Alice: Madness Returns is the sequel to the popular 2000 Windows and Mac game, American McGee's Alice. And this time, Alice is still haunted by her past memories and she tumbles into the rabbit hole and returns to Wonderland that needs to be saved. So is this game as good, or even better than its predecessor? Read on.
Back in 2000, American McGee's Alice was a cult classic game that re-invented a children's story. It sets Alice in a not-so-wonderful Wonderland, and gave players a twisted and warped perspective of an innocent child's tale. To carry the gritty plot forward, Alice was driven mentally insane by haunting memories of a fire that consumed her childhood home and family. This year, they return to continue her psychotic issues with Alice: Madness Returns. After 11 long years, Alice is still tormented by the same memories and plunges back into a Wonderland that needs to be saved once again. Whether or not that has anything to do with her mental state of mind, we'll leave that to you to experience yourself – Yes, we are holding back the spoilers. This second rendition successfully welds twisted imaginations, radical ideas and fluid combat together with a solid platform-styled experience. Sad to say, it isn't without some shortcomings.
The game stays rooted as a platformer so you'll be jumping off ledges, landing carefully moving platforms and bouncing off mushrooms. To help you traverse through trickier levels, Alice is able to do double-jumps, air glides, and mid-air dashes. To keep things fresh, environmental gimmicks like steam vents keep Alice afloat to reach up to specific areas. There are also hidden pig snouts that you'll have to shoot for secret areas if you wish to fully complete the game. Whenever you feel lost, Alice's shrunken form (which is toggled by hitting the left-ctrl button) helps her see hints and clues otherwise hidden in her normal form. These clues are purple in colour and I am going to assume that they were markings denoted by the eerie Cheshire Cat. Speaking of that cat, he appears occasionally to suggest subtle hints to help in your adventures in Wonderland.
Alice's acrobatic finesse doesn't just help her traverse Wonderland. You will have to apply these skills in combat as well. The ability to dash and jump helps her dodge enemy attacks and pull herself out of danger when she is being surrounded. The game seems to pace the amount of enemies thrown at you by beginning with a small handful of foes, and eventually throwing everything in the sink at you as you progress. You will be up against some of the weirdest concoctions of enemies that include spider-like teapots, slugs, three-headed goop things, humanoid ants and more.
Tools to dispatch your assailants come in a variety of weapons. Some examples are the Vorpal Blade (which is in reality a huge kitchen knife), a Pepper Grinder, and a "Rabbit Bomb". Each weapon is effective for specific monsters and you will find yourself switching them up on the fly. Thankfully, combat is fluid and once you have mastered the timing of dodging attacks, you will find yourself feeling like an expert combatant. This is, of course, much more sensational if you managed to strike down every enemy without taking any hits. Sadly, we also found the Focus mode to function like a double-edged sword during combat. While it allows you to target enemies, the camera would change angle and sometimes prevents you from seeing what's going on behind you. Enemies in Wonderland LOVE to sneak up from behind.