Published on June 23rd, 2011 | by Cryss


Review: Alice: Madness Returns

Review: Alice: Madness Returns Cryss

Summary: Cryss takes a look at Alice: Madness Returns, is it any good? read the review to find out!


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If Duke Nukem Forever has taught us one thing, regardless of your opinion on the game is that it’s difficult to apply the conventions of an older video game to a modern day audience, so this review is going to take you through the looking glass to see how Alice: Madness Returns fares; a sequel based on a cult classic from 2000.

For those who aren’t clued in on the world of Alice it’s based on the books written by Lewis Carrol under the idea that wonderland is a representation of Alice’s imagination and as such the damage she endures from the death of her parents warps wonderland. Since her last outing wonderland is again falling to ruin due to her paranoia over the death of her parents. This is shown by the clear juxtaposition between wonderland’s bright and vivid landscape slowly and staggeringly tainted by her Madness and the dingy cobbled streets of Victorian London showcasing Alice’s life outside of the asylum.

The game is generally very well put together, some cut scenes use a unique kind of animation that builds to the atmosphere and draws you in others consists of in game cut scenes using the unreal engine. The switch between these doesn’t feel awkward due to the nature of the game (ehem madness) and usually indicates a switch between her imagination and the real world. The game’s voice acting cast are good however I would say I preferred the Cheshire Cat on her first outing, the script is good and the majority of times the characters keep to their riddling nature however the times when the Cheshire Cat acts more like a Sat Nav than a character which breaks the immersion slightly.

Madness Returns takes a lot of key points from the original and expands on them, first off the graphics and art style are amazing. Huge amount of detail has gone into clothing, weapons and physics in regards to simply things like the movement of Alice’s hair, this attention to detail is coupled with amazing backdrops and locations which are ripe for exploring; however this can be were Madness Returns lets itself down a little as the worlds are full of invisible walls and the ledge I’m attempting to leap to will push me back as if I had no right to try. Luckily in these situations the game does not punish you as severely as the original with the pain of a loading screen instead you are teleported by turning into butterfly’s to a safe location to begin again. This minimizes frustration while going through jumping puzzles. Exploration is also catered to with Alice’s new move set allowing her to quadruple jump and float letting her travel far further than the original game, at the expense of her ability to grab ledges which occasionally may lead to an unexpected fall or two. Combat is the biggest change in Madness Returns, it consists of utilizing a variety of differing weapons in fast paced and frantic action. This is coupled with an umbrella shield and the ability to dodge to really pull you into the fight scenes. The AI is lacklustre on its own however the real challenge is as the game progressively introduces you to new enemies to master taking down those with less health whilst avoiding the heavy hitters long enough so you can move onto them; and trust me on nightmare mode the game presents itself as a challenge. The combats fast pacing and fun use of weapons such as the Tea Pot Cannon combined with the originals taste for gratuitous violence keep you coming back for more. Not to say that it is without its flaws, the combat has a small learning curve and the slow motion indicators for dodging can throw your timing off, yet the combat’s worst issue is the camera. During regular exploration the right analogue can easily be used to view your surroundings yet when focused on an enemy the camera remains static and as the creatures charge you down and you dodge the camera oft becomes awkwardly lodged in a position that is of no assistance to you. It’s a small issue that is most prevalent on the hardest difficulties when you’re on a small platform facing an enemy with a large health bar. Customisation in Madness Returns plays a large part, Alice collects teeth in her free time as Wonderlands Tooth Fairy and sells these to a mysterious, something that upgrades her weapons. This can be done at any time in the main menu and only requires enough teeth to make your upgrade which providing you have the teeth and weapons available allows you to upgrade first in the respects that will benefit you the most. This is coupled with impressive visual and animation upgrades to showcase the effect these have on the character and whilst each weapon has only 4 upgrades the difference between the start and finish are clear. The game creates a good atmosphere the original had a massive musical score composed by Chris Vrenna yet the sequel instead focuses on the lack of noise to isolate you and Alice with a much larger impact from the noises of the game world and the sounds of your enemies. The story is added during exploration by the collection of memories from key figures in the game which tells us about Alice’s backstory and also adds to replayability for those looking to 100% the game. On a technical standpoint the game had a few issues on the Playstation software, freezing occurred while loading collected memories this one or two second lapse breaking my immersion in the game, coupled with some slow loading textures confusing cut scenes despite this however on a technical achievement the game should be praised for its large open planned level design that provides multiple paths through every problem. For fans of the original there is a whole heap of content from the original that should spark your memory, a nod back to the fans. Despite its flaws Alice reminds me of a simpler time, it’s addictively fun to play and I really like the world and the characters. The storytelling is fabulous with a marked universe and the combat draws you in and keeps you begging for more. For those willing to overlook these flaws getting lost in wonderland might be what you needed this 2011. After all were all just a little mad!

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Avid video gamer, freelance journalist, community manager and aspiring editor. Random quote: I'll show you a sweet dream, next night

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