I’ve really enjoyed those games in which American McGee has had some kind of creative input. Even when the games are somewhat simplistic, or derivative in style, it’s the atmosphere that gets me every time. It was the this atmosphere that helped me really enjoy the original Alice, and then the Grimm series of “fairy tales”.
Now “he’s back” with Alice – Madness Returns (AMR), and once again the atmosphere is queen, ruling over the game-play.
The prologue, while not that interactive, builds the atmosphere as Alice wanders from the Sanatorium and through the somewhat grimy back-streets of a Victorian era town. Flashbacks and hallucinations eventually lead her back to Wonderland, where the game proper begins.
At its heart, AMR is a platform game, with various puzzles to solve and batches of enemies to fight off using different attacks for each one. A wrinkle is added to the formula in the form of a “drink me” which allows you to shrink to walk through small doorways, or see things that aren’t obvious when you’re large. The Cheshire Cat, looking somewhat worse for wear, is your occasional guide and annoyance.
The puzzles and fighting keep things interesting enough, but without the story and atmosphere, I doubt that would be enough. With those things, however, it’s a fun, fascinating game. For me there’s a strong urge to find out why Wonderland has changed so much for the worse, and what has happened to those (like the Hatter) Alice came to know well.
Right now, of course, Skyrim has my attention so I haven’t even found the Hatter yet, let alone gone further. Still, what I’ve played so far has definitely had me enthralled and having fun – and that makes it a good game to me.