Review by brutusmuktuk
"Alice gets stuck in the rabbit hole"
Apparently the world of Wonderland isn't strange and disturbing enough for American Mcgee. So he tried to make it more disturbing, but ends up with an underdeveloped story with some nonsense dialogue. Perhaps Mcgee thought the blood and guts would help make the atmosphere more disturbing, but I think gamers would be more inclined to laugh than cringe after seeing a man-card explode into blood and guts. Unfortunately, gameplay was the last thing Mcgee had in mind when making his game. Doesn't he realize that it's called a game for a reason because it has gameplay. I found out that you can quick save/load a little too late, but even then I would not have liked this game.
Reading the journal which comes with the game, I learned something that the game doesn't disclose that throughout this whole story, Alice is in a mental institution, and all the events in the game are happening in her head. Is she insane? Or possessed? Well, I don't know. The game doesn't disclose that, remember. Alice visits Wonderland for a second time after following a demented version of the rabbit with the watch. The world of Wonderland has changed significantly, so it's not so easy to go down the rabbit hole for Alice this time. She first must travel through a couple of worlds and fight a few bosses, and then she can shrink in order to fit down the rabbit hole. Why couldn't Lewis Carroll have thought this up when writing the original tale? Carroll also didn't think of the numerous platform jumps and other boss fights the game includes. Though, to be fair, this is a game and many games include such things as bosses and platform jumps.
The characters in Alice try to look disturbing, but end up uninteresting. Alice, it seems, tries to be an ironic character in that during cutscenes she tries to look adorable with her hands behind her back and her big, round eyes, while in the game she makes a bloody mess. I think the bloody knife she holds behind her back during cutscenes ruins the adorable approach, though. The Cheshire cat has his trademark grin, but his eyes form into a piercing glare and his body has grown thin and black, so he looks slightly demonic. He spouts out some nonsense sayings at times though, I guess trying to seem more disturbing. It succeeds in making me scratch my head. The only other characters (that I came across) were nothing special and add nothing of real significance to the story.
Here's where the game really falls apart. Actually, at first it seemed like Alice would be a rather cool action/platformer. The action was decent not too hard and somewhat strategic. The platforming was ingenious. Some of the designs for platform jumping segments were very well done and creative at first. The game even features a neat jump system in which, while standing still, a symbol showing feet appears on the ground. You can move the symbol around, and when you hit the jump button Alice jumps to that spot. Since judging jumps can be very tough with a mouse and keyboard, this was a brilliant move by the developers. Unfortunately, strangely, the game does away with jumps which utilize the feet symbol very quickly in the game. This bewilders me why do away with a brilliant system? Another thing the game drops in the game has to do with endless pits. In the beginning of the game, falling in a pit meant restarting back at the beginning of the jumping section. Later in the game it meant having to reload your game. What happened? Why did the developers do away with that right at the moment they made platform jumping maddeningly difficult?
Action becomes worse, though, I think. Enemies become much more difficult and because of the controls, you can't maneuver Alice enough to avoid attacks. In some areas enemies push you into endless pits, and that makes for frustrating situations. The toys you get don't accommodate for the increased difficulty. Some of the toys you'll find yourself using for only a little bit before they lose their usefulness toys like the croquet mallet and the cards. Some, like the demon dice and ice wand, have no useful purpose. The demon dice is an interesting toy. Once you get higher upgrades of it, you can summon more powerful monsters, although the chances of summoning the stronger monster are very, very slim. And the only time I summoned the third level monster, it killed me. So I stopped trying to use the demon dice. I used the original weapon, the knife, more than the other weapons because it used no mana, did a lot of damage, and could be used up close. The flame-throwing jack in the box was neat as well, but most weapons held no strategic purpose or were more useful in certain situations than another. The worst part about the action is that it serves no purpose but to try to entertain. Fighting enemies isn't much fun, though. The only thing you get out of a fight is a health and mana recovery crystal, but you only lose health and mana when you take damage from the enemies you fight. Yeah, a head scratcher.
Before I gave up on the game I came across one part that was a neat idea. It takes place in a chess world in small segments of it. On one segment, Alice is transformed into a bishop and can only move diagonally on a chess floor. In another she becomes the knight and can only move in an L shape. Mcgee had a neat idea with that segment, but didn't do enough with it.
Easily the visuals hold the strength of the game. Where the game frustrates, you can still expect it to look good. Mcgee has created some fantastically creative visuals (not disturbing like he intended, but still creative). The only hiccup I saw was that character animation is occasionally awkward. Otherwise, things look very nice, and even the camera works well, surprisingly, since the platform genre has all too many problems with the camera.
Nothing dazzling, but nothing horrific. Voices don't feel well acted but don't induce cringes like some voice acted games of the time used to do. I can't remember any of the game's musical tracks, so they must not have been memorable. In the sound department there's nothing great, nothing terrible, just average.
In the game manual I skipped over the part that showed which buttons quick save and quick load. I doubt this game can be completed without those. Checkpoints are spread far apart and playing through long sections of the game becomes a chore, and I hate chores. I may have lasted through the whole game had I known about the quick save/load, but maybe not. The game wouldn't have been any more fun. Having to rely on something such as quick save/load usually means the developers did something wrong when developing their game. They definitely did here. As it stands, I played through half the game and have no initiative to play through the rest of it, even with the knowledge of the quick save/load.
Even though I bought the game for only $10, it wasn't worth the price. Maybe you've heard talk about this game and have grown an interest in it, but don't waste your time on it. I, too, heard talk and grew interested in it, but unfortunately nobody told that it's not very fun. I have talked to people who have called it a good game, and many seem to agree that the gameplay isn't that fun, but they seem to like the visuals and disturbing story. I can only say I enjoyed the visuals, but even these visuals don't impress enough to recommend a play through.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 12/01/04
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