Review by Happy Matt
"Pretty, but this is not how to make a game."
American McGee's Alice is a 3D action adventure / platform game developed by Rogue Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts. The game is developed for Windows 9x/ME on a PC. It requires a rather powerful system to run: 400MHz Pentium II, 64Mb RAM, 600Mb HDD, 4x CD-ROM, 16Mb Graphics Card, OpenGL 3D accelerator and DirectX 7. The game comes in as 2 CD-ROM discs, one for installation and the other one is required in the drive during run time. This review is based on the version released in the UK in December 2000.
The game is intended for a more mature audience. You play Alice, who was driven insane when a fire burnt her house down together with her parents. She returned to Wonderland many years later, only to find that it had turned to a dark place, dominated by the evil of the Queen of Hearts. It is your job to lead Alice through Wonderland to challenge the evil and to set everything right again. The plot is quite good, but is otherwise predictable.
Audio and Visual
This game has very pretty graphics. Apparently, it has a graphics engine based on an enhanced version of the Quake III technology. Whatever that means... As far as I can tell, the game is drawn with an insane number of polygons. Backgrounds are detailed and colourful, with a rather dark atmosphere that is the theme of the game. Lightings and shadows are modelled extremely well. Characters and enemies are drawn to the last details with totally fluid motions.
The background soundtrack is also of highest quality, giving the game an enhanced atmosphere. The game also features full scale voice actings.
In general, the game is presented very well in terms of the audio and visual aspects, but I think that's just about all the good it has.
It is an awful disappointment. Before I bought the game, I have heard of the problem with the control and the game's linearity, but I did not expect it to be that bad.
Many people call this game an adventure, but I think this game is actually a 3D action platformer. The game-play consists of a large amount of fighting and platform jumping. I think it has too little exploration or puzzle solving to be called an adventure.
Combat is the main feature in this game. Alice fights with a set of ''toys'', collected through the course of the game. When you progress through the game, you will get more powerful toys (10 in total) but the enemies will also become more powerful.
Alice has an Insanity gauge (Health) and a Will gauge (Mana). When Alice takes damage, her Insanity gauge decreases. Most toys consume Will when they are used. Obviously, the more powerful the attacks, the more Will power it will consume. Alice can recover these gauges by collecting various different crystals. ''Meta Essence'' is the most common. It is the life energy in Wonderland. Enemies turn into Meta Essence when they are killed.
Combats can be difficult depending on how you manage to master your mouse and keyboard commands. Not the easiest task. In my experience, you will always have to actively seek out the enemies and kill them with projectiles before they can do any damage to Alice. Else, Alice will be dead rather quickly when you leave it into a melee battle. At time, the game can become rather dull when your path is basically filled with a large host of monsters, all wanted to kill Alice. In too many cases, the quick save / load feature is the only way to get you through some very difficult areas.
Apart from combats, Alice has to jump a lot to reach her destinations. In my opinion, this is where the game falls apart. Yes, it does feature a footpad icon when Alice is not in motion, and you can manoeuvre your jump so that it never misses. But there are just too many areas when Alice has to run and jump where the footpad icon is not available. Try as you may, the keyboard and the mouse is not designed for the task of running jumps. At time, I always find myself having to abuse the quick save / load system. I do not think I could have gone through the game at all if not for this ''brilliant'' system.
At time, the game can become rather tedious. After falling off the edge a zillion times, Alice ends up at the next corridor with yet another set of monsters waiting to kill her. The game-play soon becomes one of quick save and quick load. I simply do not think such a game-play is fun.
The game is very pretty, but it is the finest example of how not to make a game. It is just this bad trend in the current game industry to put too much efforts in audio and visual enhancements, while puttin game-play to the secondary role. A game has to play well to be a game. Visual and Audio enhancements are there to enhance the experience, but they should be not be the primary dominating features. Otherwise, the game should have been made into a movie.
Scores: Audio and Visual 10/10, Story and Presentation 8/10, Game-play 3/10, Overall 6/10. (19 January 2001.)
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 01/19/01, Updated 01/19/01
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