Alice: Madness Returns

A lithe and frayed, but still pretty, Alice. Down the hole she goes, again...
The vorpal blade, back for more service. Teapot valley.
The Mad Hatter's domain. Hysteria mode, rarely used.
I don't think there's a wrong answer. Side-scrolling shoot-em-up mini-game.
My least favorite mini-game. The Mysterious East, my favorite world.
Another pretty scene. One of many sliding sections.
Dueling with the Daimyo Wasp. Another break from the usual.
Great background music in Cardbridge. An obligatory screenshot of my second favorite character: Cheshire Cat.
Psychonauts reference? Another brain-teasing mini-game.
Giant Alice, a lot of good old foot stomping fun. Poor Alice, back in the asylum for more abuse.
The world of dolls. Lost and abused children.
Another wacky mini-game where you roll around as a head... Lost souls of children.
Fighting the hand of the final boss. The end...? Back to Wonderland again?

I finished this magnificent game yesterday. I have played the original American McGee’s Alice around a decade ago, and while I would not quite consider the original as a masterpiece, it certainly belonged just a rung below in greatness. This sequel, however, exceeded the first game, and my expectations.
I played Alice: Madness Returns on hard difficulty, and it took me about 16 hours and 34 minutes to complete, according to game data. I achieved 95 percent completion. I played this game in 1600×1200 resolution, although the game forced widescreen with black bars on the top and bottom. My average frames per second were between 20-30, but drops to single digits when there is smoke. The low FPS is not a fault of the game, but my aging computer hardware. It is a small price to play though, as this game is extremely gorgeous.
Madness Returns is a fantastically beautiful game, and the world is creative and unique, just like the original. Madness Returns is meticulously detailed, and there is rarely a dull scene to be found. There is always something interesting for the eyes. The twenty-six cherry picked images I have put up is the most I have ever uploaded in a blog post, but it belies the fact that I have taken over six hundred screenshots as I played this game. The characters have a unique style to them, and Alice is even prettier than before. Her hair actually has innumerable individual strands, and they flow naturally as she moves and jumps. I very much like the designs of her dresses, and the 2D artwork in cutscenes. Madness Returns‘ visuals deserves my highest praise.
The voice acting is top-notch as well. Cheshire Cat’s voice particularly stands out. The background music is always fitting to the realm, and there is nary a track I did not like. Most of them, aside from battle music, are ambient and smoothly melodic. My favorite tracks are the menu music, and music for Cardbridge.
It is obvious that there is intelligence behind the writing. Madness Returns is loaded with philosophical tidbits and advice, although sometimes the lines border on pretentiousness and condescension, particularly Cheshire Cat’s dialogue. But that is part of his nature. It is also easy to sympathize with Alice, and the tragedy written for her really saddens me.
There is also never a dull moment in gameplay. Every monster has their own quirks and weaknesses, and the game likes to mix and match monsters to create new battle challenges, so the fights are never the same. But I think the real difficulty lies in the platforming. With quite literally thousands of jumps to make, one’s bound to make a few mistakes…or a lot. Expect plenty of deaths from missed jumps. Fortunately the game is forgiving and does not punish deaths; it would be frustrating otherwise. I also like the fact that the game introduces a lot of mini-games as a break away from the usual platforming. From brain-teasers such as moving puzzles pieces to reconstruct a picture, to scrolling shoot-em-ups, I enjoyed them all. Except the guitar hero-like “push this button at this time” mini-game. Although there is half the amount of the weapons than there was in the original, every single weapon in Madness Returns serve crucial roles, and will see somewhat equal use. The same can’t be said for plethora of weapons in the first game.
The only flaws I have for Madness Returns is that, once again, checkpoint saves. I would like my save anytime that I grew up with, thank you very much. There are times where after a lengthy and difficult series of jumps, only to miss the very last one and have to do the whole thing again from checkpoint. Annoying. I also feel the game is too generous with teeth, which are used to upgrade Alice’s weapons. If a player even makes a faint effort at exploring the game, it is easily feasible to achieve maximum levels on all of Alice’s weapons. I would like to see the teeth offered cut at least in half, so some weapons may never be fully upgraded, if at all. This will put more importance on a player’s decision on which weapon she should invest in. Finally, this is not so much a flaw as a personal desire, but the game ends in somewhat of a question mark as to Alice’s life. I really like and care for Alice, and would like nothing more than to see a happy ending for her after all the cruelty she has suffered. Here’s to hoping for a third game that will finally give her everlasting peace. She desperately needs it.
A detailed and unique world soaked in pulchritude, melodic and atmospheric music, thoughtful and emotionally involving writing, self-refreshing gameplay, and a prettier Alice in even prettier dresses, these are my reasons why Alice: Madness Returns is now one of my favorite games of all time. Period. Full stop. Alice: Madness Returns is easily my game of the year, and I’m proud to have the game box on my shelf. Bravo Spicy Horse. *Clap clap*

Published in: on July 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm  Comments (3)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. i am obsessed with AMR it is most definetley unique and the characters are either cute like the mock turtle or creepy like the little doll made children i loved those kids it was extremely skin crawling! altough i do think they should have added a bit more levels because in my opinion the game ended to soon! altough because they didint this will leave more in store if they decide to make a third which with out a doubt! they should! i would be sooo happy! because no lie this game is like crack to me! i simply cant get enough!!

  2. […] borrowed from (x) since I have not yet gotten here […]

  3. […] looks! It’s a statue of me crying <3 Screencap borrowed from (x) since I have not yet gotten here […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: