PS3 Reviews: Alice: Madness Returns Review

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Alice: Madness Returns Review

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Graphics:

 

7.3

Gameplay:

 

7.0

Sound:

 

7.4

Control:

 

6.6

Replay Value:

 

7.0

Overall Rating:       7.1

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

EA

Developer:

Spicy Horse

Number Of Players:

1

Genre:

Action/Adventure

The dark, twisted world of Alice’s “Wonderland” is rife with possibilities. It’s the atmosphere that grabs us and remains a central focus throughout the game; the imagination and creativity involved is impressive and appreciated. Sadly, a mediocre camera, somewhat unreliable controls, and an ill-advised emphasis on heavy combat all conspire to confuse the presentation. It wants to be more than just a standard action/platformer; it wants to give us a unique, engaging story that plays off the excellent backdrop; it wants to bring us inside Alice’s struggling mind; it wants to immerse us in the frightful majesty. But it never quite reaches its goal.

Graphically, I expected the game to excel. But while the artistry and character modeling is actually quite good, the rest of the visual display seems inconsistent and muddy. On the one hand, there are plenty of highlights – especially in levels that are more open, letting you look out over a horizon of intimidation and horror – but on the other, there’s a definite lack of polish and overall achievement. The level design, while occasionally inspired, is a tad repetitive and even tiresome in some areas. The special effects aren’t bad but sharpness and clarity take a definite hit when up close and personal; I can only assume it’s better on a decent PC.

The sound is notch above, thanks mostly to a few strong voice performances and a solid soundtrack but once again, we hear it all too often. There just isn’t enough diversity in the technical elements, which leads to a pacing problem: because both the atmosphere and sound wear out their individual welcomes too soon, we find ourselves rushing to reach something new. Some of the music selections really are fitting and nicely implemented, though, and I’m a definite fan of those distinct English voices; the Cheshire Cat is great. He’s the one character I didn’t mind hearing too often. The game just feels strained from an audio and graphical standpoint.

As you might expect, you will spend your time in a dark, nightmarish version of the charming, colorful Wonderland from Lewis Carroll’s classic. Just about everything is twisted or mutated in some way, and the landscape often switches back and forth between lush – if decidedly bizarre – vegetation and industrial, steam punk-ish backgrounds. The only similarity between this landscape and Carroll’s original is that no creature is normal. Here, though, there are evil alter egos of some of your favorite characters; some might actually try to help, but most are just bonkers or even downright murderous in their intentions. It’s quite the setting.

But the observant gamer will notice something is amiss during the first few minutes of play in Wonderland. The controls feel a little awkward and loose and collision detection can be a definite issue. Furthermore, when you enter battle with your trusty knife, the situation gets even more precarious due to an unstable and often frustrating camera. Then you toss in a third-person shooting mechanic with the pepper grinder (yeah, it’s kinda hard to explain) and an erratic roll-dodge maneuver, and you’ve got a battle system that lacks fluidity and solidarity. The block isn’t too terrible, though, and pressing the block button at just the right time allows you to reflect projectiles. You block with an umbrella, by the way.

That latter point is an indication of the great imagination and creativity that is continually present in your adventure. You can shrink down in size at any time to explore hidden areas “through the keyhole,” spot secrets by stepping inside mysterious purple flowers, and increase your various combat abilities. Alice can also double-jump and glide, even if it’s often difficult to gauge the distance she’s capable of crossing. You’ll come across air vents you can float upon, moving platforms, switches, dangerous lava, and various enemies that will tax your combat skills to the maximum. And here’s where I grow confused.

In addition to iffy controls and an annoying camera, the enemies often get irksome. It’s not their fighting style or AI, really; it’s more about the focus. In my estimation, what should be a visceral and intriguing quest feels extremely repetitive and monotonous due to the obvious emphasis on combat and platforming. We lose track of the story (during particularly long and tedious sections, I completely forgot where I was going and why I was going there) and the pacing takes a serious hit. I expected more story-based scenes and themes, I expected more puzzles, and I expected more interaction with strange characters.

What I got was a game that felt more like Devil May Cry. I just don’t believe the focus of this game should be combat and action, especially when the controls simply aren’t up to snuff. The bottom line is that while the environments are extremely impressive from a creative standpoint, there isn’t anything all that special or entertaining about the combat and platforming, which just gets tiring. Oh, and I should mention that save points are way too far apart. Perhaps we’re all just a little spoiled these days, and I accept that, but I died in one spot after several tough battles and platforming sections, and I was sent a long ways back.

That’s problematic due to the number of times you might die for various reasons. Now, all this being said, I will say that this adventure is far from unplayable; in fact, due to its great length and captivating atmosphere, you’ll probably keep playing. Also, I should add an important note- the more I played, the more I got used to the flaws and eccentricities. You learn to either deal with them or avoid them altogether. It’s a good thing I kept playing, too, because I was seriously miffed during the first hour or two. I don’t like the focus on combat but it’s a deep system that is rewarding and functional, and I enjoyed many of the encounters.

