American McGee's Alice

Platform: PC
Release Date: December 5, 2000
Developer: Rogue Entertainment
Players: Single Player
ESRB Rating: Mature

Into a Dark Dream you Drop...

Remember that strange, almost drug-like trip into Wonderland, Alice?

Remember showing the Red Queen who was boss with a large and pointy knife?

Remember when everything you knew and loved when up in flames?

No? Well... That's because you've gone insane, Alice.

Story:

When Alice was a child, her parents were killed in a nasty fire. Instead of moving on, she had mental breakdown after mental breakdown. As such, she spent much of her youth in an insane asylum. But the return of the Red Queen has forced Alice back to Wonderland. But it's changed quite a bit from the pleasant child's story it once was. Now, Wonderland is a jagged landscape. It even looks evil.

You play Alice, the twisted child, as she attempts to undo all the evils of Wonderland. And, with the help of the White Rabbit and a few old friends, perhaps you'll even manage to put that nasty Queen back in her place. Either that, or you'll sink even deeper into madness and succumb to the horrors of your own mind.

Rather pleasant, don't you think?

Gameplay:

While I was impressed with Alice overall, as a game, the weakest spot would be the actually play itself. I read a review on GamePro.com that said "This Alice is far more suited to a role in a grand graphic adventure". And they're right. While it manages just fine as a third person shooter, the game could be simply fantastic if they made it into a world spanning game. Think The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Imagine playing in the WORLD of Wonderland, not just following a shooter-game path.

Nevertheless, I digress. Even though I had hoped for a more epic game, I had to say that they made the best shooter-game they could have. The controls are simple enough that you can pick it up and fly at 'er, without much difficulty. Aim with mouse. Shoot with mouse. Move with keyboard. Doesn't get much easier than that, eh?

Alice's "Tools"
  1. Butcher's Knife - "The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!"
  2. Cards - Alice plays 52 pick-up in a rather nasty fashion.
  3. Mallet - Here's a riddle: When is a croquet mallet like a billy club? Whenever you want it to be.
  4. Jackbomb - "BOOM went the weasel..."
  5. Ice Wand - Both an attack and a defense item.
  6. Jacks - Up for a bloody game of Jacks?
  7. Demon Dice - Roll the dice. Summon a vicious hellspawn. Giggle.
  8. Jabberwock's Staff - "Beware the Jabberwock, my son"
  9. Blunderbuss - One wonders how Alice survived Wonderland without a gun.
Graphics:

If I had ever pictured "Dark Wonderland" myself, with horrible creatures and a twisting world, this game probably would have been it. The graphics in this game are incredible. Everything looks just as weird as it should. The White Rabbit. The Giant Mushrooms. The Sinister Chessboard. Everything. And not only does it look weird, it looks good.

Wonderland looks frightening. You'll be creeping along some dark path and something in the darkness ahead will catch your eye. Are your eyes playing tricks on you or is there something waiting for you in that corner? I found myself nervously checking over my shoulder as I placed. Although the game isn't break-down-and-weep scary, it's definitely is a horror game, and it's entirely due to the amazing graphics (Thank you Quake III engine!).

Being a third person game, you get to see Alice a lot. And I have to say, she looks good. She still looks like the girl who fell down the rabbit hole, just... darker. She would fit in with modern day teenagers perfectly, even in that gaudy dress.

Sound:

Okay. So I lied. It isn't a horror game JUST because of the graphics.

The music scared the crap out of me. It's like I'm listening to nursery rhymes twisted by the Mad Hatter. I can hear kids in them. This is what had me most frightened. There I am, merrily hacking away with my knife and then I do a double take. Was that a small child's voice? Why the hell? The reason behind such great music?

Chris Vrenna was the composer. The same Chris Vrenna of Nine Inch Nails. The same Chris Vrenna of Doom 3. Vrenna pretty much rocks the musical composition world. Hence, a great game soundtrack.

And the voices? My personal favourite is the Cheshire Cat, but they all live up to high standards. Standards which, I'll bet, American McGee beat into his programmers. The actors behind all the voices are spot on. They manage to offput without scarying. They give you the feeling that you're watching a well done horror movie with just the right people in the lead roles.

Fun:

Everything about this game told me I should hate it. It was picked up in a bargain bin, in a "Vault of Darkness" pack. Maybe $10 for the whole set. They tried to sell me on the game by saying "A fierce and nasty fight for sanity and control turns into a lethal struggle for survival. Off with their heads... before they get yours."

But, I picked it up and I loved it. Every minute of the game was enjoyable. From the cliche lines to the twisted passages to the silly weapons... It was a good game. And it wasn't because they'd broken any boundries with the game. Essentially, I was to go collect Object A and return it to Point A so that I could get Object B and return it to Point B. But they made it interesting. They twisted the landscape, just as I got the hang of it. They made me think I was safe and then threw monsters at me. And above all, they kept me on my toes.

That's rare with games, these days. Even wonderful games like Half-Life 2 that I've found amazing can't keep me playing as well as Alice could. Now, the other reason I kept playing was because of that bloody Chesire Cat. When I first read Alice in Wonderland the cat scared me. A half-invisible feline that might just show up as teeth? No thanks! But in the game, that cat was probably the most enjoyable part. But you'll have to play to understand what I mean.

Overall, American McGee's Alice was great. And, although it was too short for my liking, for ten bucks I don't think I could go wrong. And if you like dark adventure games, I doubt you could go wrong in picking this one up.

Sources: GamePro.com

An E2 Quest: Writeup Redemption submission.

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