The day American McGee fans have been waiting for arrived recently when Alice Madness Returns was finally released. Alice Madness Returns is the sequel to American McGee’s Alice which was released in late 2000. Madness Returns features a destroyed Wonderland which is a metaphor for the condition that Alice is in. Throughout your journey you will slowly piece together the puzzle that is Alice’s psyche and learn about the horrible events that made her the person she is today. In case you aren’t familiar with this title, it is an action platformer and a very good one. It was a refreshing change of pace from the titles that I normally play and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Wonderland.
Alice Madness Returns features the normal cast of characters. You have Alice herself, the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and more. Each character has an important role within their respective levels except for the Cheshire Cat who follows you throughout the whole game. Each chapter is representative of the inhabitant that you need to find. In the Queen of Hearts chapter, for example, you deal a lot with cards and some of the enemies are the “Card Guards” that you might recognize if you have seen the animated Alice film. It should be immediately noted however that this version of Alice is much more dark and much more in line with Grimm’s version as opposed to the Disney version. A terrible tragedy happened to Alice’s family when she was younger and she blames herself for what happened to them. As you progress through the game you will witness certain events that will give you a much better understanding as to what did and did not happen on that day. As you go through the different chapters you will find different memories to pick up. These memories are usually someone from her past either talking to her or about a situation and is explained in one or two sentences. They are really brief and you are going to need to collect them all if you want the complete picture.
With that said, there are quite a few collectibles to be found throughout Wonderland. The development team definitely wanted you to explore the environment a little bit and these collectibles are your reward for doing so. You’ll find different memories, different bottles with your name on them, Radula rooms where you have to pass a test and more. The collectibles that you find are broken down by chapter so if you have missed one you know the general area to look. I always appreciate it when developers go that extra step. It can be incredibly frustrating if you have found, for example, 25 out of 26 memories and you have no idea where to look for that final piece of the puzzle.
As I briefly alluded to above, Alice Madness Returns is an action platformer. What that essentially means is that you will be doing a whole lot of platforming in the game, however, it is broken up by a decent amount of combat and different chapters will bring different enemies for you to face. As you get farther in the game you will unlock all of the weapons that are available. You have your standard knife but then you will also get a pepper grinder, a tea pot, an umbrella and more. Each weapon obviously has its different purposes such as the tea pot shooting out cannon balls and the umbrella being used to reflect projectiles that your enemies send your way. It helps change up the pacing in the game so that you never really get too bored with anything. In addition to the standard platforming mechanic, you also have a few parts where the game visits other genres such as 2D side scrolling, some parts where you had to roll a “ball” through an obstacle course and more.
Alice is also capable of double (and sometimes triple) jumping to get where she needs to be and by holding down the button Alice can briefly float in the air. This will help you gain that extra distance you need to land at your destination. Utilizing this maneuver also exposed one of the very few complaints I have about this game. There are times where you can get lost because the camera won’t keep up with you. There were times when I had to land “blindly” because of this. Now, it should be pointed out that you can adjust the camera manually with the right analog stick, however, there were times when that was hard to do simply because I was concentrating on making sure Alice didn’t fall to her death as she was floating in the air. During combat you can lock on to enemies which definitely helps out if you are in a chaotic situation and being attacked from all sides. With that said though be sure that you lock on to the enemy you were aiming for and not something else or you could find yourself in a lot of trouble.
Alice Madness Returns is a really fun title. I didn’t know a whole lot about it going in and wasn’t sure if I would like it but it was a very refreshing title for me. I haven’t played many platformers recently and it was a lot of fun returning to that genre. There were definitely some parts that brought me back to Mario 64 and I mean that in the most positive way possible. Alice Madness Returns is also a surprisingly long game clocking in at around 15 hours so fans definitely get a lot for their money. Additionally, if you buy a new copy of Alice Madness returns you will get American McGee’s Alice for free. The only caveat to that is that you will need the Alice Madness Returns disc to play American McGee’s Alice. Overall I really enjoyed my time with the game and I look forward to playing through it again at some point utilizing the “New Game +” that unlocks after you beat the game. If you are a fan of the platforming genre then I urge you to give this game a try. As it turns out, following the rabbit down the rabbit hole is a whole lot of fun.