Alice: Madness Return

6.0 Overall Score

Written by on July 11, 2011 in

Things are not well in Wonderland, and Alice has barely changed from her last visit to Wonderland. Moving from Rutledge Asylum, Alice is now at an orphanage in Victorian London under the care of Dr. Bumby who is trying to help Alice by forgetting her memories. It’s been 10 years since the terrible fire ravaged the Liddell home killing her parents and sister, Lizzie. Now, Alice is having trouble with her memories and Wonderland, as a result, is fracturing along with Alice’s mind.

The story of Alice: Madness Returns winds back and forth between London and Wonderland as Alice tries to piece together her memories of the fire and try to save Wonderland from certain destruction from a massive locomotive called The Infernal Train, which looks like an immense, moving cathedral. As Alice, you’ll encounter familiar characters in not-so-familiar forms. You could say that The Mad Hatter is a little broken up about that. The story runs long, as the six chapters become a true test of patience as you wind though them using an assortment of weapons and abilities to battle enemies and avoid getting lost.

The weapons bestowed upon Alice are fun to play with. From the menacing Vorpal Blade that you’ll initially find, to the ground shaking Hobby Horse that makes for an impressive melee weapon. You’ll also get a pepper grinder, which acts as sort of a mini-Gatling gun.  There are a couple of other joyful little weapons that help you along the way, and an umbrella that you can use as a shield of sorts.

London appears as a drab and grey vision of reality, and unfortunately Wonderland is looking pretty disheveled as well, but not in that same drab way. In Wonderland, you’ll find a much more colorful and living environment that, at times, can make you stop and appreciate the imagination put into building the landscapes. Some are lush and colorful, and others are a sign of the ruination of Wonderland as the elements have their way. Hope is fading in Wonderland, and the environment is showing those effects of Alice losing her grip on reality.

In terms of classification, what kind of game is Alice: Madness Returns? Well, it’s a combination of a few genres. From the hack-and-slash combat style, with a little third-person shooter mixed in, to an endless array of platforming with a little survival horror mixed in. Some of the enemies, and the environments are the stuff of nightmares from a tormented childhood. If you have young children in the home, don’t play this when they’re around, it’s likely to disturb them a little. Porcelain dolls are creepy enough, this game takes that creepiness to another level.

The gameplay is, well, frustrating. The platform jumping just stacks on top of itself at an endless rate. The chapters are extensive, and jumping, fighting, jumping, fighting, finding a secret passage, and jumping wears a little thin very fast, plus there’s a lot of jumping. It’s a shame that the developers at Spicy Horse couldn’t find a way to build a more open world, or at least a better mechanic for platforming than this. The fighting works for the most part, you have a targeting system that you need in certain situations, but mostly I would just attack. Most of the enemies don’t need a ranged attack after you get the hobby horse, and upgrade it, and those that do, well that umbrella comes in handy. You can upgrade your four main weapons: Vorpal Blade, Hobby Horse, Pepper Grinder, and Tea Kettle. To upgrade these, you collect teeth through out the game, and everything gives you teeth. From the enemies and the various objects strewn about in the chapters.

The game puts a few challenging puzzles into the game. Nothing overwhelming as far as brain teasers, but the timed ones are razor close to needing to be perfect, or else you start all over again. Moving platforms that rise and lower based on the weight placed upon the opposite side, floor triggers that have to be kept pressed down while you dash to another place to trip another passageway is challenging at first, but becomes a weary, repetitive and sometimes maddening, if you’ll pardon the expression, process.

The story for the game is excellent, and keeps you pushing through to see what is uncovered next, and Alice obtains a couple of neat abilities, like shrinking to fit into small keyholes, and with that a sort of “third-eye” sense to detect hidden messages and passageways that come out when you’re shrunk. Different costumes are unlocked throughout the game that give you this ability to “see” all the time, or that reduce damage taken or increase damage given. The other ability that Alice has is called Hysteria, and this is activated either when you’re down to one rose on your life meter, or if you have one of the special costumes, this makes Alice impervious to taking damage (falling off a cliff still ends her life) and allows you to cause total destruction and mayhem without regard to the attacks of your enemies against you.

Overall, the game is equal parts entertaining and frustrating. The story works, there’s dark humor throughout the games, disturbing images burned into your mind’s eye, but the game mechanics are clunky and make the game difficult to endure at times. The graphic beauty of the game in Wonderland and the engaging story makes Alice: Madness Returns a game that just slips under great and if only it had some more polish time, could have been outstanding.

A copy of Alice: Madness Returns was provided to The Married Gamers for the purpose of evaluation and review.

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Author: Erik Johnsen View all posts by
A married gamer that spends time editing many of the articles you read right here at The Married Gamers. Erik sometimes reviews Xbox One games and writes articles, but spends his available free time from work or hanging out with his family hunting achievements for a higher gamerscore.

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