Alice: Madness Returns attempts to cart the wildly popular insatiable thirst of darkness, fantasy, and a level of morose violence to the screens for gamers worldwide through a Victorian melodramatic narrative along with visuals that are simply stunning. Alice: Madness Returns manages to bring about a level of soporific fantasy through a narrative, though while somewhat entertaining, creates a title which lacks in other respects in terms of any meaningful gameplay or cohesive asides from cutscene to cutscene and mission to mission. As the descent into Wonderland brings about a level of contrasted madness from the confines of Alice’s mind, it also brings about an apparent madness in the form of the entire product that Alice: Madness Returns creates, painstakingly missing its mark to honor the genius of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
Wonderland has changed since Alice has been there since the events of American McGee’s Alice. The same macabre representation of Alice is reborn into the spotlight of a tormented mind caught forever in the oppression of past events and a catatonic looming personality. Alice: Madness Returns begins at the orphanage where Alice resides. Therapy is on-going, and the events of Wonderland still haunt her psyche as she delves deeper into self-denial and hoping to remember the more bloodied rendition of her once golden past invention.
Alice: Madness Returns provides puzzles which are relatively challenging from person to person, but are not overly complicated in terms of the design with environments and tactics to solve, while unnecessarily ending up diluting the actual gameplay. The first return of Alice in Wonderland comes back to the Vale of Tears, a magical forest where a giant river turns along a landscape with floating toys and other magical creatures. It is home to the Mock Turtle and the cannibalistic Duchess of the forest who has been reformed from feeding on creatures such as Alice. The movement of Alice is similar to the first title, where Alice can jump and glide far distances to combat obstacles such as gaps. Continuing onto the exploration, Alice has a newer mechanic of the shrink/enlarge system. The shrink system turns on a sort of hidden message path left by the insane children, which serves as a relatively tiresome gameplay element considering players will find themselves constantly shrinking for no reason when they are stuck. The same reasoning goes for the enlargement gameplay, where players utilize the expansion feature of Alice to traverse environments in a unique way in certain pieces, but feels short and undeveloped likewise to a lot of other elements in the gameplay with the lack of truer combat options in these stances or something completely unique rather than unoriginal.
Alice: Madness Returns creates stunning environments for players to utilize their skills in, where Alice this time has a darkness presence coming to find her that she needs to fight. The weapons for Alice revolve around the Vorpal Blade for melee, the sneezing-inspired Pepper Grinder for ranged combat, the hot Teapot Cannon, the chaotic Hobby Horse as a heavier melee for the toughest enemies. These weapons can be upgraded through the collection of teeth from the environments, which is symbolic from the last of the novel series. All of these weapons organize the two melee weapon slots which coincide with two ranged slots and one explosive device slot. The Vorpal Blade is equally simplistic like the other weapons such as the Grinder for the shooting, and the focus bar plays a role in making sure that Alice’s dodging capabilities live up to a potential. The dodging attributes to a very terrible and frustrating camera system with the focus lock controls. At the very start of the game as a player progresses, it is noticeably apparent that there is a strong repetition in these weapons once obtained over the storyline and something which is despondently dismal and bland.
Spicy Horse Games translucently creates a title that has something unique about it in terms of its mood and the quality of its air with the uniquely decorated characters that have one of the most interesting art styles that encompass the games equally fanciful visuals further. However, the beauty of Alice: Madness Returns and Wonderland itself seems to bleed out in a way that seems to be a messy situation. The weapon variety is lacking, the focus controls are terribly done, the camera system oddly feels dated and can hardly stick to one place, and loading screens offer a further displeasing experience. Alice: Madness Returns though while more original than Electronic Arts’ Dante’s Inferno, represents this similar failure as a video game title that manages to honor a renowned classical name. As Alice: Madness Returns further develops into its true form, it provides a feast into what the truth of the madness is: no one wants to play in a Wonderland that hardly has anything wondrous about it or even narrative fantasy genius.