Sequels are always tricky creatures to deal with, even more so when the sequel to a game comes 11 years after the original. Yet, Alice: Madness Returns is anything but conventional and one of our Forgotten Classics. Here, we take a look back down the rabbit hole once again. We hope we aren’t late this time…
The original title, American McGee’s Alice was released in 2000 to much fanfare and became an instant classic. An unofficial sequel to the Lewis Caroll novels, American McGee designed the game with a much darker and twisted version of Wonderland than we had come to expect because of the likes of Disney. Wonderland was a different place indeed, being corrupted in the fragile mind of Alice. Armed with a vorpal blade and a pepper pot grinder, Alice finds herself in a war between herself and the corrupted, ending in a final battle with the Queen of Hearts.
A sequel was much desired and fans would have to wait another 11 years before the release. This was in part, due to the movie adaption taking shape. Alice: Madness Returns was released in 2011 and proved even though many years had passed the insanely wonderful Alice was back and this time on consoles too.
Available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 as well as PC, Alice: Madness Returns looked beautiful (at the time) with lush green environments, huge cascading waterfalls and disgusting enemies that demonstrated the way the game could be both ugly and gorgeous at the same time. The game had clearly evolved from its predecessor, whilst remaining faithful to the original title.
The story follows on from the first game, Alice Liddell believes herself responsible for a fire that killed her family. Residing in a Victorian orphanage, Alice continues to see visions of Wonderland and eventually finds herself back in the land itself.
At first, Wonderland looks idyllic and vibrant but is soon corrupted with a train blasting through leaving an enemy known as the Ruin, intent on killing Alice. She soon discovers through talking with many recognisable characters that The Queen of Hearts still lives despite being defeated in the first game. Alice must save Wonderland from the corrupted and grasp her own insanity whilst switching back and forth between reality and Wonderland.
What makes Madness Returns great is the weaponry and abilities. Alice is able to fight enemies with the vorpal blade, a kitchen like knife that can unleash powerful attacks, combined with her other weapon for shooting long range enemies – the pepper pot grinder. She’s able to float her way to different destinations and even able to shrink her size with thanks to the effects of potion. This adds a nice complexity to the game, putting secrets just out of reach, unable to be found unless using one of Alice’s unique abilities.
The game isn’t perfect by any means – the questionable jumping / running that both feel awkward and can take some getting used to. The combat can get repetitive but weapons can be upgraded along the way.
Despite its flaws, Alice: Madness Returns shows how to do a sequel and how to do it well. The unique art style, dark twisted take on Alice in Wonderland makes for an engaging, enjoyable experience and definitely a classic that shouldn’t be forgotten.