American McGee's Alice
Review by The Uncivil Servant
"Here's a riddle: When is a croquet mallet like a billy club? I tell you: whenever you want it to be."
Alice has gone insane. Her parents died when their house burned to the ground, and she blames herself for not having saved them. She slits her wrists, but survives and is locked up in a mental asylum. With her insanity, Wonderland has turned into a distorted version of the placed it once was.In the midst of her madness, the White Rabbit cries for help, and Alice ventures into the sinister world she has created, with the Cheshire Cat as her guide on a quest to vanquish the Red Queen, get over her torturing feelings of guilt, recover her sanity, and restore Wonderland to its former state.
With such an engaging story, begins one of the best games ever to grace the PC.
This game makes an incredible use of the Quake 3 engine, presenting us with a malevolent but colorful Wonderland and varied landscapes, from the giant mushrooms and trees of the Wonderland Woods, to the depressing but magnificent building structures of the Pale Realm, to the barren and rocky topography of the Land of Fire and Brimstone. The characters are very originally designed, with plenty of enemies and allies straight from Lewis Carroll's book. Alice looks very much like Lydia from the Beetlejuice cartoon, with a narrow face and huge, desperate eyes to accompany her well-known blue dress and white apron. The Cheshire Cat looks cynical with his permanent grin and glowing teeth. All of the characters from the book look menacing and demented: the Mad Hatter, the Card Guards, the Red Queen...
Composer Chris Vrenna brings us into the twisted world of Wonderland with an excellent music score, perfectly suited to a universe ruled by madness and fear, creating an ambience of desperation and nightmare. The sounds are really adequate for this kind of game; take for example the blood-curdling, Banshee-like screams of the Boojums. However, the voice acting is where this game really shines. All of the characters speak with a British accent, giving them personality and a strong presence, making you feel like you are inside an old story. The voice acting is superb; Resident Evil voice actors could take a lesson from this game.
The game suffers a little here, mostly due to an awkward jumping system, where you are likely to miss more than one platform (and there is a lot of platform-jumping in this game). Sometimes an indicator, represented by a pair of shoes, helps you calculate your jumps and landings, but at most key times when you need it, it fails to help at all. There are also some collision issues, but nothing too serious. Despite the tricky jumping, this never ruins the game.
Alice has a variety of weapons to battle the Red Queen's army. These weapons consist of deadly toys, like a fire-breathing jack-in-the-box, a deck of playing cards, or the infamous croquet mallet. Other weapons include the vorpal blade, the Jabberwock's staff, and a pair of deadly dice. This game is really long, and despite its high difficulty, it is very compelling and never gets frustrating. You will find yourself playing for endless hours!
THE FINAL WORD
Just because of some control quirks, this game doesn't score a 10, but it is still one of the very best games I have ever played. Very, very highly recommended.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/15/04
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