Alice: Madness Returns
Alice: Madness Returns is a mixture of a weapons based third-person action game and a more traditional platformer with a squeeze of exploration thrown in for good measure. The game starts off a little dreary with a number of animated talks with your psychologist and then it’s into the game proper, which starts out in a very dreary London as you find your way out of the boarding house and onto the streets of London, where you see and follow a white cat.
Lesson number one: never follow cute looking animals.
Pretty soon you’re tumbling back down to Wonderland, but this time something is wrong and Wonderland isn’t all that wonderful. In-fact it’s a pretty weird and scary place. It’s in the Wonderland parts that Alice really shines – it’s bright but disturbing in it’s art direction, and you’ll meet all kinds of nasty critters that you’ll have to deal with with a variety of weapons.
And this variety you’ll have to use to their full extent, switching between weapons depending on your current foe. Combat is one of the real pleasures in Alice, as it flows so smoothly, both the gameplay and the animation. Alice’s dodge ability coupled with her arsenal (that she quires along the way) make her a force to be reckoned with.
Alice’s agility make the platforming aspect both fun and a visual joy, with her jumping, double jumping and floating all done in a very ladylike manner that compliments the visual style perfectly. Alice can even shrink down to access other areas of the ever so linear game.
The story combined with the desire to find out what sent Alice into her mental state drives the game along well but it’s the invisible objects and restrictive world that prevents Alice for being a really great game. Want to go exploring past that fallen tree? You can’t. Not even with Alice’s lovely double jumping skills. Think you can fit through that gap, using Alice’s amazing shrinking ability? Think again. Though Alice: Madness Returns as times wants you to explore, and whilst it certainly invites you to want to explore more, it’s ham fisted approach to linear storytelling and game-play constrains the game and breaks some of the magic wonderfully created by the art and character animation.
The real strength of Alice is that it’s an imaginative game in a world where most games seem to have been relegated to cookie cutter copies of each other. It’s a refreshing change to play something as imaginative as Alice, it’s just a pity that it’s inconsistencies destroy any feelings of immersion and leave the game as more of a fun to pick up and play occasionally, rather than the gripping, I-must-finish-it-right-now game that it could have been.