I have been playing a lot of unique games this year, with Portal 2 and L.A. Noire being the two big hitters for me. Sadly, I think I just hit the wall with unique games to play for a while. I say this since this next game is American McGee’s Alice: Madness Returns for the PC, PS3, and 360. I know this is a bit sudden for me to announce the game I am reviewing, but I have kind of had enough of playing unique games for now due to this game. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I love it for specific reasons, but I really hate it for technical and other specific reasons. I don’t like to scream and rave and rant about a game so early in the review, but that is how I feel about this game. Alice Madness Returns is a flawed, but interesting experience brought by American McGee to the gaming world. So, let’s dive into the madness of Alice: Madness Returns. Before I continue I just want to say this is my opinion and if you don’t like it, that is fine, just make your own review of it.
The story starts off with Alice, still a little crazy and living in a somewhat orphanage/asylum for kids who are not right in the head. While exploring the city, the world of Wonderland and the real world start to merge and Alice is back in Wonderland. The Cheshire cat tells Alice about an unknown train that is causing mass chaos and destruction all over Wonderland. It is up to Alice to find out why the fantasyland is corrupted and learn more about her past. The story has some interesting parts, but it can overall be pretty silly. While the game is trying to be dark and twisted, it comes off as silly, and well, Alice isn’t the most interesting lead character in a game.
The gameplay in Alice: Madness Returns plays a lot like Darksiders and the 3D Zelda titles where you backtrack through huge areas, solving puzzles and using a target-like system to take care of enemies. Alice has 4 weapons she finds throughout the game, not counting the DLC you can get for more outfits and some new weapons. The first weapon is the Vorpal Blade, which is for fast and quick combos. The second weapon is the Pepper Grinder, which is used like a gattling gun for quick and rapid shots. The Hobby Horse acts very much like the Barbarian Hammer from God of War 2 or the Ball and Chain from Twilight Princess, with it being your heavy hitting, but slow weapon. The final weapon is the Teapot Cannon, which is helpful in taking care of the harder enemies and wiping out waves of smaller enemies. You could go into battle with any weapon and take out the enemy just fine, but it’s easier to know what weapon to use against what enemy, which make battles go by faster and easier since each weapon is matched to a face button. If your health gets too low Alice can activate a super mode, where she can kill enemies, while being invincible, and regain some health. Alice also has the ability to shrink down in size to either dodge enemies or find hidden clues and see hidden platforms, which is necessary to get past some areas. There are also hidden rooms where you can complete challenges to gain health upgrades. Alice also has a helpful triple jump ability and the ability to glide to reach far away areas. The game is filled with side games, like a 2D shooter, puzzles, a side-scrolling level, and on one occasion, a Guitar Hero like mini-game. Some of these can be skipped since they can get pretty tedious from time to time.
The one area that Alice: Madness Returns does well is its presentation area. Every world is very creative and unique. so it doesn’t look like you’re going through the same area over and over again. The enemies are well-designed and creative, with enemies like crabs with a cannon in one arm smoking a cigar, samurai wasps, baby doll parts mixed with oil, and many other creatures that roam the lands of Wonderland. The music is also nice and creepy when it needs to be, but isn’t very memorable. The voice acting is also very good with secondary characters with memorable personalities and all the charm American McGee’s games have.
However, it is time to talk about what the heck is wrong with this title. The first thing I noticed is that the graphical look, while nice, can be pretty hit-and-miss, with some graphical flickering that I have seen throughout the real world section of the game. The second thing is that the platforming is sloppy. A lot of times you think you’re going to make your jump, but you don’t make it because Alice has no grab- the-ledge action. It’s annoying as heck, and this happens A LOT during the game. Even though the worlds themselves are creative, they all have the same dang puzzles. It’s always the same puzzle and there aren’t exclusive puzzles to each world. Battles also get repetitious since you fight the same corrupt enemies alongside the same world exclusive enemies. The nail in the coffin for me is that there are NO boss fights. I mean, yes, there is a boss fight, but only at the very end of the game. What was American McGee thinking?! The last game had more bosses, heck, even the first Devil May Cry had more bosses in it, and that game reused bosses! Alice Madness Returns turns into a boring time-wasting slugfest without a boss in each world. You could count those giant corrupt oil-like enemies as bosses, but that is just lazy. American McGee, you are a hack! I mean seriously, when I want to play an action game, I expect more from this game since it takes ideas from other games, but it’s just sloppy and isn’t fully polished. Alice also isn’t that interesting of a character. I never felt fully pulled into the story because of her. It just made me realize I was playing a terrible action game with only ONE FREAKING BOSS IN THE ENTIRE GAME!
Overall, I can’t say this is a bad game since it does have some simple, but somewhat fun-at-first combat, interesting characters, and amazing looking worlds, but it isn’t a very good game either. The whole game feels half-finished, and it really shows that this game wasn’t tested enough. The fighting and puzzles get boring and repetitious, Alice is a borefest, the presentation is hit-and-miss, and there is only ONE BOSS! I seriously am surprised Spicy Horse, the company who developed this game didn’t lose money to this waste-of-time game. If you really want to play a good new action game, play Darksiders and Bayonetta. Heck, you can pick up the God of War Collection for only half as much as Alice: Madness returns costs. This game is terrible and I can only recommend it as a weary rental since it isn’t a competently made game. It doesn’t deserve a 7 out of 10 that some reviewers are giving it. It is just a rough ride going down the rabbit hole this time.
This game deserves a 4 out of 10