Alice: Madness Returns has a lot going for it and if you stick with the journey, you’ll likely come to terms with the inherent instability. Spicy Horse obviously put a lot of work into the environments – even if they’re not as technically impressive as I would’ve hoped – the character design, music, and effects are quite good, and you do get this, “man, I really want to see what’s next” feeling when playing. It’s just too bad that the rest doesn’t gel; why such a focus on action when the control scheme can’t really handle that emphasis? Why not do a lot more with the atmosphere and storyline? Why does it take the story so long to get anywhere? These are questions I didn’t want to ask.

But you might get sucked into this wicked world. And that’s the good news: if this happens, you’ll probably be satisfied.

The Good: Voices and music are highlights. Great imagination and creativity. Cool character and enemy design. Secrets and collectibles enhance adventure. Lengthy campaign.

The Bad: Technical elements are a little underwhelming. Ill-advised action focus. Story too long in developing. Unreliable controls and a frustrating camera.

The Ugly: “The whole damn place is ugly but in a good way…and you could’ve done more with it.”

6/14/2011 Ben Dutka

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Comments (29 posts)

Zen_Zarab
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 @ 9:42:42 PM
Reply

I don't know what to say. My dad is loving the game atm. He just didn't expect so much jumping xD. He played the original Alice on P.C back in the day :P.

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Palpatations911
Tuesday, June 21, 2011 @ 12:26:35 AM

like your dad, i played the original on pc and loved it! I remember going back and forth between Alice and Clive Barkers: Undying.

Definitely going to play this, but i'll wait until it's 19.99 or so


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Kall555
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 @ 9:47:14 PM
Reply

That was a good read & solid score too. I love this wierd gothic type sh** so i'll give this a go. The art style is brilliant imo but i'm more concerned how the combat will flow.

Evil teacups, cogwork in the sky, checkered floors everywhere & blood soaked bo-peep lolita's = fascinated.



Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 6/15/2011 12:48:00 AM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 @ 9:50:04 PM
Reply

Got this in the mail today, A lot of the stuff Ben is talking about makes it sound pretty good to me aside from the camera issue and perhaps lengthy grinding. Still, for $30 I think a 7 is as high as I could have hoped for and I suspect I may like it more than some. I was afraid I'd come to this link and see a 5 so overall (as I usually trust this site for reviews) I'm pleased. Don't know if I'll have time for the game tonight though, cuz the Duke has also arrived :)

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bigrailer19
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 1:15:20 AM

Oh nice i read you had a mishap with amazon, and were worried u may not get duke today. At least it worked out. Did you finish infamous 2 already? Or just takin a break?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 2:36:31 AM

yeah it was my fault I forgot to give them the new card expiry date, but it all went through great. I did finish i2 today. One hell of an experience. Right now I'm into Duke, it should be interesting to see if Ben and I agree on this one.

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bigrailer19
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 10:20:22 AM

I'm only 50% through i2, and agree it's pretty epic. I'm addicted to it.
I'm waiting for my roomate to get Duke on Friday, so I'ma borrow it from him at some point.

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kevinater321
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 2:07:45 PM

Did you play I2 on hero or infamous? i finished it in hero and i got all the blast shards. Just need 2 more dead drops... by the way the ending was probably my favorite ending in any game so far. It was really emotional at the end.

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BikerSaint
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 @ 10:07:34 PM
Reply

Hey, I didn't know bald-headed Shinead O'Connor was in this game too, heehee.

I guess the craziness here would suit her own strange personality just fine too, LOL

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 @ 10:15:19 PM

we used to call her Skinhead O'connor

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DIsmael85
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 @ 11:10:45 PM
Reply

This has been the most fair review I have seen online, with a pleasant score attached. Pretty much what I was expecting. I am personally having a blast with this. Brings back fond memories of when I played the first back in 2000.

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Qubex
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 12:33:08 AM
Reply

Great read Ben, thanks... Probably a game that won't make it into my collection personally, but hey, everyone is different I guess...

"Unreliable controls and frustrating camera..."; have we not heard of this before many a time... when will developers learn to do this right and test out the mechanics thoroughly first before releasing titles... mind boggles!

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

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Neo_Aeon666
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 1:11:17 AM
Reply

I am on Duke Nukem at the moment lol. Damn this game is so funny. Yes there are quite a few low res textures but I love the gameplay and sick jokes. AND people you gotta hear him talk about master chief lol.

I will be getting Alice when it goes lower in price XD I played the old PC version and loved it so I am looking foward to it but my wallet isnt XD

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 2:37:42 AM

It's like being back in the 90s, feels weirdly good :)

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Beamboom
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 5:21:42 AM

Duke: 53.75% after ten reviews - is it seriously worth it?

