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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Action / Platformer

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

Spicy Horse

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

June 14, 2011

 

 

- Gorgeous use of the Unreal Engine
- Sound design is well employed

 

 

- Occasionally unresponsive camera
- Gameplay is solid but not necessarily exciting
- Difficulty is uneven

 

 

Review: Alice: Madness Returns (360)

Review: Red Faction: Armageddon (PC)

Review: American McGee's Alice (PC)

 

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Alice: Madness Returns

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

alice madness returns          alice madness returns

 

When American McGee first gave us his demented and bloody Alice, the then-top notch Quake III engine gave gamers a very stylish but not super-amazing action platformer for a crowd more used to FPS fragfests. After several fits and starts, a sequel has finally appeared. Picking up a few years after the first game, we are once again invited to go down the rabbit hole into the dangerous and diseased realm of Wonderland, finding the beautiful and the grotesque while helping to put a young woman’s mental faculties back together again. It proves to be an interesting adventure.

Just as the first game took advantage of top notch graphics, so too does the sequel. Using the Unreal Engine 3, Madness Returns gives us an impressive world to wander through, from the squalor of late Victorian London to the near-psychedelic

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in Wonderland itself. Character models are richly detailed while at the same time being highly and harmoniously stylized. A tip of the hat to the art teams at Spicy Horse for keeping such a wonderful and artistic visual style uniform throughout what could very well have devolved into a mishmash. One has to wonder what Lewis Carroll would think if he

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could see it. There’s a very strong steampunk aesthetic in the game that really works well for the subject matter, and I like how the developers took pains to make sure that even Alice’s costumes were properly reflective of her environments. I found no texture cracking in the models, the animations were smooth, there is just no question that Spicy Horse got their money’s worth with this engine. I am curious to know if they used it for the 2D cinematics as well, as they seem to

Sound is nicely done throughout the game. The music is lovely and has a very strong period feel to it in the right places. The voice cast does a solid job of conveying the stifling propriety of Victorian England as well as the seductively convincing mutterings of Wonderland’s inhabitants. Sound effects are almost seamlessly used in the game, sounding so natural and appropriate to the levels that you’d probably think something was wrong if you didn’t hear them. Not merely an environmental touch, sound cues are important for defeating enemies and finding secret areas, a feature that many games tend to overlook in their sound design efforts.

 

alice madness returns          alice madness returns

 

When it comes to the gameplay in Madness Returns, there’s a solid platforming action game to be found, with lots of secret areas and hidden items to be picked up, but at the same time there’s not much in the way of advancing the genre. Your primary method of attack will be getting in with the Vorpal Blade and slicing up everything. When that proves less than ideal, you can use ranged weapons or bombs to help bring the various vile enemies of Wonderland. Some areas are going to be cake and some are going to be a bloody mess which will lead to your demise more than once.

 

There’s very little in the way of gradual progression in fights and the swings between the two extremes is very uneven. Moreover, exploration of areas can also be an exercise in frustration as you try to get to that one last little collectible and you end up getting killed for your pains.

 

The storyline is excellent, and finding all the little bits of memories helps enrich the experience, but there are times where trying to grab those collectibles tends to drive the player to the brink of madness. My only genuine complaint lays in the camera controls. At times, they felt highly unresponsive, never a good thing when you’re about to get mobbed by monsters.

All in all, Alice: Madness Returns delivers a good sequel. Not superlative, but not a cheap knockoff. If topsy-turvy architecture, steampunk menaces, and Victorian psychotherapy tickle your geek itch, this is a title well worth playing.

 

- Axel Cushing

(October 17, 2011)

 

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