Alice: Madness Returns Preview
Sometimes, it makes me cringe to see what various artists and designers have done to our precious “Alice in Wonderland” setting. But there’s always this darker part of me that revels in the twisted new environment, loaded with nightmarish versions of all our favorite Wonderland characters. Even Alice is a ruthless blade-wielding warrior, suffering from awful memories of her family’s death and her damaging abuse. …well, we need such a background to justify her outlook. From what we’ve seen of Alice: Madness Returns, the game looks absolutely incredible; the animations are smooth and the detail is downright amazing in some respects.
Furthermore, it’s important to realize that we won’t just be visiting Wonderland in this long-awaited sequel. We’ll also move through the other side of Victorian England, a part of the city that is rife with vice and dirt, where the hobos and prostitutes wander the streets and give humanity a shadowy, depressing tinge. Such an environment isn’t good for an unstable little girl, who had to go through some questionable therapy and now has insane hallucinations. Maybe the player will never know how many of Alice’s foes are actually real, and if that’s the case, we should always be on the edge of our seats. Uncertainty, especially when it comes to sanity, is powerful. And totally chilling...
That being said, I’m pretty sure her ability to disappear in a cloud of butterflies to avoid incoming attack isn’t normal. Then again, it only takes place in a land where nothing is normal so it’s still difficult to tell if it’s all in her head… At any rate, this is a third-person action/adventure title that boasts fairly standard combat elements; Alice will have various combos and skills at her disposal, and there will be plenty of diverse enemies to test her ability and resolve. The world appears to be deep, colorful and immersive, and one in which Alice can explore and even stumble across certain secrets. Even so, at its core, the game should be mostly linear as we follow the engaging storyline penned by R.J. Berg.
We’ll travel along, beating on freakish adversaries, doing some platforming, and even solving a few puzzles here and there. As is always the case with games in this genre, we have to concern ourselves with camera functionality and the responsiveness and accessibility of the control, but the gameplay sequences we’ve seen thus far have been quite promising. Fans of American McGee’s Alice have been waiting for a long time for a follow-up effort and even if you never played the first title, there’s a lot to like in Alice: Madness Returns. This could be one of the better releases in June, and definitely one of the more involving and immersive.
5/23/2011 Ben Dutka