Alice: Madness Returns
For: PlayStation 3
Genre: Action, Adventure, Horror
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)
Alice: Madness Returns
Coming from certified nutjob, American McGee, Alice: Madness Returns for PlayStation3 clearly has no designs on offering more than just platform-hopping, bauble collecting, action adventure gameplay. At the same time, however, it has the clear intent of swaddling off-the-shelf video game conventions in the wholly original, mind-messed trappings of Lewis Carol's Alice gone demented (or more demented than usual, as it were). While it does both very well, only the latter has genuine appeal; the routine platform-hopping and bauble collecting must be suffered.
Mechanically, it plays just like a dozen Mario games and a thousand knock-offs, following a bauble-laden path from A to B, bashing generic thug squad C and occasional thug boss X, Y or Z along the way. With scant guidance from the friendly neighborhood Cheshire Cat, in between it's all jumps, doubles jumps and spring loaded super-jumps from mushroom to grassy knoll to stone parapet to river bend off waterfall, the lot of it beset by smashable scenery containing cash and prizes. Adding some get-small potion and go-big cake doesn't make it original, just appropriately thematic.
Be that as it may, American McGee's loopy take on Wonderland is so creatively surreal, so blackly humorous, so visually festive in the way of brown-acid trips, that the compulsion to soldier on just to see what mechanized kitchen utensils, mobilized playing cards and - oh look, a giant bong - have in store will not be denied.
A game that celebrates gory garishness and hallucinogenic abomination, at times kaleidoscopically colorful, other opportune times the ghostly grey of "hysteria" infused with but one blood red color shock, Alice: Madness Returns sure has the "madness" bit down pat.
With some quaalude-centric wanderings through 19th Century London, most of that in and around Alice's "real" world orphanage come insane asylum, the majority of the game takes place in an off-her-rocker world beset by giant flora, discombobulated clock parts, chess board arenas and English gardens seeded in PCP.
The weaponry at Alice's disposal is similarly satisfying in its strangeness if not over-killing effectiveness; pepper grinder machine gun, goo-spewing teapot cannon and a malicious hobbyhorse bludgeon if not a wickedly efficient ornate kitchen knife, each ready-made for battles of intense peculiarity; Madness Returns' marquee feature for sure.
Ultimately, Alice: Madness Returns is a game worth playing only if you invite a bunch of friends over to smoke a little something special and have them watch as you grind along mechanically like a dutiful tour guide on a long strange trip.