Alice: Madness Returns

Recently I got around playing Alice: Madness Returns. Before I start, I'm going to say that I have not played American McGee's Alice, therefore I have little inkling to what happened in the first installment. Alright, all I know is that Alice's family died in the fire that occured at their house and Alice alone survived. She grew up mentally unstable, and Wonderland is now in ruins due to her insanity.

In the beginning of Alice: Madness Returns, Alice found herself in Dr. Bumby's office going through one of her session to erase the memory of her family's death with the means of hypnotism. She is now living in an orphanage under the care of said doctor. Despite being released from Rutledge Asylum, Alice still suffers from occasional hallucinations of Wonderland and that of her death family. On her way to the chemist, Alice found and followed a white cat, went into hallucinations and found herself once again in Wonderland. The Cheshire Cat later on revealed to her that Wonderland is once again under threat but this time not from Alice's insanity, but of outside force in the form of a moving train that destroyed everything in its wake.

I have always found psychological theme to be the most interesting theme in any media. It is not exactly a pretty subject, but eerily fascinating. It is not something to be liked or loved, it is something that needed to be accepted and understood. Games like Silent Hill and Alan Wake are deep; disturbing but touchingly beautiful at some point. And I always appreciate the aesthetic values of such games, or any other form of media. Alice: Madness Returns seemed to have a promising plot line. Indeed it has, but it also has a resounding flaw.

Alice overlooking the now ruined Wonderland

The story in Alice: MR is delivered through the usual cutscenes and papercut-like animation which are very creative. Alice's adventure in Wonderland is her struggle on keeping her memory intact, and also to make peace with her supposed guilt of the death of her family. Apart from that, Alice restoring Wonderland to its beautiful wondrous state symbolize her gripping on reality and her sanity. It is really a beautiful concept. And this game provided a very imaginative world of Wonderland through the eyes of a young woman with the complexity of a disturbed individual. I love the design of Wonderland, the characters and also Alice's costumes. Everything is very nicely done and the scenery is thoroughly engaging.

The main problem here is the platforming. It started out fun and end with outright tedious. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing a dreadful homework instead of enjoying a game. Not only that, the puzzles lack variety; after an hour or so of playing, it started to feel repetitive. Most of the time I would go through a series of trial and error, especially when it comes to one of those invisible paths. Seriously, it was tedious and it was boring. All I did was running around, missed my footing and fell to death. Several times before I got to the next platform. At first it seemed challenging, but after a while it is not really a matter of challenge, just a matter of getting stuck somewhere while turning a corner or running and time went out just to send you to death if you jumped a second too late. Boss's fights are fine, none of them have the badass-ery of Bayonetta's angelic enemies, but at least decent albeit a bit annoying.

However, I still pretty much love this game through and through, and am going to give it a 2.5 out of 4 stars.