Alice: Madness Returns First Impressions

When it comes to combining video games with other entertainment mediums, we often think of movie-inspired games that almost always end up disappointing. The preconceived notion of building games off of other properties often spells out disaster, but when this practice changes to involve literature, a different beast is created. While I’m only a few hours into Alice: Madness Returns, I’m very impressed with what I’ve come across.

The introductory level eases players and Alice herself back into Wonderland. For review purposes and the interest of time, I went with Normal difficulty, so I could get through the game with as little roadblocks as possible. The first moments of the game were rather spot on, capturing Alice’s murky, colorless, dead-end of a life in Victorian London as a resident of an insane asylum. The jump to Wonderland itself found her once again surrounded by the utopia that could only be described in words. Seeing Lewis Carroll’s world come to life was a treat, but seeing American McGee’s influence in turning it into a nightmarish environment was equally important. Everything seemed fine until the pastoral setting of the Vale of Tears began to erupt with lava, changing the coloring of the entire landscape. The further I got with this level, the more twisted and vile Alice’s escape from the real world was becoming.

Of everything that I’ve observed so far, I was most impressed with the game’s controls. Alice’s movements are nimble and with finesse – the way she spins  when she double jumps and floats from one ledge to the other, or when dodging, she bursts into a swarm of blue butterflies only to reappear out of danger. While Alice isn’t a hulking bruiser brandishing a sword as tall as they are, she clearly shows that she can dish out the pain and look stylish while doing it. Movement isn’t slow and stiff, but it isn’t completely loose either.

Although this is a video game, players will get the most out of it if they’re familiar with Lewis Carroll’s original stories. Throughout the Vale of Tears, I was constantly picking up on nods to the books, from the gameplay mechanic of shrinking and growing to traverse new areas, to the Duchess awarding Alice with a Pepper Grinder (which doubles as a machine gun). This isn’t just another hack-and-slash game in the vein of Devil May Cry or God of War, but it takes some cues from those contemporaries.

I’ve only scratched the surface of Alice: Madness Returns, and so far, I’m excited to see what happens next for her. As someone who has read the book, it’ll be interesting to see how changed the denizens of Wonderland have been influenced by it’s degradation, and how the game allows us to explore and interact within this digital reimagining of Carroll’s classic. With the Vale of Tears behind me, I just stepped foot into the Mad Hatter’s domain.

Stay tuned for a review for Alice: Madness Returns.

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