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AugustoDeItalia
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 7:21:26 AM

@beamdoom have you played duke before ? if your answer is yes, DNF is really worth it imo, sure its not the best game but its so fun !!! if youre not sure, wait for a price drop

Last edited by AugustoDeItalia on 6/15/2011 7:21:52 AM

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Beamboom
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 7:26:22 AM

I played the original Duke but never got fascinated by it. To me it's just one of many shooters from that decade, so with a rating like that plus the *enormous* amount of shooters these days I'll easily pass this one.

But I am curious as to what the *fans* say. Not cause I want it myself, just out of sheer curiosity.
To draw a comparison, I'm a big Marvel fan and truly enjoy the Marvel games that is 70+, but even I have to admit that the Marvel games with a rating less than 60 just plain *suck*, regardless of fan level.

Alice however, I think I will get just cause of the artwork, once it hit the right price (ergo £15).

Last edited by Beamboom on 6/15/2011 7:34:53 AM

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Excelsior1
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 9:06:42 AM

duke is currently sitting on metacritic with a 57 score for the ps3. it's received a ton of bad review scores. so many in fact the pr team responsible for duke has said it's reviewing the process of who will get copies for review in the future. trying to engineer review scores is not a cool tactic.

i keep hearing it should get a pass becuase it's a duke game. i think it should be judged by today's standards. if the story sucks, and the the production values are weak it needs to be reflected in the review scores. it deserves no special treatment just becuase it's duke.

Last edited by Excelsior1 on 6/15/2011 9:07:52 AM

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Beamboom
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 9:17:44 AM

Hmmm - does "get a pass" mean "buy it"? If so I've completely misunderstood the "pass" word. :D

What I meant was "I'll easily *not* buy this one". Cause I fully agree with what you are saying Excel, any game should be judged by today's standards. And there really are enough shooters today as it is, both "serious" and "funny" ones.
However I've not yet seen as much enthusiasm for a 50+ rating release before as I have with Duke. I got a sneaking suspicion it may be because so many pre-ordered it (it was high on the play pre-order chart for a long long time) and one tend to defend their own purchases - maybe even especially the sucky ones :D.


Last edited by Beamboom on 6/15/2011 9:19:07 AM

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Excelsior1
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 10:03:43 AM

what i meant by pass was is it should get a passing grade or special treatement just becuase it's dnf. you know, it's the duke, and it's a miracle the game even exists so it gets an automatic pass with people, and they want make a purchase, or at least justify it.

i have strong feeling the enthusiasm for a barely over 50 rated game we are seeing is due to simple nostalgia. if people are getting enjoyment out of the game that's fine, but sitting from a far this looks like a game only the ultra hardcore duke fans would enjoy.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 10:21:15 AM

Guys, could we save this for when the DNF review is up?

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Beamboom
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 11:06:23 AM

Deal.

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Lawless SXE
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 2:16:32 AM
Reply

Second paragraph after the video in the parentheses, I believe that "forget" should be "forgot".

I was really looking forward to this game, and the imagination and twisted story really do appeal to me on a fundamental level. Were I not burdened with minor monetary woes at the moment, you could rest assured that I would be picking this one up very soon, regardless of the minor issues as I can generally overlook them. That being said, I intend to make it a low-price purchase either later in the year or early next year. Wonderland, the look and feel of this game and a 22 hour campaign for $40AUD. That's something I can settle with.
Peace.

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Beamboom
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 3:38:45 AM
Reply

Dang. I was really hoping for a new Bioshock there. Call me naive but I really did hope so. I almost considered preordering it (and I *never* preorder), that's how much hope I put into it.

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___________
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 8:19:53 AM
Reply

disappointed to see the really low scores it was getting, i was hoping it would be really good.
oh well got a while till i can get this, still got NFSHP, dirt 3, RFA and infamous 2 to finish off.
bloody game releases, we have nothing for months then bam 20 games within a month!
publishers need to learn how to space there games out better!
i mean look at the 23rd we got 5 games releasing, 5 games on one bloody day!

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SayWord
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 11:24:38 AM
Reply

I love this game! Never played the original; however, I feel really immersed into the game and I find the exploration and combat satisfying. My only complaint is it is somewhat hard to follow the story. I do get the story but maybe because I havnt played the first yet?

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PorkChopGamer
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 5:52:24 PM

Yes. You definitely NEED to play the first to understand what is going on. Stop playing the second and play the first.

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Claire C
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 @ 4:56:51 PM
Reply

I don't know much about this game but I'm strangely interested.

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Robochic
Saturday, June 18, 2011 @ 8:11:23 AM
Reply

Thanks Ben for the review I think I'll wait till the price goes down, I really don't think it's worth 60 CDN for me.

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