The follow-up the now classic American McGee's Alice is back for another nightmare induced trip to wonderland. Developed by Americans' Spicy Horse we'll see if Alice can be more than an one hit wonder.

It's been ten years since the original re-imagining of Alice was brought to life by visionary developer American McGee, and while its been a long time in development, Alice was never forgotten. I spent my far share of hours within the twisted walls of the original and like most gamers who remember it, they are eager to return to Alice's haunted Wonderland.

10 Years Later
American McGee's new studio, Spicy Horse efficaciously dressed up Alice for her return. Christened 'Alice Madness Returns,' we get to revisit Alice as she revisits her nightmarish past. Ironically enough the game is set 10 years ahead of the events in the last game, which closely mirrors the games release. Set in Victorian London, Alice's memories of her parents' death start to relapse, which induce her Wonderland-hallucinations. Under the watchful eye of a psychiatrist, Alice once again travels to the wonderland to uncover the truth behind her parents' disastrous parting. This leads Alice to deal once again with the struggle of evil in wonderland while coping with her own grasp on sanity.

Summer Vacation Plans?
The adventure begins in Rutledge's Insane Asylum and slowly builds until she gets whisked away to Wonderland. Similar to the precursor, Wonderland is rich with odd imagery with a macabre tilt. From filling pig snouts full of pepper to battling giant red-eye teapots, Wonderland is uniquely wonderful. Making the experience more than your average action platformer, Spicy Horse puts a great deal of effort into building this unique atmosphere filled with imagination.

Beyond the magical world of Wonderland, Alice mixes a good deal of exploration with its platforming and combat elements. 'Alice Madness Returns' follows up were the original left off with basically more of the same, spiced up for the new generation of consoles. Gamers looking for a little more might be disappointed, while others will simply be happy to float through the absurdness of Wonderland. For gameplay expect to do a lot platform jumping (well double jumping for that matter,) solving simple level-based puzzles, looking for hidden pathways and hacking and slashing through the bizarrely creative enemies. Not to fault McGee as he sticks to the games roots while embellishing on what made the original a hit.

And You Keep Me Moving Forward
The storytelling is the main motivation for traveling through Wonderland. Either rebuilding the Madhatter or plainly discovering all the hidden keyholes, Alice is rich with narrative. Sure it's a little “old school” in its delivery, but its charm quickly pushes all the standard objectives and ultra simple puzzles aside. Even within the combat you will likely be challenged (different difficulties exist.) Fans of action adventure/platform games will likely be delighted in the quirkiness to be found within the madness. However, you have to be a fan of macabre styled imagery and storytelling to be truly captivated.

Getting more into the combat, Alice is quickly armed with her classic Vorpal Blade, your standard melee weapon and a ranged weapon in the form of a Gatling gun-like Pepper Grinder (yes, it's exactly what you think.) This carries as you acquire more weapons like rabbit time-bombs, a trusty projectile repelling umbrella, a mace like broom-horse called the Hobby Horse and a Tea Pot that spews deadly goo. Most of the main weapons are upgradeable by spending teeth, which you find scattered around Wonderland. Along with empowering up your weapons, Alice's dress can be changed once they are unlocked. Lastly, when Alice is low in health she can power-up a Hysteria mode that goes into stylish black, white and blood red as she doses out double damage.

Infestations of Evil, You Bet
The enemies you face help spice things up due to the tactics needed to take down each infestation of evil. Once you progress past the introductory levels you get into the trickier enemies that require you to use different weapons or defences to defeat. From the basic dollface ooze, to the more bomb wielding invisible creatures, Alice is surprisingly diverse and fun to battle when multiple enemies swarm our heroine. The creature design continues to our main players, most of which are returning favourites from the original game. Even the Madhatter in his mechanical arched back and oil-spewing writing Octopus provide another reason to keep playing Alice. You just never know what you'll find, or what you'll have to do to progress the adventure.

Hey, What's This 2D Doing in My Alice?
Alice's little dose of diversity helps take away some of the repetition that is found in the pipe-jumping platforming. First I have to mention her ability to shrink on command, which allows Alice to become "this big" so she can fit smaller spots to find hidden collectibles. Shrinking also gives her the ability to see hidden paths and helper clues composed around the world. Secondly, a new oddly placed game components are placed within the game like a 2D Wonderland or a underwater 2D submarine shooter. However most of the “alternative” methods of the gameplay are just blah, they add a few moments of detraction. Clearly, Alice is rich with ideas, although not all of them connect.

Before the Madness Returned
For a nice bonus, the original code to download Alice is included in the package, which is great for those who haven't experienced the original or who want to again. The original game also has achievements/trophies that are attached to 'Madness Returns' that completes a nice little grouping of accomplishment to strive for. Sure most of them are collection, power-up, kill x number of enemies, but they all work to keep Alice running for a few more hours.

Alice Madness Returns biggest strength is its creative imagination. Rich in imagery and atmosphere, you quickly forget your playing a dumbed down hack n' slash platformer. Following the foundation laid by the original, American simply follows suit and that's fine. Although more innovation would have been welcomed, returning to Alice's nightmare stricken Wonderland doesn't disappoint. It's clear there are some issues that plague the game. However, Alice more than makes up for it with its clever writing and above mentioned imagination. Alice Madness Returns should please fans of the original while captivating some new gamers with its macabre storytelling.

  • Imagery is king, what a wonderfully mad Wonderland
  • In its all its macabre, Alice delivers a interesting tale
  • Lush character and environment design
  • One-of-a-king atmosphere with aiding soundtrack
  • Bonus code included for original Alice
  • Core mechanics are a little too old school
  • If you strip away all the paint, Alice would start to rust
  • Might be a little too odd for the average gamer
  • Dreaded camera angel monster returns!
Quote: "Alice Madness Returns should please fans of the original while captivating some new gamers with its macabre storytelling."
Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 06.18.11


Alice Madness Returns

Electronic Arts

Spicy Horse

Action Adventure

US Release
June 2011


PS3, X360

Players 1
HD 720-1080p
5.1 surround
D/L Content