Wonderland on ecstasy. Three words that sprung to mind when I had the chance to preview Alice: Madness Returns recently. Still driven to find the people responsible for the deaths of her parents, Alice is trapped inside her imagination, alone and imprisoned by her broken memories.
Forget the charming world presented by Mr. Disney, punctuated with moments of oddity. Set well after Lewis Carroll’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, this Wonderland, as a manifestation of Alice’s own imagination, beetroot-stained with insanity, is a twisted and corrupted one.
With such a large vault of conceptual riches on offer, Spicy Horse has done a great job of realising Alice’s imaginarium which translates into creepy looking levels and highly original weapons; my favourite being a LMG styled pepper grinder.
Level design is linear but helping Alice traverse from one side of the map to the other can be a tricky affair. Manoeuvring over ever-changing platforms using Alice’s jump/float combo is no problem and quite enjoyable when you shift the camera to drink in one of the twisted panoramas on offer.
The real stumbling block comes from a combat/control system that can make progression frustrating. The enemy AI doesn’t seem to be the issue, as you only need work out the simple sequence in order to defeat them, and Alice’s response to input is fast, direct and the combos you can create are numerous. It just seems as though they don’t all connect with the enemy, even when right up close.
Although our preview presented a standard if not repetitive run, jump, shoot, slash and ‘interact’ 3rd person platform model, it will be the final version that decides the true merrit of this game as some of the more interesting features like being able to change Alice’s size to reach restricted areas and using greater combinations of gun and weapon play should liven-up the gameplay.
What I will be looking out for in the final version:
- An engaging narrative
- A large variation of odd weapons with different uses
- Expansive levels with the ability to explore