Alice: Madness Returns

Do you like scary movies? If you do, keep on coming, have we a doozy for you today.

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Title: Alice: Madness Returns
Genre: Action/ Adventure platformer
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3


Story:

Alice Liddel, of Wonderland, has had some problems since her family died in a house fire. This has broken her mind, and Wonderland as well, which has become a steampunk nightmare, awash with Lovecraftian horrors and monstrosities.  In order to fully regain her sanity, she must fight through the nightmare realm that was once a marvel, and reclaim her memories.  She will once and for all figure out how her family died, and why. Or she’ll go crazy trying.


Mechanics: 

One of the simpler mechanics as far as games go.  There are two types of ranged weapons, a teapot cannon and a pepper grinder. The melee weapons include a hobbyhorse to smash blocks and blockades, and a butcher knife they call “the vorpal blade.” Alice can upgrade these with teeth found throughout the game.

The majority of this game consists of puzzles, navigating a variety of hazards and platforms, all the while leaping, floating, and double-jumping.  Alice can become smaller with the touch of a button, turning on a sort of small vision.


Gameplay: 

Yikes, this was tough at times.  This required a level of strategy I haven’t had to use since the Batman Arkham games.  There is an assortment of creatures as adversaries along the way.  By the end, I was taking on half a dozen assailants or more at a time, all of which of various and sundry types, needing to be taken out in a variety of ways. It was a trying, but rewarding effort.


Music/Graphics:

The art design and graphics are beautiful.  Alice is wonderfully rendered, as are most of the sets.

The music was … forgettable, really.


Morals/Appropriateness:

Ye gods and little fishes, run! Just run!

This is a creepy little nightmare all around. Let’s ignore the fights, which can leave body parts all over the place (the blood is an oil-like substance, indicating that these abominations have no resemblance to humans).  There are the doll-like characters with bloody wounds and pieces hanging out that gave me the creeps.  Let’s not even talk about some of the inappropriate visuals.

Then again, this is late 1800s, Dickensian London, complete with references to prostitution. We won’t even GO into the four-letter words strewn around in the dialogue.

The real problem comes at the end of the game.  SPOILER FOR THE PLOT: the final revelation is that the house fire that killed Alice’s family was started by an arsonist, an arsonist that she witnessed coming out of her sister’s room before the house was set alight. Yes, they went into rape territory.


Community/Multiplayer:

None.


Addiction Danger:

There is no addiction danger here. Playing for too long makes it feel like work.  By the end, I just wanted the game to be over. I believe there were five levels, and it felt too long.


Problems/Ending Comments:

The game is solid, but too much work for the payoff.  By the end of the day, you were happy you got the complete story, even if the complete story was somewhat distasteful.  The content makes me not recommend it to anyone here.


ESRB Rating:  

M For MatureBlood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence


My Rating:

7/10.  A good game, but I wouldn’t give it to anyone but a gamer who really, really likes his platforming puzzles.

About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, nominated for Best Horror in the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, an attempt to take Dan Brown to the woodshed in his own medium -- soon to be republished by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and it's follow-up, "Codename: Winterborn." And "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set To Kill" are murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.
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