Alice: Madness Returns is the sequel to 2000's American McGee's Alice, a third person action game released for Windows that added an extra dash of strange to the surreal world created by Lewis Carroll in his classic books. Alice: Madness Returns is available for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows. This review is based on a 50% playthrough of the Xbox 360 version.
Set shortly after the events of the first game, Alice is living in an orphanage where she is being treated for her hallucinations of Wonderland. While going out for medication, she follows a white cat that eventually leads her back to a Wonderland that is not the same one she had left before. The game alternates between the real world of late 1800's London and the Wonderland in Alice's mind.
A one-time download code for American McGee's Alice is included. Owners of used copies can purchase it for $9.99 (sound familiar?) via an in-game menu but the Alice Returns disc will be required to play it. As we do not keep review copies here at Original Gamer, I did not redeem it and cannot provide any insight into the re-release.
Story - Alice's troubles stem from a house fire in which her family perished. She was the sole survivor of the incident, and has not been able to remember the events of that fateful night. As you progress through the game, you come to learn what actually happened in cutscenes. Memories of her past are literally scattered throughout the levels, with each one uncovering just a little more about Alice and what she has been through. Both of those elements kept me playing so I could find out what happens next.
Anyone Can Play - Madness Returns has several features that keep it from getting too frustrating. Alice can triple-jump and hover, which makes the platforming just a little bit easier. There are infinite lives, projectile weapons have a lock-on that automatically switches to the next enemy after one is defeated, and there is a slight delay before enemies attack, giving the player a chance to dodge. Finally, the game can be saved at any time.
Mixed Bag of Tricks - In addition to the third-person platforming and fighting, you will also encounter a shump level, some 2D platforming sections and battle arenas scattered throughout.
MAD AS A HATTER
Hopping Mad - Despite the features mentioned above, Alice does have some frustrating platforming bits and tough battles, so it isn't entirely newbie-friendly. Having infinite lives helped, but there were moments where I had to stop playing for fear of losing my own sanity.
Camera Tends To Be Late - As in most third-person games, the camera can get just a hair behind the action at times, and while it can be controlled with the R stick, I found myself fighting it at times.
Alice: Madness Returns is one of those games where the presentation and story help the game overcome its technical issues, at least for me. I was willing to overlook the game's minor problems because the story kept me interested enough to play through to find out what was going to happen next. While noticeable, the fighting and camera issues I mentioned weren't bad enough to detract from the overall experience. Alice: Madness Returns isn't a perfect game, but like Alice herself, once drawn into Wonderland you may find yourself staying there for awhile, all the time being fascinated by its beauty and its hideousness. That said; if the concept doesn't excite you, then you may want to stay out of this rabbit hole.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*