This is a review of the PC version of Alice: Madness Returns from Steam. I want to make that clear because the game was written for the Xbox console and it’s possibly better on that. The port to PC, however, is poor. The keyboard controls are practically impossible requiring too many keys to be pressed at once. The analogue controls were playable but not pleasantly so; combat made my hands hurt and in my opinion that is a big negative, plus vibrate seemed to occur randomly often when nothing was happening at all!
Alice: Madness Returns also suffers badly with bugs. I frequently encountered actions getting ‘stuck’ so that, for example, Alice would keep running in one direction, usually when the game reloaded. Since it is a platform-type game this translated into Alice repeatedly committing suicide by running off the edge of a platform. A:MR has a selection of weapons with different types of monsters requiring one type or another in order to defeat it. This is fine, except when it doesn’t work; then you’re dead, not to mention frustrated. There is also the ‘invincible enemies’ bug where, no matter how many times you hit them, an enemy will not take damage. Since A:MR works but forcing you to kill all enemies in the area before it will open a gate to the next section this means you could have fought your way though a horde of enemies only to be unable to progress because a one-hit-kill creature won’t £$%& die.
On the other hand the plot is good and the graphics are spectacular. You alternate between grey, Victorian London and the fantastic, colourful world of Wonderland as Alice battles her damaged psyche to unlock the truth. Alice’s family died in a house fire; somehow Alice escaped, but she can remember nothing from that night. In the ‘real world’ Alice visits various characters to question them about what happened, while in her own mind – a dark and twisted Wonderland – she attempts to unlock her own memories, but her psychiatrist warns that some things are best left forgotten…
The graphics are really luscious with different environments for each chapter. If nothing else it is a good game for screenshots! Alice also has different outfits and they’ve worked some magic on her hair seemingly animating individual strands. Alice has the ability to shrink which allows her to walk through small passages but also gives her ‘shrink vision’ revealing hidden things such as invisible bridges and tips. Shrinking inside a flower will also restore her health. She also enters a Rage state if her health is low.
Alice: Madness Returns is quite a long game with a steep learning curve at the beginning yet little challenge later on. The environments are pretty but essentially Alice faces the same challenges in each of them: fighting different combinations of a handful of monsters, jumping across platforms and sliding down slides. This becomes a bit monotonous. Occasionally they break this pattern making for some more enjoyable and engaging sections, such as when you have to stay in the light or lose health, or when Alice becomes giant and gets to stomp everything. Another way they try to break up the monotony is with mini games but I found these annoying and patronizing: they seemed aimed at children when A:MR is a very adult game.
Collecting memories should, in theory, be integral to completing the game, however you could play the whole thing without recovering a singe one and it wouldn’t make a jot of difference. It’s things like this that make the journey less immerse than it should be and as if you are just going through the motions. The plot tackles issues such as abuse and mental health, but the twist ending could potentially send mixed messages.
Alice: Madness Returns is a sequel to the classic American Mcgee’s Alice. In a nutshell: the original wins hands down. Even with more primitive graphics AMA still impresses with the strength and originality of it’s design. A:MR is it’s awkward stepsister trying too hard to impress and falling flat on it’s face.
To quote Douglas Adam’s: “Looks like a fish, moves like a fish, steers like a cow.”