Top positive review
56 people found this helpful
Great - dark, twisted and shocking, but great!
on 19 June 2011
First off, PLEASE don't buy this for younger children: Despite the fact its Alice in Wonderland - it most certainly is NOT a kids game and it has a 15 certificate for a very good reason - the content is not only very adult (f-bomb/ c-bomb grade bad language and the obvious violence), but it is extremely disturbing too (going into it too much here would ruin the "twist", but suffice to say, the general play is dark, disconcerting and chilling, and the climax of the plot genuinely horrible).
So for a sound-minded adult or mature teenager, it's an excellent and innovative take on the much beloved Alice in Wonderland - but absolutely NOT suitable for children. Only a complete moron would knowingly allow a child to play this!
That out of the way - I'm not going to describe the storyline too much because as I previously said, the climax is (I felt!) a really shocking twist - but in a nutshell, Alice's family have all died in a mysterious fire, and Alice has been spending the last 10 years quietly losing her mind in an asylum. She's also lost her memory along with her mental health, and so cue a return to Wonderland, both to save its destruction from a mysterious train (!) and rescue her sanity into the bargain. Very odd premise... But you cant help be infinately captivated at the sequence when, for the first time in the game, Alice falls from the real world to Wonderland and transforms with a literal "boomph" from her grey, ghostly, lost soul persona - into the Alice wearing that iconic blue dress & white apron! (Albeit with a frankly unnerving psychotic glaze in her eyes and dappled with blood splatter! Whoever developed her character absolutely deserves an award; shes incredible)
The game itself has a very retro-modern platformer feel to it, and as such is very easy to "get into"; and controlling Alice is a joy. She is capable of surprisingly quite a large amount of skills, and each new weapon you get comes with new actions to learn, so it should by rights get confusing and awkward to control; but everything is very easy to pick up and intuitive to work with, and she moves in a very organic manner - visually its fantastic - I particularly like the visual of the dodge move, where Alice bursts into a cloud of butterflies, reforming just out of harm's way - very cool.
The real 'soul' of the game though is Wonderland, and it is absolutely brilliant. It's beyond dark, the inhabitants are more often than not utterly grotesque, and the scenery is insane and beautifully rendered: graphics are not photorealistic or groundbreaking and may not be the best of some of the recently released games, but it really is eye-candy to play in and is drenched with atmosphere.
The whole game is essentially an unravelling and regathering of Alice's mind and memory, so interspersed with the macabre Wonderland levels are real-world level-bridges, with Alice meandering through London visiting an asylum, orphanage, or some other grim and dingy place. These level-bridges ultimately serve to unwrap Alice's story, so theres not a lot of action, more so plot building and to move Alice from one twisted area of Wonderland to the set up for the next - This new presentation of Wonderland though is nothing short of genius (if a little sick admittedly!): Gone are the cutesy vales of singing flowers, and instead every stage is in some way a darkened and twisted nightmare version of what you'll be familiar with - be it very, very subtly (as with the opening chapter, which is pretty much The Garden) or utterly outrageously (the Red Queens Castle is absolutely DISGUSTING, and I don't want to spoil the shock value but imagine a gothic stone palace but with... raw, pulsing, meat growing out of the brickwork!!).
It's difficult to describe just how "big" the game feels too; you get a decent length of play out of it, but the level system is kind of odd - you play through 6 main chapters, each chapter being a themed Zone based on part of Wonderland (ie the garden, the mad hatter, the walrus & the carpenter, the caterpillar and the red queen - and then the not-so-familiar doll house), and these zones are split up into sections that flow pretty much seamlessly in one long level. Interspersed with the afore mentioned real-world bridges.
So you see it feels like theres tons of levels, but REALLY theres only 6... Anyway - each chapter will take around 2 to 4+ hours to complete depending on whether you zip through or play cautiously getting all the collectables.
The downside though, is that although there's a lot of ground to cover and a lot to do in each chapter, it is pretty much the same thing over and over (jump there/ flip switch/ shoot thing/ jump gap/ timed run etc) - so it does get repetitive after a while. This isn't as bad as it could be however, as the game play style of 3rd person / explore/ combat/ platform/ puzzle is broken up with an occasional strange new style: such as the retro 2D side-scrolling sub-levels in The East chapter (imagine playing through an oriental painting), or the pinball-ish style sub-levels in the Doll House chapter (with a bald, dolls-head facsimilie of Alice's head as a ball!). The only chapter I wasnt so keen on was the undersea "Walrus & Carpenter" one, because although its under water, it plays exactly with the same physics as the land based levels and I feel a trick was missed here.
The fact that Alice can now shrink at will also adds a great twist, where she can access hidden areas with her diminutive stature and "shrink sense" vision, and also adds a nice twist in combat where you can shrink to dodge blows in some combat situations too. And the constant shock-value of the playing field keeps things very fresh!
As you would imagine though, the further into the game you go the worse and more depraved it gets; so if you're easily offended you wont enjoy the last 2 chapters.
The whole air of the game is not just creepy but also understatedly menacing - it's very clever considering its nothing like Dead Space for the gore value or Silent hill for the horror. Play it through again though once you know the climax of the story, and the latter levels in particular take on an altogether new disturbing air when you think about what some of the imagery (of what is obviously Alice's psychosis) represents.
So - the only reason it doesn't get 5 stars is that there are some very basic issues with the game play (revel in the joy of suddenly not being able to move when occasional 'invisible walls' suddenly pop up then apparently vanish after a little button stabbing - confusing when it happens in normal play - infuriating when it happens in combat!!) and you have to play it through several times to get all achievements - but as mentioned, it can get repetitive and therefore tedious (and all that the difficulty levels seem to do is make the bad guys more or less resilient, and not increase the difficulty of the puzzle aspect) so the shine does dull after a while. In addition, its fairly easy to get all the weapon upgrades before the final chapter, so its not even as if you need to play through again for that - and yes you can buy (I think for a very reasonable 160 points) a dress and weapon pack to spice things up - but all these do are minor play impacts like the amount of damage dealt or taken, increasing/ decreasing drop rates of health, enabling "shrink sense" when normal size, etc... Although one of them is pretty much the grossest and most carnivorous looking thing since Lady Gaga's meat dress, so its worth it for the gag factor alone.
All in all though and all cons taken into account; it's an excellent piece of work and a well executed concept - not one for the squeamish or sensitive however, and possibly (being critical) not the best it could have been with a little more time in production. Basically though, if like me you can't force yourself to wait for the price to come down, it is still well worth its value.
And - you get a download code to get the full original American McGee's Alice too! Brilliant.
Oh and on a final note: LOVED the Cheshire Cat, but where was the White Rabbit?! Or is that for Alice 2?! (Hope so!)