Game · Review

Alice is mad, didn’t you know ?

It took me more time to write this then to complete the game … It’s a bit long so you can jump over all the text and read only the bullet point part at the end. And of course, if you haven’t finished the game/plan to do so in the future, there are some spoilers around here.

How many times must I tell you? I only take tea with friends! 

It took me a week but I finished American Mcgee’s Alice on Saturday a month ago. It was not as difficult as I thought it would be (maybe because I set it on medium difficulty) but it was certainly not a breeze to go through all the levels.   Since I enjoyed it so much, I thought I’d write a bit about it.

Story

I particularly enjoyed the premises of the game: Alice is the sole survivor of a terrible fire that claimed her family. Overwhelmed by guilt and despair, it’s in an asylum (for wayward girls?) that she finally answered the call of the white rabbit and falls back into Wonderland.  However, things have changed down there…

The very idea of Alice being completely insane and her inner world is now corrupted is relatively interesting and the way this is implemented into the game is extremely efficient in building a strange and eerie atmosphere.

From the little details on Alice’s clothes (the skull on her bow) to the complexity of all the characters’ design ( the Cheshire Cat is a great example) the game is a piece of art!

Mew? 

It’s like what we (I?) were (was) expecting from Tim Burton’s movie but never really got (and since this was released way before

Gameplay

I was surprised when I started the game to find quite a lot of similarities with the Tomb Raider series so I changed most of the by default controls to mimic the ones I was used to while playing Tomb Raider. Consequently, I spend most of the first levels trying to kill the walls because I always forget there was no “action” key. 
The game got some glitches (especially when you jump on corners) but nothing too bad that it gets in the way. I had to adjust to the trackpad/keyboard’s actions (mainly to shoot flying targets) and I died a lot just because I was not quick enough…

The quicksave key was a life saver…but I was almost half-way through the entire thing when I finally understood how it worked. I was confused by the fact that the quicksave does not go into the saving slots. Everything was way easier when I figured that out (still it really slowed me down in the first boss fight and the underwater level).

Music

I really really liked the music of the game as it helps creating very different atmosphere in each of the levels. In an interview, Chris Vrenna talks about creating an “other-worldly and creepy” soundtrack to fit with the nightmare fueled themes of the game. And I think it’s a good definition of the final product: haunting choir, music boxes sounds, cogs and ticking noises… each piece brings forward the theme of the level.

My favorite tracks:

Village of the Doomed: Plays during the first level if I remember correctly and comes later on during the “marble-run” part.

Wonderland Woods: Pretty sure it plays during the first level in the woods. Since it took me a long time to go through that, I listened to it quite a bit.

Pandemonium: Not really remembers when it plays but it’s quite pleasant.

Levels

First few: Took me a while to get use to everything (I repeatedly jumped into the abyss because I did not realized the doors would open if I just walk toward it for example). Really like the cards weapon. Really disliked the Boojums. Everything was really linear; I remember being completely stuck just because I did not open the doors on the floor levels before moving up. First meeting with the creepy children…

Woodland levels: Probably the part that I disliked the most because it was really hard! The ants were really tough, the mechanical ladybugs particularly annoying and the water levels were a real pain (stupid Mock Turtle could just WAIT for me!) especially without the quick save button.

Chessboard Levels: Liked the atmosphere and designs of these. Sadly, it was fairly short but I enjoyed being a chess piece for a while.

Mad Hatter’s Quarters: Really liked the design of these levels, especially the one before meeting with the Tweedles. It was really hard (stupid spiders!) and inventive (breaking the clock to move on… how long did it take me to realize that ?). The music, wall’s distorted images and the insane children created a peculiar and rather scary atmosphere.In addition, the two bosses’ battles were fairly challenging. The first encounter with the Jabberwock was a bit challenging.

The Maze: That was hard! I kept dying and had to try a lot of different strategies to get to the end of the first level. I had trouble with the last underwater level but thanks to the quick save button, I did not struggle too much.

Jabberwock and Red Queen:  I was surprised that, even though the second encounter with the Jabberwock was considerably more difficult than the Mad Hatter’s Fight, it did not take me as much time to finish it. It does not mean that it was easy! I thought making the Jabberwock fall on the ground will prove to be easier to get rid of it but it got definitely more challenging one he started charging after the poor Alice.

I enjoyed the last puzzle before meeting the red queen because despite being a bit straightforward once you found the right location, it was really different from most of the other puzzles of the game.

First fight with the Queen was a bit hard until I figured out how to evade her summoning attacks. Second fight was extremely easy in comparison (I died more when I missed a plat-form a fell than when the Queen shot at Alice).

Weapons

Particularly liked the Jacks, the Ice Wand and the Jack Bombs (beside the wand, long distance weapons… I’m quite bad at close contact fight, can you tell?). I also liked the idea that the weapons were almost all corrupted toys.

Ennemies

In general, I found flying things to be particularly annoying and difficult to get rid off. In the first few levels, the Boojums were extremely hard to kill and kept defeating me. In the woodland part, the Mechanical Ladybugs were similarly annoying!

I also really disliked the Snarks (Water and Fire based).

Bosses 

-Duchess: Took me more time that it should have because of the quicksave issue and the fact that I needed to master the ” run/throw jackbomb/run” boss technique.

-Centipede: Easy when you know where to shoot I’d say. Icewand was rather useful.

-Red King: Probably the easiest? Died once  when he threw me off the board.

-Tweedle dee and Tweedle Dum: Run/ Throw Bomb/Run/ Repeat.
Relatively easier than the preceding level.

-Mad Hatter: That took me a lot of time because I couldn’t get the hang of strafing… So most of the time I received his attacks fully and died… And could not harm him sufficiently so he kept coming back…

– Jabberwock (Part 1): Relatively fast and easier than the Mad Hatter! I fell down the board quite often though…

-Jabberwock (Part 2): Oh dear, that was hard! Considering the fact that you have to aim while he’s flying, shoot with the staff that needs to charge and avoid him when he finally gets down, I thought it’d get easier when he’d landed. On the contrary, it was must more stressful to have him follow Alice closely! Anyway, I kept dying and dying and dying sometimes even after five seconds of fight (escape?). In the end, I was really surprised when I took him down relatively quickly on my I-can’t-recall-how-many-times-I-tried-last-attempt.

-Red Queen (Part1): I found it a bid hard… until I figured out I could avoid her telepathic attacks by moving forward…

-Red Queen (Part2): Probably killed myself more often by falling from the platforms while running around than because of her attacks.

In conclusion:

Good Points

  • Great Music
  • Good Atmosphere
  • Interesting Puzzles and Maps
  • Great varieties of Opponents and Allies
  • Different weapons with different actions
  • Charismatic Character Designs
  • Good Story
  • Twist on the Original Tale
  • Challenging

Not so Good Points:

  • Annoying controls at time (maybe it’s just that I have a bad mouse/keyboard coordination).
  • Aged a bit
  • Few Glitches (stuck in a corner etc…)
  • Fairly straightforward.
  • Water based levels
  • Sequel (Madness Returns) not available for Mac (would crash my computer anyway).

Links

American Mcgee’s Webpage

-EA’s Page on Madness Returns


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According to Worpress, this is the 50Th article of the blog! So they advised me a whole bunch of ways to get more traffic such as adding more tags (they offered “tea with friends” for this post) or talk about living in another country or wishing the return of a discontinued product… How I feel enlightened.

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