Review by C.LE
"Something wicked(ly awesome) this way comes..."
Just a note: I find good graphics irrelevant to the quality of the game. I pray that, likewise, you are not superficial. There do come times that graphics will harm the game, and will then count graphics as a category to deliberately penalize the game, but in general, I do not judge on graphics.
The game is old. Yes, by the game industry standards, this game should be in the Smithsonian by now. But even in this particular genre, the first-person shooter, where the quality of a game is determined by the latest graphical catch-phrase it introduces into the vocabulary of computer geeks everywhere, Alice still manages to shine.
Story (8/10): I have to admit, I wasn't expecting too much out of this game. But the story and backstory is positively riveting. It builds upon the works of Lewis Carroll (yes, there is more to Alice than just a Disney movie), and it does so fabulously. It doesn't just use an Alice-gone-insane as a gimmicky backdrop, it uses it to provide depth and breadth to a game world. The presentation is amazing and, at times, genuinely creepy.
To be fair, this is a game that will best reward players who are already familiar with Lewis Carroll's works and not just with the Disney "Alice in Wonderland." Because the constant reoccuring imagery of mirrors, the presence of the Vorpal Blade and the Jabberwock, the representation of Alice as a chess piece, and other details are far more rewarding when familiar with their origins and their broader literary symbolism.
Sound (10/10): Genuinely creepy. The sound of an insane child smashing his head against the wall will always be remembered. The tell-tale helicopter sounds of an approaching bombarding beetle will continue to make me paranoid.
The music is masterfully done. All the pieces, have, at its heart, a not-so-creepy theme, but this central point is warped and distorted, provide a beautiful parallel to the story of Alice, and what results are truly haunting pieces that unfortunately are given background status in the game and not truly framed into its deserving glory.
Voice acting is quite wonderful. Alice's faux-Britishness can be a bit annoying at times, but I never cease getting tired of the Cheshire Cat or the Rabbit. All the villains, even tiny their speeches may be, are a delight to listen to. Ah, just thinking of the Cheshire Cat is enough to make me want to play again.
Replayability (4/10): Unfortunately, aside from trying out other difficulties, there isn't terribly too much replayability for this game. There's no multiplayer option (a rarity for a first-person shooter). Still, the atmosphere of the game is so well done, and the levels so creatively created, that it is a unique experience unmatched by any other shooter out there, and that is enough to draw you back after a while, even if it is just nostalgia.
Gameplay (9/10): The gameplay behind Alice is amazing. Sure, it does suffer from "platform-jumping puzzle syndrome" like so many other shooters out there, but atleast it has the helpful "feet recepticle" to help you determine where your jumps are going to be. Levels are wonderfully and creatively design and are very atmospheric and a delight to play. Some of them feature level geography impossibilities, (such as a barred gate that is a barred gate in one direction (that you can even see through), and an entrance to a giant room from another direction) which builds on the wonderful surreality of the game world. Levels also tend to have wonderful action elements to them, such as swimming behind the wake of a creature for air, or moving as a chess piece throughout a level.
The weapons are amazingly fun (and an esoteric delight for those who can catch the many references some of them make to the literary works). Sure, many of them can simply be called by other names and thus be found in many other games (substitute, for example, "52 Card Deck" with "Shotgun" and you have basically every other shooter out there). But some of them offer truly unique gameplay opportunities. My two personal favorites are the Demon Dice and the Jabberwock Staff. The Demon Dice gives you a chance to summon an imp to help you fight (sometimes a very vicious imp). The Jabberwock staff acts sort of like a stream of plasma from other shooters, but it's alternative fire will let you rain meteors from the sky. Good fun.
It's only a pity that there's no multiplayer, and, hence, no chance to unleash the havoc of these weapons onto other players.
Final Assessment (8/10): While you may not find yourself coming back to this game too often, it is nevertheless a journey well-worth venturing. The atmosphere is enough to draw people in, it is genuinely a creative work unmatched.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/28/04
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