Alice: Madness Returns

A Guided Tour Of Alice: Madness Returns
by Andrew Reiner on Sep 16, 2010 at 04:58 AM
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Spicy Horse
Release: 2011
Rating: Mature
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Shortly after Electronic Arts' Tokyo Game Show press conference concluded, a handful of editors were whisked off to a private room to see American McGee's Alice: Madness Returns in action. We were one of the fortunate few to see the first live demo of this long overdue sequel.

Electronic Arts was quick to point out that Alice: Madness Returns is a direct sequel to its PC precursor. Alice is no longer holed up in an institution. She has foolishly been released, and is now in the care of a physician, who is trying to help this troubled girl regain her sanity. Good luck with that!

The demo starts off on London rooftop. Alice stands precariously next to an older woman. Not everything is as it seems. The woman contorts into a demon for a brief second. Something terrible is about to happen. Unfortunately, we won't know what that is just yet. The Electronic Arts representative playing the game skipped past the next sequel, citing it's too early to show all of the surprises. He did, however, say that the woman plummets to her death off of the roof. Alice is framed for her death. The police are in pursuit.

In a panic, Alice races across the rooftops. One false step reveals a weak spot on a roof, sending Alice plummeting toward the ground. Only she doesn't land. She's tumbling down another rabbit hole. She's back in Wonderland.

The woman who Alice apparently tangled with is an example of how Wonderland is bleeding into reality – very Kingdom Hearts, if I do say so myself.

Alice finds herself back in Wonderland's Veil of Tears, an environment from her first adventure. The landscape is littered with domino pieces and dice. it doesn't take long for a familiar face to return. It's the untrustworthy face of the Cheshire Cat. Alice is not happy to see him. I don't blame her. That cat was trouble the first time around.

The environment around Alice is dense with detail, beautiful. Alice, on the other hand is a nut job. For what seems like the billionth time, she foolishly drinks a potion left behind by someone else. Stupid girl. Surprise surprise, it's a shrinking potion! While in miniature form, Alice can tap into a "shrink sonar" hint system to place a graphical overlay on items that can be interacted with while she is in her diminutive form. She can also use her shrink ability to dodge attacks. Very cool.

Holding true to the original game's design, Wonderland is a dangerous world that can only be navigated through extensive platforming. Alice's animations are beautiful, and although exaggerated for effect, are realistic.

Apparently, most of the enemy encounters are set up like puzzles, in that you'll have to figure out their different weaknesses. For instance, the Mad Hatter's mechanical teapots must be whacked in the air before they can be banished with her vorpal sword. For most enemies that Alice slays, she can collect their teeth. Obviously, collecting teeth is something a crazy person like Alice would do, but she's actually doing it in this game for benefit. Teeth are currency that can be traded in for upgrades and new combos. Alice can also collect memory fragments that play out like BioShock or Batman: Arkham Asylum audio logs.

Although Electronic Arts wouldn't let us see the dramatic moments in the introductory cutscene, they say that the story is a major focus in this sequel, and that it's going to be "bigger and better than ever."

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