Alice: The Madness Returns

By Sean McQuillan

Developer: Spicy Horse

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Designer: American McGee

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Genre: Action-Adventure, Platform

Modes: Single-Player


Rating:  2/5 Buggy but Beautiful


Madness Returns picks up shortly after where the first Alice game left off.  Alice is free of Rutledge Asylum and is seeing a hypno-therapist by the name of Dr. Angus Bumby.  Alice is still coming to terms with the death of her family in the fire that engulfed her childhood home.  As she finds her madness returning, wink wink, she reenters Wonderland to find it once again corrupted.  Alice must take up the Vorpal blade once again as she cut her way through the twisted horrors of her mind to confront the source of its corruption.  All the while Alice must make friends of past enemies, depose the new self-proclaimed rulers of Wonderland, and heed the advice of her constant companion, the Cheshire Cat, as she holds onto what memories she has left.

Many feel as though Madness Returns is more of a port of the original Alice to a modern graphics engine.  While it’s true that the aesthetic remains the same, only with layers of beautiful polish, the story is better than ever.  The beautiful and twisted imagery of Wonderland guarantee a degree of replay value, as does the New Game + mechanic that would allow you to replay the game with all the weapons and upgrades of the previous playthrough.  One delightfully subtle touch is Alice’s dresses, which change depending on what part of Wonderland she’s in.  From the dystopian clockwork realm of the Mad Hatter, to the charnel decrepit realm of the Red Queen, Alice is always dressed the part.

The controls on the PC version feel very much like they were designed for a console controller.  With platforming making up the majority of the gameplay, you may find yourself remapping keys or springing for a gamepad.  One Madness Returns biggest flaws is in its buggy mechanics.  With a new lock on system for ranged  combat a step up from the card throwing of the original, far too often it will glitch and now allow you to unlock if the enemy fell into a bottomless pit.  The melee combat has taken more than a few pointers from the God of War series, and for the most part I feel it benefits from it.  Once again, the controls will feel more natural with a gamepad controller than a keyboard.

The platforming sections are just as good as ever, but often make Wonderland seem both expansive and empty.  Often times buggy collision can cause Alice to miss a jump, or pass straight through the walkway she’s on.  More than once I got stuck on a tricky platforming section because the camera decided to swing around me mid jump.

The story explores the motley cast of characters that populate American McGee’s delightful interpretation of Wonderland, and shows how they’ve changed since Alice’s departure and the new corruption.  Far too often however, the final showdowns with many of these characters is handled in a cut-scene leaving me pondering if the boss fight was simply not available unless the game were set on a harder difficulty.  The most drab sections, understandably, are the section where Alice explores the real world.  The transitions back to Wonderland are satisfyingly uncanny, and always signified for me the return to the fun.

With passable platforming, bugs, and average combat it’s hard to recommend this game to a broad audience.  If you have played the first Alice, or simply want to explore a visually stunning decent into madness, then you’ll enjoy this game.

Coming out this week

Antipole PC (online) Saturnine Games June 27, 2011

Summer Six-Pack PC (online) Ovolo Corporation June 27, 2011

Flight Replicas Cub PC Flight1 June 28, 2011

Hearts of Iron III: For the Motherland PC (online) Paradox Interactive June 28, 2011

Herofy Web (online) ApGames June 28, 2011 Web (online) Newtracks June 28, 2011

Storm: Frontline Nation PC Viva Media June 28, 2011

The Asskickers Mac (online) AGO Games June 28, 2011

The Asskickers PC (online) AGO Games June 28, 2011

Ethereal – Medieval Skirmish Warfare PC Project Ethereal June 30, 2011

Revenge of the Titans PC Iceberg Interactive July 1, 2011

Revenge of the Titans Mac Iceberg Interactive July 1, 2011

New releases this week June 20th to the 26th

Mr Fante’s Games of Judgement Web (online) Rattle June 20, 2011

Operation Gamma 41 Web (online) Just A Game GmbH June 20, 2011

Paper Munchers Mac (online) Big Blue Bubble June 20, 2011

UberStrike HD Mac (online) Cmune June 20, 2011

The Tiny Bang Story PC Lace Mamba Global June 24, 2011

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising PC SouthPeak June 21, 2011

Matterhorn PC June 21, 2011

Super-Tilt Baseball 2 An (online) Eizon June 21, 2011

F.E.A.R 3 PC Warner Bros. June 24, 2011

The Tiny Bang Story Mac Lace Mamba Global June 24, 2011

Dungeon Siege III PC Square Enix June 21, 2011

Coming soon: for the week of June 13th -19th

Trainz Simulator Mac N3V Games June 15, 2011
Dawn of Fantasy PC 505 Games June 17, 2011
Post Apocalyptic Mayhem PC (online) Meridian4 June 14, 2011
Duke Nukem Forever PC 2K Games June 14, 2011
Critical Mass PC (online) Manic Game Studios June 14, 2011
Car Town Web (online) June 14, 2011
[R]Evolution Web (online) Mårten Jonsson June 13, 2011
Indomitus Web (online) Koram Game June 13, 2011
Doodle Grub Web Pixowl June 13, 2011
eDragons Web (online) LeKool June 13, 2011

Doc Brown Speaks Up at PAX

source IGN

While it’s not something you can play at PAX, Telltale Games is definitely talking about Back to the Future. The upcoming episodic series has officially been picked up for an entire “season,” which means five of the further (not necessarily future) adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown are in production. And in a move that is sure to cheer fans skeptical of a new Back to the Future game – because, to be sure, recent resurrections of 80s phenomena haven’t exactly panned out – Telltale Games is happy to announce that Christopher Lloyd is on-board to provide the pipes for Doc Brown’s signature “Great Scott!” Well, and the rest of his lines, too.

According to Telltale, one of the great challenges when scripting the Back to the Future games is dealing with the three separate timelines established by the movie trilogy. A lot of fun ideas have been scrapped because they would cause a paradox (the really bad kind) with the events in the films. Those that survive this process are further trimmed by one final check: it has to pass the test of “would this happen in the films?” Apparently, authenticity has caused a lot of sleepless nights among the Back to the Future team.

Doc and Marty ride again.

But while the first episode is not here at the floor, Telltale Games is showing off art that reveals the style used in the series. The characters are not cartoons, nor any they photo-real. Instead, Telltales Games’ Ryan Jones came up with a style that exists somewhere between these poles.

The debut episode of Back to the Future should be out by the end of 2010