entirely different from the last. There’s no monotony to be seen. The levels change, the enemies change, the weapons get upgraded, Alice’s wardrobe changes. The designs are absolutely brilliant. If you’re a fan of Tim Burton or macabre stuff in general, you should really appreciate some of this stuff. I’ll let some of the images talk for me, as I think it would be a crime to allow my petty wordsmithing to describe these kick-ass levels.
The storyline is disturbing and interesting. It definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat, and it does a good job at disguising the next chapters. It’s definitely one of the benefits of having a madness story, you never really know what to believe.
The gameplay is fun, the visuals are great, and the story is well thought out. Honestly, what else do you want? Oh, a bunny bomb you say? Here.